How Sheryl Crow Discovered My Band
This is one of my favorite stories to tell.
Once upon a time my band, Rusted Root, played a gig…and no one showed up to see us.
Except for a lone woman and her dog. And little did we know, all hell was about to break loose…Our dreams of making it big were about to become a reality.
How? Early on in our career as a band we all committed to a practice that I believe solidified our success…
Learn how you can incorporate this one simple thing into your life today.
0:57: Sound Health Newsletter
1:27: Intro to story Jim told at the Great Rhythm Revival
2:01: Rusted Root’s humble beginnings in Pittsburgh
3:25: How the band envisioned their success through the power of thought
6:03: Going on tour with the Spin Doctors… And then Plant & Page
8:32: How the band used a lack of audience at The Horde Tour to their advantage
11:22: Meeting Sheryl Crow (and her little dog)
12:38: Opening for Sheryl Crow
13:08: How the band got their hit song on radio stations across the country
15:55: The power in holding consistent thoughts about what you want
17:25: The dangers of success and not supporting “the dream”
18:55: Having consistent thought, and supporting it with relentless action
Jim Donovan: Today, on the Sound Health Podcast:
Jim Donovan: We got a call from our manager, who said “Hey, guess what? I convinced the manager of the Spin Doctors to take you out with them.” We’re like “The Spin Doctors! Yea! This is gonna be awesome!” And so, we did some dates with the Spin Doctors, and in the very beginning of that tour, we get another call, and that call comes from my manager. And he says “This is gonna suck for the Spin Doctors, but Robert Plant just called, and heard your record, and would like to know if you guys would like to come out and open the Page & Plant Tour for ’95 throughout North America, and throughout the UK.” And we’re like “Yea, I guess we’re gonna go do that.” Felt bad about it, and I’m like “Spin Doctors, you would do it too, so…”
Jim Donovan: Before, we get started, I’d like to invite you to take advantage of a free resource I’ve made for you. It’s called the Sound Health Newsletter. In it, I share the latest research in music and health. Plus, you’ll learn music and wellness exercises that you can use every day to feel your best. You’ll also get discounts and first access to all my products and events. Remember, it’s completely free. Just come visit me at DonovanHealth.com to get started today. That’s DonovanHealth.com.
Jim Donovan: Hey, this is Jim Donovan. Welcome to the show! Today we have a very special podcast where we are going to listen in to this past summer’s Great Rhythm Revival. And there, I told one of my favorite stories about how I learned how to hold thoughts in my mind, and then take relentless action to bring about the different things that I wanted in life. Now, this is live in front of the Great Rhythm Revival audience—that’s one of the retreats that I run up in Upstate New York. These folks are fantastic. I can’t wait for you to hear this. And so, without further ado, here we go. Enjoy!
Jim Donovan: Story time. 1994, beginning of 1994. Some of us can still remember that. It’s a long time ago. Any Pittsburgh people here? Oh, awesome. Great. So you know there’s a place called the Strip District where there’s restaurants and there’s also a lot of industrial. My old band, Rusted Root and I had a rehearsal space down in the strip. Whoop, whoop, great. Love them.
Jim Donovan: We were dirt poor. We put all the money that we made in our early years back into equipment and the vehicle to get us to places. We had just signed a record contract. It was a huge deal, but we’re sitting in this, I mean it’s a dingy little rehearsal space, the floors are filthy and we’re getting ready to go to Pasadena, California to record our record. It’s a record called When I Woke, some of you might remember that. It had the song that bought my Kia, a song called Send Me On My Way was on that. That was our claim to fame.
Jim Donovan: So we’re sitting there and we were—I think my older self, looking back at my younger self, I could say we had a naiveté about us, which I realized really helped us. We believed that it was totally possible for seven grubby hippies to make it. Like we completely believed it. So we sat together and we would do these strange exercises where we would get big poster board. We were really worried about flying and we were worried about earthquakes in California. We have to go to Los Angeles and we have to spend like a month and a half there. So we draw a picture of an airplane landing safely in California and we drew this protective bubble around us that protected us from earthquakes. Then we started talking about what do we want to happen for this record?
Jim Donovan: We talked about it and then we decided what we’d love to be able to make a living making music, because at the time we just weren’t. I was working for my dad’s tree service. Our lead singer was delivering flowers for his mom. So we’d like to be able to support ourselves. Then one of the people said, well let’s go a little bigger, let’s dream bigger. So how about if we get to play in front of tens of thousands of people a night? Yes, that sounds good. Well, how about a stadium? Maybe we can play a stadium. All right. Yes, let’s do that. Let’s write that one down. Then, well, let’s imagine that like when we’re that all the good energy is going from our bodies into the instruments or our voices through the microphone cables and onto the tape. We used tape back then.
