When the creative lightbulb switches on and an artist fully connects with his true calling, the ultimate winners are the ones hanging out at the intersection where an established audience and eager new fans are destined to meet. Such is the case for Rick Monroe, the seven-time Jägermeister Country Brand Ambassador who’s now poised to share the expanded sonic palette found deep within the grooves of his most fully realized album to date, Smoke Out the Window, which cracks the lid on its release on September 21, 2018 via Thermal Entertainment.
From the raw grit of the opening track “Good as Gone” to the honky-tonk twang of “Truth in the Story” to the soulful testifying of “Rage On” to the sensitive revelations of “October,” Smoke Out the Window signals a powerful new direction for a man who has an unbridled passion for performing in front of audiences all across the globe. In fact, in 2017 alone, vocalist/guitarist Monroe and his ace touring band logged over 120,000 miles and performed more than 170 shows as a result — proof that they’re all serious road dogs to the very core. “Honestly, everything we put into the making of this album has been gauged around what we do in our live show,” Monroe admits. “The truth is, this record was developed because of our live show.”
At the heart of it, these 11 tracks of Smoke are the literal extension of Monroe’s stage presence, now properly unleashed in the studio environment, with the resulting music having forged a category all its own. “I know we’re not up-the-gut mainstream country by any means — and I don’t even know what mainstream country even is anymore,” Monroe confesses. “I also know we’re not super-heavy rock either, so I’d like to call what we do blue-jean country rock. Fashions come and go, but blue jeans are a timeless statement that never fades — and that’s what I want my music to be.”
Monroe’s ultimate goal is to be recognized as a multi-faceted performer whose very name defines who he is as an artist. “No doubt about it, that’s the hardest level to get to,” he acknowledges. “Some people find that early in their careers, but I just needed a little more time to find out who I am as an artist. When you grow up with so many musical influences like I did, you kinda think you can do a little bit of everything. I probably chased more directions than I needed to. But with this record, we all finally honed in on, ‘This is you. This is what you do, and this is what you thrive at doing. Stick to this.’ And that’s a healthy thing to finally be able to realize, because now I can focus on doing the best of what I do.”
It’s taken Monroe a lifetime of searching, stretching, and experimenting to finally get to make a
record as solid as Smoke, but the results have made the overall journey quite worthwhile. “My producer JD Shuff said to me, ‘I believe if you put this record on in 15 years, it will still hold the quality of a cool-sounding record,’” Monroe muses. “The biggest thing I want to get across with it is, I’m hoping this record gives people an insight into the artistry that’s there in everything I do. I know I can be seen as quite an intense guy and an intense performer at times, but I’m also a fun guy who has a good sense of humor. I hope all of my sides come through on the record.”
To be sure, Smoke Out the Window shows a myriad of facets of an artist quite willing to share his inner-most self with his audience. This is an album charting how Rick Monroe has truly
arrived, and how he may very well soon be headlining all those big arena and stadium stages all across the country himself as a result. After all, where’s there’s Smoke, there’s fire — and for Rick Monroe the artist, the future burns quite bright indeed.