After the movie “Ice Age” outed them to millions with the hit, “Send Me on My Way,” Rusted Root’s commercial career took off, but the band has nonetheless stayed grounded in their original, world music jam sound.
Now, the Pittsburgh-based fan favorite is bringing their unique music to Blissfest, where they’ll play many of the songs from their 25- year career, as well as some new tunes.
ALBUM ON THE WAY
The band is celebrating its 25th anniversary by working on a new album, including some songs that fans will get a sneak peek of, said Patrick Norman, who plays bass.
“We have been playing some of the new material at the shows, sometimes spontaneously throwing one in a set,” he said.
Seeing how the songs translate live can be a critical part of the writing process because the band gets instant feedback, he said.
“Sometimes trying out a song for the first time live, you can clearly see what works and what doesn’t,” Norman said. “I personally find this enjoyable and helpful to the creative process.”
While Norman says he’s not a big fan of the term “world music” (“…because all music is world music,” he said), his band did help bring African and Latin American-inspired sounds to a broader audience.
“When ‘Send Me On My Way’ hit in the ‘90s, there wasn’t a lot of that kind of music on mainstream radio,” Norman said. “I think the Internet explosion helped enable people to discover more styles of music, and I’m glad we were one of the bands in the forefront of that movement.”
Norman remembers listening to bands from Africa like Baba Maal, King Sunny Ade, and Hugh Masekela during that time.
“Now you can hear that same style of music in bands like Vampire Weekend and Yeasayer,” he said.
For their current round of songwriting, the band is finding that touring itself is providing plenty of material.
“I think that traveling 200-some days a year, playing with my band mates and performing for our fans is where we derive a lot of our inspiration,” Norman said.
The band is just kicking off their summer tour, during which they should traverse most of the U.S. by this fall.
“Summer is one of my favorite times to tour because there are always a bunch of great festivals happening and we get to see and play with so many fantastic musicians,” he said. “I try to remind myself to breathe and enjoy the moments during the tour, but it flies by so fast sometimes, it’s just a technicolor blur, and then the tour’s over.”
The band has already performed in Northern Michigan several times, and Norman says it’s one of the places they look forward to.
“It’s stunning there in the summer, and I can’t wait to come back. We always have a ball when we play in Michigan,” he said. “For the Blissfest show, we’ll be mixing classic with some brand new songs, and some spontaneous standup hijinx.”
Norman laughed. “Just kidding about the standup,” he said.
Rusted Root will be performing at this year’s Blissfest as the Saturday night headliner. For tix and more info, visit www.blissfest.org, and find the band at rustedroot.com