Jim Donovan: So we wrote all these things down and then we said, well, you know what, let’s go further. Let’s write down that we’d like people to hear us on the radio. Okay, got that on there. And we get to meet some of our heroes. Let’s write that on there. So we do this bizarre exercise and from the outside you look at it and goes, man, this looks really tripped out. We go to California, we make the record, the label puts us right on tour and we’re driving all through the South and it’s a dismal failure. No one’s coming. We’re thinking, man, we’re on a label and we’re going to get all this coverage and we did, but no one cared. It didn’t matter.
Jim Donovan: So we got off of that run and we got a call from our manager, who said “Hey, guess what? I convinced the manager of the Spin Doctors to take you out with them.” We’re like “The Spin Doctors! Yea! This is gonna be awesome!” And so, we did some dates with the Spin Doctors, and in the very beginning of that tour, we get another call, and that call comes from my manager. And he says “This is gonna suck for the Spin Doctors, but Robert Plant just called, and heard your record, and would like to know if you guys would like to come out and open the Page & Plant Tour for ’95 throughout North America, and throughout the UK.” And we’re like “Yea, I guess we’re gonna go do that.” Felt bad about it, and I’m like “Spin Doctors, you would do it too, so…” We went and did this tour with freaking Page and Plant.
Jim Donovan: Led Zeppelin was the way I learned how to play drums. I would imagine that I was on tour with Led Zeppelin and I was just playing all of the beats. I imagined this as a teenager. While we’re out there, we are not on the bill, right? So that we’re not on the tickets. So when the lights go down, people think here comes Led Zeppelin. And the lights go on and it’s not Led Zeppelin. And you can see the people go, ah. Oh. They’re just looking at us and we have twenty five minutes to win them.
Jim Donovan: So the first people are just kind of like, they’re watching it, they’re waiting, they’re waiting. We’ve heard that people can be abusive when they don’t like the opening band, with these hard rock bands. The first people are looking and then you see people starting to groove with it. Then there’s some people that are like, “Hmm, this is good.” Then we do the big drum thing and then by the end, we would get standing ovations. Night after night. People would start to go, Oh, I like this.
Jim Donovan: Back when people were still selling records, people would actually go to a record store and buy our record and we would get like an accounting every week of, it was called the Sound Scan Report. It showed every market we went into, people were going to the store and getting the new record. All of a sudden.
Jim Donovan: Later on we found ourselves on a tour called the H.O.R.D.E. Tour. Anyone remember the H.O.R.D.E. Tour? Blues Traveler and Lenny Kravitz. Yes, it was amazing. We found ourselves, at first again, playing in front of nobody. To the point where it was, even the very first night of the tour in Indianapolis, we showed up, very first night and we were playing on the second stage, which is in the parking lot. Nobody there. Zero people. We talked about this backstage. We were like, man, there’s nobody here, what should we do? And we said, well how about this? Let’s play like it’s the last time. Go and just play like we’d never get to do this again. So we did and we played like as hard and as epic as we could go. I remember, my bass player Patrick, he’s got this big bushy black hair and he would look at me, he’s like playing his bass at me and I would drum back at him.
Jim Donovan: In the middle of the show, I look out in the audience, there’s no one. It’s just asphalt. But way out there, maybe like from here to the trees over that way, it’s really far is a woman and she’s walking her dog. It just keeps getting more demoralizing. Now they’re walking dogs at our show, great. So, woman with dog, she’s just minding her own business. We start to like sort of focus at her and we’re starting to play to her. You could see, she’s like, what the hell are these people doing? Then she stops. She’s got the dog and she stops and she doesn’t leave. Then all I can think is please don’t leave.
Jim Donovan: I’m just giving her the whole thing. Like come on, you got to stay, you got to stay, you got to stay. What about this? If I do this will you stay? And she stays. At the very end of the show, we’re playing a song called Ecstasy and it’s just like bombastic ending. It is absurd to the Nth power. So we’re gathering our things, we’re walking off stage, it’s a stage like this and right over at the steps over there, the woman has figured out a way to get backstage with her dog. Who is this woman? I come off stage and I quickly realize, Oh shit, it’s Sheryl Crow. And she’s beautiful. She got her sunglasses and her cowboy boots on. I’m like, Oh God. She puts her glasses up on her head and she’s like, what the fuck was that? There was nobody here. What possessed you to do that? She was dumbfounded that we were playing the most Epic show to no one.
Jim Donovan: This was a point of pride for us. Our live show was our thing. That’s what we did. It wasn’t hard for us to decide to do that because it was fun. We told her that and she’s like, that’s the weirdest and maybe the coolest thing I’ve heard. Ever. And then she thought for a couple seconds and then she said you know what? You guys are really good. People need to hear you. I have a show at the Beacon Theater in New York City and another one the day before at the TLA in Philly. Why don’t you guys come and open for me? Would you like to do that? And we’re like, oh yeah. You bet we would. That would be fun. And we do. We go that fall and we open up these shows. It was the entrance to of what became our biggest markets in the country.
