If you’re needing a dose of well-written, honky tonkin’ traditional country music, look no further than Jody Booth’s sophomore record The Rosewood Tapes, Volumes 1 & 2. From the album’s opening track, aptly named “They Found Me in a Honky Tonk,” Booth tackles love, love lost, feeling “a Jones coming on” and more, all coated in fiddle, steel and excellent backing vocals.
The album’s previous single “Life of My Love,” climbed all the way to number nine on the Texas charts, with the album’s newest single, “Gotta Go Back to Work” was the highest debut on the Texas Regional Radio Report on the week of its release, and jumped an impressive 38 spots in week two, as the single currently stands at number 50 as it is set to continue its ascent up the charts.
Read along as Booth talks about the influence Merle Haggard had on his sound, growing up in a musical family, the stories behind many of the songs on The Rosewood Tapes, Volumes 1 & 2, touring with his rather large honky tonk band and more!
Pro Country: Who are some of your biggest musical influences that have shaped your sound?
Jody Booth: Merle Haggard has certainly had the largest impact on my sound. When I record my music, I use traditional country arrangements, like the arrangements I heard growing up listening to Haggard records. I tour with a large honky-tonk band, and we strive to deliver that same traditional country sound on stage. I like to call it “real country music,” which I guess exposes my bias for the traditional country sound. I was fortunate to have met Mr. Haggard on stage at a show many years ago. I had him autograph my left forearm with a Sharpie. I had that signature tattooed on my arm that very night, and I see it again every time I reach for my guitar.
PC: Your website mentions that you have history of music in your family, and that when you picked up the guitar, you couldn’t put it down. What was it about music that connected with you so early in your life?
JB: This is where I give a shout out to my Momma and the rest of the family. Growing up, we always had music in the house. When Momma wasn’t on her fiddle or guitar, she had her record player spinning the country music she dearly loves. When I was a boy, our holiday gatherings and family reunions were more music festivals than anything else. Everyone in the house; parents, aunts, uncles, sibling, cousins, were all musicians in one form or another. I’d have been kicked out of the family if I didn’t sing along or play an instrument, so here I am!
PC: Your debut single “Gold Digger” got your recording career and Heaven & Hell off to a strong start. Is there a certain level of validation that came with having that success on your debut single?
JB: “Gold Digger” is still one of the most requested songs at my shows. Its success, early on, certainly contributed to my determination to make music my career. But to be honest, I’m not sure what else I’d of been doing with my life if not music. It’s the one thing I feel destined to do; a gift I’ve been given and my primary purpose in life. The popular success of my music is the icing on the cake.
PC: It was seven years between the releases of Heaven & Hell and The Rosewood Tapes, Volume 1 EP. How anxious were you to get music released again after such a long layoff?
JB: The twelve songs on The Rosewood Tapes Volumes One and Two represent the best of the best new music that I’d been writing and performing over the years since Heaven & Hell. I’m really proud of that body of work.
PC: “Carolina” is one of our favorite songs on The Rosewood Tapes, Volume 1 & 2. Can you talk about the inspiration behind that song?
JB: It’s also one of my favorites on the album too! I co-wrote “Carolina” with Tim Nichols, an incredible songwriter and one of my closest friends. I was watching the Weather Channel one night, and the meteorologist was talking about a storm on the East Coast and said something along the lines of, “You travelers, if you’re over Carolina tonight, be aware of these developing conditions…” So I imagined myself being a guy breaking up with a girl named Carolina; a guy flying overseas to play his music, looking out his airplane window at the night sky over one of the Carolinas. I’m not even sure if that’s a common flight pattern or not, but whatever the meteorologist said that night caught my ear. It didn’t take long for that kernel to sprout the song. Tim Nichols helped me finish it.
PC: Towards the end of last year, “Life of My Love” became your first top 10 single. What do you think it is about that song that has allowed it to connect with listeners the way it has?
JB: I wrote “Life Of My Love” just after meeting Dean Dillon, the legendary songwriter behind many of George Straits biggest hits. He also wrote “Tennessee Whiskey” and a score of other hits. A songwriter’s songwriter, you might say. I began studying how he writes songs, and I’ve learned a lot from that. Looking back, I think his influence in my songwriting is directly reflected in that song, and it’s one of the songs I’m most proud of for that reason. Why do others connect with the song? I think maybe people connected with that song because it reveals something true about the nature of love and loss, I suppose.
PC: The closing track on The Rosewood Tapes, Volume 1 & 2 is an excellent duet with your daughter, Laci Kaye Booth. What did it mean to you to have that song on the album and to have that moment with your daughter?
