It would seem only natural that Carrie Rodriguez became a songwriter. After all, songwriting is in her blood. But as the daughter of David Rodriguez, an acclaimed singer-songwriter, Rodriguez says the connection to her father made her hesitate exploring her songwriting talents.
"If you're the kid of someone who's known for what they do and they're really good at it, which my dad is—he's a very renowned songwriter—you don't want to go there," Rodriguez says in a phone interview. "It's a little intimidating."
But her plans changed in 2001 when Rodriguez, then performing in a band called Hayseed, was spotted by Chip Taylor. Taylor, who wrote "Wild Thing" and "Angel of the Morning," offered to take Rodriguez under his wing—and on the road.
This partnership led to three albums as a duo, and Rodriguez's turn as a vocalist and songwriter with the 2006 album Seven Angels on a Bicycle. The CD gained enough notice that Rodriguez landed a deal with major label EMI Records. But almost as quickly as she stepped up to the big leagues with her sophomore album, She Ain't Me, Rodriguez was dropped from the roster.
"So much of my early musical career was a whirlwind. It happened so quick," Rodriguez says. "It left me kind of just wanting to catch my breath and wondering, well, I've enjoyed all of this, but what is truly my voice, when it's not being influenced by these amazing songwriters and record label executives who are hoping for me to have a hit. I needed some time to figure out what it all meant."
She bought herself some time by doing a covers record, Love and Circumstance, which helped her reconnect with her musical roots and figure out her next step as a songwriter and solo artist. With her latest album, Give Me All You Got, Rodriguez returns, sounding more confident and willing to stretch beyond those roots.
"Devil in Mind," one of a pair of songs Rodriguez co-wrote with Taylor, is a gritty, spirited tune with a bluesy chorus and bits of rock and folk elsewhere. "I Cry for Love" is an edgy vocal tour de force that combines blues, rock and country. The gently swinging "Tragic" has a bit of torch song jazz in its smoky, late-night sound.
On her first tour in support of Give Me All You Got, Rodriguez is touring only with multi-instrumentalist Luke Jacobs, and says the variety of instruments she and Jacobs are able to play keeps things fresh.
"We can really take liberties that you can't take when you have drums," she says. "So we can stretch solos out in different ways, change tempos. Usually it sounds good."