Josh Rouse spent several years up until he was 12 in Paxton, Neb., way out west in Keith County.
Then he left Nebraska to live with his father in Georgia and then 45 minutes outside of Nashville. While he still returns often to visit his mother in Paxton, Nebraska locales have never figured into his tour itineraries.
“I have never played a show in Nebraska,” Rouse admits, adding that past attempts to play in Omaha or Lincoln never quite coalesced into an actual booking.
So the Nebraska-bred singer whose debut was titled Dressed Up Like Nebraska will finally make his Nebraska debut at the Maha Music Festival. He’ll also be the Maha act hailing from the fathest away.
Rouse has called Valencia, Spain home from the past eight years. Rouse played in Spain previously and after hearing more than a few musicians comment that they could pull up roots and re-settle in Spain, he decided to do just that.
Immediately, the slowed down pace appealed to Rouse, as the freed-up agenda allowed added time for songwriting and other more restful endeavors.
“It’s a long day so you can get a good nap in,” Rouse says.
The biggest challenge was bridging the gap between his high school-level Spanish and the everyday Spanish that he encountered residing in Spain.
Rouse says at first he could feel his brain getting tired from working to translate conversations when he would go out with Spanish-speaking friends.
“I just had to get the language down,” Rouse says.
Now he says he mostly has it mastered after nearly a decade of speaking it daily. But there’s been a twist in his learning curve since having his son three years ago.
Rouse says his son, who is bilingual, will say words that Rouse doesn’t even know. Then the three-year-old assumes the role of teacher, defining the new word for his father.
Meanwhile, Spain has also took a strong hold on the sound of Rouse’s records, downplaying the 70s AM radio pop that dappled the hook-filled work of Rouse’s early and mid-2000s albums. 2006’s Subtitulo leaned heavily on Spanish folk guitar, while 2010’s El Turista pulled that acoustic sound across the water to Brazil, spiking his pop moves with samba and bossanova textures.
There’s also been a growing sense of a classic 1920s jazz-pop feel to his work, calling to mind names like Cole Porter and George Gershwin. It’s a combination that roughly represents Rouse’s personal listening tastes these days.
“My record collection is like that. It’s Brazilian and jazz,” he says.
Still, Rouse says he can easily hear how a song from one of his last records could easily go together with a song from his second record. It all flows together as one narrative.
“I look at every record as kind of a chapter in my book,” he says.
His latest work has given rise to a new backing group, the Long Vacations. Their self-titled 2011 effort was pretty much a soft release, Rouse says.
Rouse was working on songs and he’d have a handful of musicians that would drop in to help throughout the process. The group performs as a trio.
The album is Rouse’s tenth record. Rouse embraces his recording longevity with no reservations.
“I’m just happy to continue making a living doing this,” he says.
In Omaha, Rouse will be playing solo, reworking most of his pop material to still come across in the stripped down format.
“I try to make it as harmonically and dynamically interesting as possible,” Rouse says.
While playing solo, Rouse travels with his wife and two children in tow and he’s altered his tour itinerary to make it more of a vacation than a city-a-day trudge across the country.
So when he plays New Orleans, like he did in the end of July, he and the family will stay a few days and enjoy the city.
As part of that plan, Omaha will bring a ton of family to see him play and it may just mean a few more days around town or maybe even a trek out to Paxton.