Jim Donovan: While we’re there, that would’ve been plenty, just to go and open these shows. While we were there, the label was sending us to radio stations. Usually very early in the freaking morning. So we’re a little grumpy and we’re going to this little hole in the wall radio station in, ever been to Secaucus, New Jersey or been through Secaucus, New Jersey? We’ve stayed there many times. So we’re at this radio station and we play the acoustic version of Send Me On My Way and we do a great job because that’s our point of pride.
Jim Donovan: We leave the station. I mean it’s, it’s a dingy little place, doesn’t look like anything. That Wednesday, I get a call from manager again and he says, Jim, good news. The station that you went to play for just added your song in rotation. They’re going to play your song twenty eight times a week. I said, great, that’s great news. He said, I don’t think you understand. The station you went to is a station called Z100. It is the number one pop station in North America. Oh, okay. So he said, every day in New York City, millions of people are going to get to hear your song, like three times. That’s good, right? Yes that’s good, Jim. Okay.
Jim Donovan: Then the week after, he calls back and he says, you’re not going to believe this, but 320 across North America just added your song, because Z100 added the song. They like, their copycats and they just add it. So we went from zero, right? We went from dirt floor. Dirty floor, it wasn’t a dirt floor. It was a linoleum with filth. We went up and then we go down and then we went up and then down and then way up, with the Page and Plant tour and then back down to nobody and then Sheryl Crow. All of a sudden we went from zero to gold, which is 500,000 records. Then we went to, in a few more months, a million and then two and then three. We were on MTV and VH1, if you remember that. Remember VH1? They used to play videos, music, they used to have music on VH1.
Jim Donovan: I think back and that little exercise we did, it was symbolic of how we thought about things. I don’t think that drawing a picture is magical. I don’t think any of it’s magic, if you will. What I realized is that we held very consistent thoughts about what we wanted to have happen. We talked about it and we totally believed it was possible. The naiveté. Even when my parents said, “There’s no way. We love you, we don’t want you to be hurt, but man, nobody makes it.” But I saw people making it. That doesn’t apply to me. Right? Maybe it could happen and we all were on that same page together. Consistent thought and then relentless action. When we played, we played and we played and we played and there was never a question of how we do this. It’s always one hundred percent full on, and it worked.
Jim Donovan: We had consistent thought, we had relentless action and then we saw the thing that we were looking for come into form. It happened. It happened big, actually happened bigger than we imagined it happening. The interesting thing, is that this is the only time we sat down and did this exercise together. It was the only record we had done it for. After this record and we get big and then there’s money and then there starts to be some squabbles amongst ourselves. We stopped talking about what we want, there was no more dreaming. We weren’t thinking about, well what’s next? We were just staying with what we had.
Jim Donovan: Again, I look back and I’m like, ha. This is the point. We didn’t support the dream once it was there. We forgot to support that thing. We’d never considered that we could have the next level of the dream. This is the nice thing about aging isn’t it? We can look back and see, Oh look at all these things. I tell you this story because part of it’s entertaining, it’s nice to hear. Well we keep talking about this word harmony. We keep talking about this idea of connecting and being healthy. What I want to say about this is that, if we, the collective we, decide that we are going to find ways to be in harmony in our health first and take relentless action towards that, we can’t help but improve.
Jim Donovan: Just staying with what we know probably isn’t going to change the situation. If you find yourself in a situation where you’d like it to be improved somehow, we got to have a consistent thought about it. We talk about it with each other and then we’ve got to take some relentless action. Relentless means that I make it a priority, daily, to do the thing. That thing can be a three or four minute exercise, but we do the thing. Then once we get there, once we reach this form, then we support it. We keep doing it, and then we ask ourselves, all right, what’s the next level? What can I do next to support this health?
Jim Donovan: Now, before you go, I’d like to let you know about a free resource I made for you. It’s called The Sound Health Newsletter. In it, I share the latest research in music and health in an easy-to-understand form. I also share beginner friendly music and wellness exercises that you can use every day to feel your best. When you sign up, you also get discounts and first access to all of my Sound Health products and events.
Jim Donovan: Remember, it’s completely free. If you’d like it, just visit DonovanHealth.com and enter your name and email address, and I’ll start sending you new issues right away. While you’re on the website, you can also read full transcripts of this show and check out a ton of other valuable resources.
Jim Donovan: If you have any feedback, send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. All the information presented on this show is for educational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.
Jim Donovan: Lastly, come and visit me on our Sound Health Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube channels. I’d love to see you there. The Sound Health Podcast is produced by OmniVista Health Learning and Donovan Health Solutions. For Sound Health, this is Jim Donovan. See you next time. Take care.
Enjoyed this podcast?
Sign up now to our weekly newsletter to keep up to date with my latest podcasts, articles and videos.
You’ll receive a free subscription to Sound Health, my weekly newsletter. I’ll bring you all the latest news and ideas on using sound, music, and rhythm for your health and well being.
Enter your username and password below to access the paid Members Area and your premium Jim Donovan content.