(Soundbite of Nashville)
SCOTT SIMON, host:
Josh Rouse can be a hard man to keep track of. The singer and songwriter was born in Nebraska and has rambled across the United States, writing and playing his music in California, South Dakota, Arizona, Georgia, Utah and finally, Nashville. But in 2004, Mr. Rouse recorded a farewell to Nashville. It's called Nashville.
Mr. ROUSE: (Singing) And does it feel like I feel? Is it standing in the rain? Mild(ph) in the street. City lights above. It's the nighttime baby going to go(ph) in my love.
SIMON: That's The Song in the Nighttime. That record was also a farewell to the United States. Josh Rouse picked up his life, and he moved to a small town on Spain's Mediterranean coast. His latest album is called Subtitulo, and this song is Quiet Town.
Mr. ROUSE: (Singing) I know somewhere there is a party going down, interesting people, conversation to be found. I've lived in cities where there is no solitude, made some friends there that I hope I'll never lose, but for now, I want to stay in this quiet town.
SIMON: Josh Rouse joins us now from our studios in that very unquiet town of New York City. Thanks so much for being with us.
Mr. ROUSE: And thanks for having me.
SIMON: So do we read both of these songs as succinctly autobiographical?
Mr. ROUSE: Well, Quiet Town, definitely. I've always wanted to live in Europe. I was actually dating a girl that lived there, and I said, hey, why don't you rent me an apartment, and I'll check it out for awhile. So I did that, and I ended up moving to a really small town. I mean, the town didn't even have a movie theater or you know, kind of - I didn't speak Spanish either, so I just kind of stayed in the apartment for the first couple of months I moved there and wrote songs, and that's kind of what came out, and this song was called Quiet Time, and it was just such a departure from my touring life and you know, flying around the world and in big cities all the time, and yeah, it was kind of romantic, and I liked it.
Mr. ROUSE (Singing): Ooh, sometimes I miss the show I loved a long time ago. Come Sunday morning, there's a market on that square. Children are playing, bells are ringing in the air. Old men are drinking. It's a lazy afternoon. (Unintelligible) were thinking that there is nothing to do, so for now, I'm going to stay in the quiet town, in this quiet town, in this quiet town.
SIMON: Mr. Rouse, it would have been possible to move to a small town where they speak English.
Mr. ROUSE: Yeah, but then, you know, I wanted to challenge myself. I'm from a town of 500 people in Nebraska. It's called Paxton, and I'd kind of done that already, so I wanted to learn a language, you know. I started taking lessons when I arrived there, and I've been there for a year-and-a-half, and I'm pretty fluent, so...
SIMON: What's the name of the town in which you live now?
Mr. ROUSE: I live in Belencia(ph) now, or as the Spanish would say, Belencia, but I was living in Altea(ph) when I first arrived to Spain.
SIMON: That's Mayberry, Spain, where you were living.
Mr. ROUSE: Mas o menos, more or less, yeah.
SIMON: We want to listen to a song called His Majesty Rides. Let's listen.
Mr. ROUSE: Okay.
Mr. ROUSE: (Singing) Come, come out, and slip into something. It's the middle of the afternoon. Come, come out, the city's been patient, and she's downstairs waiting for you. Got no time for new friends now. I'll stay in the hotel room. The questions and demands just bring you blue. And when you feel that you can't go on, there's nothing to be sure of. You will not stay forever. Just try to remember his majesty rides. His majesty rides.
SIMON: And a bit of Brazilian influence.
Mr. ROUSE: Yeah, definitely. I was, the past couple of years I've just been obsessed with Brazilian music.
SIMON: Wow. Some people think it's the best music in the world.
Mr. ROUSE: Yeah, yep. I'd have to agree with them.
SIMON: Is this what you've been listening to.
Mr. ROUSE: I spent about the past year kind of practicing the guitar to be like Joel Gaberto(ph), and I'm still not quite there yet, but...
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIMON: Well, he's quite a standard to which to aspire...
Mr. ROUSE: He's a master, yeah. Yeah.
SIMON: Yeah. Well, we want to listen to another one of your songs now.
Mr. ROUSE: Okay.
Ms. PAZ SWY(ph) (Singer): (Singing) He used to work in Central Park where at least a dozen women broke his heart and there he'd sit and think about his past.
Mr. ROUSE: (Singing) She's lived in Brooklyn now; she rode the train. First she'd take the T and then the L and that is where I met her on that day.
Ms. SWY: (Singing) (Unintelligible)
Mr. ROUSE: (Singing with Paz Swy): He's a man who doesn't how. He is a man who doesn't know how. He is a man who doesn't know how to smile.
Ms. SWY: (Singing) It's not the same for just a change (unintelligible)...
SIMON: A couple things: Who's the woman singing?
Mr. ROUSE: My girlfriend. She's going to kill me, you know that?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. ROUSE: No, that's my girlfriend. She's actually from Belencia, Spain.
SIMON: Well, she's a, she has a wonderful voice.
Mr. ROUSE: Yeah, yeah. It was really nice. I just asked her, she's not really a singer. I just asked if she wanted to sing on a duet, and I was kind of joking, and it worked out, so, and that's the reason, she kind of taught me Spanish, actually. You know, I took a couple lessons, but the best way to learn Spanish is to take a Spanish lover.
SIMON: I was wondering how you were going to finish that sentence because I've heard it finished somewhat more explicitly, let's put it that way.
Mr. ROUSE: Oh, okay.
SIMON: Yeah, no, no, no, but I think you're absolutely right. Oh, wait, that sounds like I'm speaking from experience. I don't mean - I don't -maybe we should just move on, but your - do we get to know your girlfriend's name?
Mr. ROUSE: Her name is Paz Swy.
SIMON: You know, she, I think she has a wonderful voice, a little bit like Astrude Yelberto(ph).
Mr. ROUSE: Yeah, yeah. I like the accent thing. I think it worked well. She doesn't like it at all. She always - she wanted to keep to doing it over and over, and she's says, no, my accent's too strong. I said, no, it's charming.
Ms. SWY: (Singing) The summer turns into the fall, and they took a little table into the cave, and that is where they laid their bodies down.
Mr. ROUSE: (Singing) And in the morning when the sun came up, she looked...
SIMON: Is this just a phase in your life, Spain? Do you see yourself coming back to the United States?
Mr. ROUSE: Yeah, I'm going to come back. I mean, my plan is kind of to go between Spain and the States, actually New York. I'd like to get a place in New York, and I already got a place in Spain, so it's just a matter of finding a place here.
SIMON: Well, Mr. Rouse, awfully nice talking to you. Good luck with the album.
Mr. ROUSE: Oh, thank you very much.
Ms. SWY and Mr. ROUSE: (Singing) He is the man who doesn't know how, he is the man who doesn't know how, he is the man who doesn't know how to smile.
SIMON: Josh Rouse speaking to us from New York. The album is called Subtitulo. It isn't released until March 21, but you can find out more about on our website, npr.org.