JB: That’s a very special song for me and the family. We’re singing about my Momma’s Martin guitar and about the importance of home and family. If you listen carefully, you will hear just four tracks on that recording: Laci and me on vocals, Me on my Momma’s Martin guitar, and Mike Calley, our fiddle player, on my Momma’s own fiddle. I had to sneak the fiddle out of my Momma’s house the day we laid that track down, because she would’ve fretted over it being gone, and I wanted it to be a surprise anyway. The song is really a tribute to the constant love my Momma has shared with Laci, me and the rest of the family. We wanted to dedicate a song to her.
PC: What went in to the decision to release “Gotta Go Back to Work” as the newest single from The Rosewood Tapes album?
JB: “Gotta Go Back to Work” was written many years ago by Dean Dillon and Bobby Boyd, and others have recorded it before me. I wanted to record it because it’s a great song, and we love to perform it live on stage. I thought my version was a bit special and worth the recording session. When we were done making it, I wanted it to be included in The Rosewood Tapes Volumes One and Two, but we were encouraged by our radio promoter to release it as a single too. We’re excited to see it do so well the first week out, making it the highest debuting single on the Texas Regional Radio Report for the week ending January 17, 2020. We’re guessing maybe people are connecting with the music since it’s a tongue-in-cheek song about going back to work after too much partying (i.e., after the holidays) [laughs].
PC: What do you hope listeners take away from listening to The Rosewood Tapes, Volume 1 & 2 album all the way through?
JB: First off, I hope they enjoy all the songs and will come out to see my live show in 2020. I perform most of the songs on the album live with my rather large honky-tonk band. We do “Carolina,” “Life Of My Love,” “Gotta Go Back To Work,” “They Found Me In A Honky-Tonk,” “This Town,” “Don’t Let Her Go” and more. We’re a 6-piece band, so you’re going to hear a lot of harmony vocals, pedal steel, fiddle and all the rest. But if you can’t get out to hear our show, then sit back and spin the album again. It’s a great reward to know people are enjoying the music I make. Connect with me on social media and let me know what you think about the music. I draw a lot of inspiration from fans, and I surely appreciate them.
PC: You were named the 2019 Country Artist of the Year at the H-Town Awards. What did it mean to you to be recognized in that way?
JB: Honestly, I never thought I would be winning anything that night. My manager got me involved in the awards early on by volunteering me to perform at the awards dinner. I had been nominated for Country Artist of The Year, but I was up against so much other talent that I assumed that was as far as it would go. I felt that simply getting on stage that night to sing a couple songs for the attendees was thrilling enough. I was so proud to be associated with such a talented group of artists and to be nominated for an award, that was rewarding in itself. When they announced me as the big winner, I was dumbfounded. My Momma was there in the audience. Of course Momma said she wasn’t surprised. That’s Momma for you!
PC: You perform 90s country songs as the Set ‘Em Up Joes with Bri Bagwell. How much fun is it for you to be able to have that outlet to perform songs from that era of country music?
JB: Well, first off, anytime I get a chance to share a microphone with my “stage wife” Bri Bagwell, you know I’m gonna drop what I’m doing and get to it. Bri’s an incredible friend and such a talented artist. We’re pretty good at making each other laugh. Laughter is infectious, and maybe that’s what people connect with the most at these shows. When Bri and I cooked up the idea of doing a night of nothing but classic 90s country songs, we thought the two of us would have a lot of fun with it. We never imagined we’d get the kind of reaction from fans that we’ve received. I guess maybe we underestimated the popularity of 90s country, because the Set ‘Em Up Joes shows are in high demand. It’s a little tricky aligning our tour schedules to make room for Joes shows. We did just a handful of shows last year, but it looks like it’ll be well over a dozen or more this year if bookings continue at the current pace.
PC: What are your plans for 2020?
JB: Our top priority is to bring Jody Booth & His Rather Large Honky-Tonk Band to perform in a lot of new markets this year. We’re talking to venue owners, county fairs and music festival promoters across Texas and beyond about opportunities to play new places. We’re hoping last year’s success of “Life Of My Love” and the expected success of “Gotta Go Back To Work” this year will attract new fans to our shows. There are still a lot of places we haven’t played yet, and we want to spend more time on the road with the music from The Rosewood Tapes Volumes One and Two and all the rest. I also have enough new song material to begin my next album project this year. I’m not sure yet when that’ll start, but I hope to be in the recording studio by the end of the summer.
PC: Is there anything you’d like to add?
JB: God Bless Merle Haggard
*Images courtesy of Jenerayte Promotion*