Now based in Colorado, Rice was born in Morgantown, West Virginia in the coal-mining-heavy Appalachian Region. With the album’s lead track, “Ain’t Got a Dollar,” Rice holds a working-class mirror up to society – with a specific appendage aimed at a particular target. “[The song] gives the middle finger to the current administration,” he notes boldly. “Not having money to play the game is nothing new, regardless of who is in charge. I wanted that song to be first on the album and I wanted to put it out there to say if you’re offended there then you probably don’t need to listen to the rest.”
That’s not to suggest there’s controversy and confrontation around every corner, but Rice pulls no punches in such tunes as “Middle Managed Blues,” which tells the true story of a job-performance review he received while employed in a corporate position which did not stimulate his creative, out-of-the-box thinking. “The message here is to be a good boss and watch what you say around songwriters or else you may end up in a song and you may not like it.”
Rice also channels his early inspiration in “Company Town,” a stinging indictment of Massey Energy, the coal extracting company at the center of the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, in which 29 miners lost their lives. “I didn’t call him out by name; I refer to him as ‘Mr. Massey,’” Rice says of the former Massey CEO, “But I guess that’s kind of my take on ‘Mr. Peabody," the unnamed head of the Peabody Coal Company memorably referenced in the lyrics of the 1971 John Prine classic, “Paradise.”
SAME SHIrT, DIFFERENT DAY uncovers some of its most vivid images in Rodney Rice's poignant and autobiographical “Memoirs of Our Youth” -- a song inspired by a conversation with a friend. “There is a guy I worked with on rigs who was the quiet deep thinker type: Derwin Cromer.” I wasn’t working with him at the time, but he called me up one night and said, ‘Rodney, I’ve got the perfect line for a song: ‘The days go on forever but the years just fly right by.’ That one line just brought out all the emotion about my childhood… I sat down and wrote whole song off the one line from Derwin.” Sadly, Cromer lost a two-year battle with cancer earlier this year.
Understanding and appreciating Rodney Rice’s sophomore album is something akin to a detailed study of geology. It’s not only helpful to examine the surface – which vibrates with memorable melodies but also to dig deeper, to learn what lies underneath, how it formed there and what effect it could have in the future. For rumbling beneath these 12 tracks, rooted in the key elements of Americana, is a solid foundation of thoroughly incisive and engaging lyrics, calling to mind such musical Mount Rushmore-like figures as John Prine, Billy Joe Shaver and Guy Clark. From unflinching portraits of the working man’s plight to stark, confessional love songs, Same Shirt, Different Day, represents a collection worthy of its own geological survey. And who better to lead that exploration than Rice, whose day job as a geologist began in 2008. His musical adventures, however, began even before he reached his teens.
“I always pillaged my older sister’s CD and tape collection,” he says of his early musical discoveries. “She took me to see John Prine. It was the first concert I went to; I was probably 12. We were in the last row but you never felt like you were in the last row at a John Prine show. His band was really tight and they were all sharp-dressed. Then his band walked offstage and it was just him. Just to be able to captivate everyone with you,your guitar, and a song is what it's all about.”
Rice is now based in Littleton, Colorado, a fitting location just a stone’s throw away from Red Rocks, the legendary performance venue with a natural amphitheater which took more than 200 million years to form. After attending an alternative high school in Morgantown, WV, which emphasized outdoor exploration, Rice graduated from West Virginia University in 2010. His training and education as a geologist led to working on oil rigs in south Texas, where he also had the chance to see more of the artists he admired playing live.
Rodney Rice now examines the human condition through a songwriter’s lens, and his SAME SHIrT, DIFFERENT DAY offers a dozen solidly formed tunes, inspired by the musical explorers who came before him, but ultimately shaped by his uniquely fresh perspective.