Drywall hanger Rod Picott tried music, nailed it

07/24/2014 4:00 PM

07/23/2014 12:59 PM

Rod Picott was a drywall construction worker for many years before building upon a bigger dream.

It’s been 14 years since the 49-year-old former construction worker hung up his tool belt and emerged as an Americana singer-songwriter. Picott now has six self-released albums under his belt, with the latest being “Hang Your Hopes on a Crooked Nail.”

Picott promises Northern California fans a show that features his latest tunes, a scatter of older favorites and personal stories to accompany the songs, he said.

“There’s nothing to hide behind when it’s just me and the guitar, and that makes for really wonderful intimacy,” Picott said.

Live performances are simultaneously “humbling and empowering” for Picott, he said.

“A great show doesn’t feel like an experience that I had – it feels like an experience we, the entire room, had,” Picott said.

Storytelling has become an integral part of Picott’s performances, he said. He has a trove of thoughtful stories that are connected to his expressive songs.

“It’s funny, there’s some shows when I end up talking and telling stories as much as I’m singing,” Picott said. “I found that the response when I do that is even bigger than when I’m doing songs. My father is a really great storyteller – maybe I inherited that from him.”

Although Picott was good at what he did, being a drywall guy for years was beating up his body, he said. The first couple years of delving into his music career were tough, but Picott has always been determined to do “whatever it takes to make it work.”

“Eventually I threw the tools out and bit the bullet,” he said. “If I want to make a living, I’m going to have to stop this and book shows. I had to sit there at the computer for eight hours at a time and get every gig that I could possibly get.”

Whether he is scribbling soulful lyrics, strumming his guitar, booking his own shows or driving in solitude across the country, the Maine-native-turned-Nashville-musician puts his all into it.

Picott said he’s the kind of songwriter who pulls off to the side of the road to jot down lyrics inspired by the scenery. If he can’t stall his travels, he records on his phone while driving.

“To be honest with you, I write so much I wish I could shut it off sometimes,” he said. “I know that other writers struggle with writer’s block, and I’m sure it’ll happen to me eventually.”

Picott’s soulful and rugged voice belts out lyrics depicting vivid characters, such as welders and drinkers, and the beauties and tragedies of everyday life.

“A lot of songs are narratives,” he said. “Maybe it’s the type of song that I write that makes it easy to find characters, settings and concepts.”

He finds it “simultaneously exciting and disappointing” when other people interpret his music. However, he appreciates when friend and fellow folk musician Slaid Cleaves interprets his work.

“I’ve known Slaid for so long that it’s easy to take,” Picott said. “With other people it’s sort of a joke, but always very flattering.”

Picott has tours booked across the country until next spring, he said. Breaks from work are rare because they are “too scary” for the musician, who prefers to keep busy.

“I don’t even unpack at this point,” he said. “I just live at my house like I’m living in a hotel.”

The lone traveler drives from venue to venue and soaks in the sights America has to offer.

“Truth is, the whole country is so beautiful,” he said. “I find something beautiful about everywhere I go. It’s an amazing country, it really is.”

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