NOT EVERYONE would just up and move 700 miles away because their friends (in this case, the grimy, shoegaze-fueled band Creepoid) were moving from Philadelphia and needed a pet sitter while they went on tour.
But singer-songwriter A.M. Rodriguez has a pretty insatiable wanderlust, having grown up all over the country and occupying all corners of Texas, including time in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin.
“Part of that kind of never left me,” he says. “I get antsy after a bit.”
“I had friends from Austin who spent some time here,” says Rodriguez. “They always said good things; I always wanted to check it out. The opportunity came when Creepoid was coming here, and I was just like, ‘Screw it.’ Sold my motorcycle, sold all my stuff, spent my last dollars getting down here, basically. We all did.”
He arrived in Savannah in time for July 4th, experiencing our town’s deep appreciation for unrestrained revelry (fire, gasoline, TVs, and rooftops were involved). Not long after, Rodriguez was appearing on bills around town, playing powerful country songs and singing his lungs out.
He received his first guitar and wrote his first song when he was 13. After years in punk bands, he went solo with an acoustic guitar and harmonica.
Only appropriate that he taught himself how to carry a tune by singing along to old Against Me! records in the car.
“That’s how I learned the boom-chhk country rhythm,” Rodriguez explains. “Which is funny—they inadvertently got me more into country...I learned how to play it through a back-ass route way.”
As weird coincidence would have it, his roommates are currently on tour with Against Me!.
There’s a strong narrative quality to Rodriguez’s work, carried by the blistering, angular lilt of his vocals. An English major at University of Texas, he was primarily (and stubbornly) a fiction writer, until he took a poetry course from poet Dean Young.
“I wrote songs, so I thought I’d try it out, thinking, ‘maybe this will be the thing that finally gets me to understand poetry,’” says Rodriguez.
“He’s all over the place,” Rodriguez says of Young, “but he explained his process, and it was the opposite of mine. Mine’s always really straight-forward narratives. He taught me how to do unexpected things every now and then and just have fun with it.”
Rodriguez actually left Texas to focus on writing his third novel. Fueled by bourbon, he hammered out a semi-autobiographical story over the period of a month and a half in his aunt and uncle’s Allentown, Pennsylvania basement.
As a fiction writer, Rodriguez often writes songs as varying characters, giving voices to the silenced women of country music, like in his followup to Johnny Cash’s “Delia’s Gone.”
Recently, he’s delved further into honky-tonk; you’ll often find him playing lead guitar with Tony Beasley (Whiskey Dick) at The Jinx. The collaboration has allowed him to explore new keys and hone his transposing skills.
Though he’s solo for now, expect to see him with a full band in the new year: A.M. Rodriguez and the Country Drunks. He’s putting his honky-tonk training to work, bringing new originals and classics to light.
“Savannah’s a pretty good pace,” he says of his new home. Watch closely: Rodriguez is picking up the pace himself, offering a whole new take on local country music.