It happens for many of us at some point in our lives. You know, that desire to explore unchartered territory, take life in a different direction, and maybe accept a new challenge. But how many of us actually do it?
After years of traveling in one career direction, Tim Rushlow felt an overwhelming urge to pursue a new path that he’d long desired. It seems to be paying off big and he’s finding a new audience along the way.
Sometimes timing really is everything. There are times when a successful career can actually be a prelude to an artist’s true calling, but it’s a process that can’t be rushed. Rushlow will tell you that’s true. As the former voice and front man for the country super group Little Texas, he long held a desire to share his lifelong dream to be a curator for the Great American Songbook.
But after 11 million records sold, CMA and ACM Awards, three Grammy nominations, eight world tours and numerous other accolades, turning a ship that large can be a challenge. However, if you can find the courage to follow that navigational pull on your life, and give yourself permission to pursue it, the reward, as Rushlow knows, can be extraordinary.
“I feel like a mad scientist who has finally found the right recipe,” he says. He’s referring to his new found success as the head of Tim Rushlow and His Big Band, a big band ensemble that harkens back to the days of The Rat Pack, Frank Sinatra, Tommy Dorsey and his own personal favorite, Bobby Darin.
“It can be challenging after so many years, but I just had a desire to try something new,” he said.
With his wife Mary Jane and his kids by his side, it has indeed been a journey. He’ll be the first to tell you how grateful he is for his years with Little Texas. “I wouldn’t take one second back from my Little Texas days. It was incredible. But sometimes you have to give yourself permission to morph into something new,” he adds.
Rushlow grew up in a family of singers, listening to his father’s record collection more than the radio. “All these guys … Buddy Holly to Frank Sinatra to Bobby Darin, you know, there wasn’t a place for that when I was 20 years old,” he recalls. “I just came to a point where I had to decide what I really wanted to do in that next season, and for me, this was it.”
He asked himself, “What were my original boyhood dreams? Ya know? I thought about it and decided I’m going to give this a shot. It freaked people out,” he adds. “People booking you want to know what they are going to get if they book you.”
To really show folks, he knew he had to do it right.
“We wanted to be authentic, but I knew if we took the show on the road, it was going to be expensive with a big band. So, we did a show at The Rosewall in Nashville, right there behind Virago. We turned it into a 1950’s Vegas showroom. We even had real Vegas CEO’s fly out to see it,” he says. “And we decided to film that live show.”
It was a night full of admiration and authenticity for this music. Recording it in front of his peers in Nashville made the evening even more magical.
When they finished, he knew they had something special.
“I remember saying that I sure hoped those cameras captured what we felt on stage. What happened that night is pure fairytale stuff,” he says. “If I could document one show in my life for people to see the real me deep down, this is the one”.
After seeing the footage, it was decided to take it to APT, American Public Television. APT was blown away at Tim’s ability to be so genuine and sing to their current demographic, yet be youthful enough to sing to a new and younger generation. It was decided that “Tim Rushlow and His Big Band” would be a national pledge drive for 2016-2017. It recently aired on Nashville’s WNPT and scored big with viewers.
“Everything about this project has happened from a place of honor,” he says. “About midway through I realized I was navigating to a lot of the Bobby Darin’s catalogue. I sent an email to Jimmy Scalia, producer and official curator and archivist for Bobby Darin’s foundation and estate. I really didn’t know why I was writing it but I wrote to basically say, that I wanted to honor Mr. Darin with authenticity and that I wanted to include his music on my project. I just felt like I should tell them,” he recalls.
“A week later Jimmy emailed back,” Tim explains. He wrote, ‘It has been such a longtime coming that people like yourself get his catalogue!’
He was touched and asked if he could share it with Dodd, Bobby Darin’s son. Dodd came back and was so touched that I wanted to sing stuff his dad put out. He asked ‘Can I give you a professional quote? Would that bless you?’”
Dodd’s nod was quite a stamp of approval for Rushlow’s new musical direction.
And he is pretty clear about this musical direction. “This is a permanent move for me creatively and musically,” he says. “I’ve completely come full circle and it feels really good to be this comfortable in my own skin. Emotion, theatrics, martinis, toe tappers … we can do that. With respect being paid to these artist’s originals and my interpretation of these songs, it feels right. As my manager Steve Sterling says, ‘You’ve found your own lane!’”
He’s excited about life these days. Not only is there a “Tim Rushlow and His Big Band Classic Christmas” album coming out Nov. 17, and the “Tim Rushlow and His Big Band LIVE” CD and DVD in January 2017, but he’s in discussions for something that involves a national radio show about the big band era that he can’t quite get specific about yet.
If you love this style of music, you’re in for a treat! Tim Rushlow & His Big Band will bring their dynamic show to the Franklin Theatre, December 2 and 3. Get ready to be entertained and taken back in time to the horns, bass, drums, piano, strings and vocals of the Rat Pack era.
“The world can be full of naysayers,” he says. “You’ve just got to respect your work ethic and then let people see it, and then hope they say, ‘Wow! I didn’t know you had that in the tank!’” he laughs.
“I’m very proud of my past but I realize this is the next 25 years of my life. We’re really hitting a nerve by doing this. People are enjoying it and it’s been great! I’m most proud that I live in Franklin and that we’re bringing the show here,” he adds. “It feels like I’m where I belong. I am blown away at the staying power these songs and artists have from a magical generation that so many people are still curious about.”
And with his daughter Bailey by his side on stage for the upcoming Franklin Theatre shows, his music truly will have come full circle.