After 20 years as a band, Rusted Root decided to try something different on album No. 7. Released last fall, "The Movement" found the Pittsburgh-based, feel-good jam band breaking with traditional methods of putting together an album and embracing input from fans.
"We did it through fan funding, and that was great. It was a new way to connect up with fans and get their creativity involved on the record," singer/guitarist Michael Glabicki said in a phone interview. "We had fans come down to the studio and sit in for a day. We'd have fans come to the sound check on tour and make a video of them playing 'Send Me on My Way' with us."
That single, with a distinctive world music style and unique vocals, attracted much of Rusted Root's following. That includes a large base here in Anchorage, where previous shows have sold out, leading to return trips and more performances. The band, in the midst of a spring tour, will once again play Bear Tooth, this time for the May First Tap.
As for the new songs, Glabicki said the experience made for a more celebratory atmosphere as the album came together. The front man, who produced and engineered "The Movement," said there was less pressure throughout the process.
"It actually felt more natural that way, that the fans would be involved, as opposed to before," Glabicki explained. "When we were on major labels and such, everyone was sitting around in meetings trying to figure out what the fans would like."
Given the group's reputation as a touring band, Rusted Root sought to capture the energy of a live performance on the album, putting together songs in front of an audience. For Glabicki, the process was about incorporating as much of the "live ritual" as possible.
The crowds at Rusted Root shows can be diverse in age. Glabicki attributed part of that to the enduring nature of "Send Me on My Way," which hit big for the group in the mid-'90s and continues to find life in commercials and movie soundtracks. While nostalgia attracts a certain crowd, the band hopes to use the opportunity to share all its music, new and old.
"There are people that show up at the shows that are just screaming 'Send Me on My Way,' 'Send Me on My Way,' you know; that's all they want to hear," Glabicki said.
As far as playing "Send Me on My Way" goes, Glabicki still loves it. He said the song has "become bigger than us," adding that the audience brings something new to it each time. But he said the band doesn't want to rest on its biggest hit.
"There's no way that we could sit back and be a nostalgic band" Glabicki opined.
"I think if it did become that, I think we would just -- at least I would -- just break up the band in a minute," he added with a chuckle. "I don't think there's any chance of that happening. I don't know how long it's going to go on for, but I can tell you that we'd go another 30 years."
By Toben Shelby
Daily News correspondent