Dropping out of college to form a band is either a calling or a high-risk gamble depending on how successful the band becomes. For RUSTED ROOT founder Michael Glabicki, rolling the dice on a musical career has certainly paid its dividends both personally and creatively.
When he formed his multiracial, coed folk-fusion band in Pittsburgh in the early ‘90s, Glabicki was a man torn between his parent’s expectations for his college education and his own existential crisis of trying to determine his place in the world.
“I was at college for about a semester,” said Glabicki, who returrns to The Sanctuary in Ridgeway March 22nd with his current solo project, UPROOTED. “I had just gotten back from Nicaragua at the time, after having gone down to witness what was going on with the contra war. I thought maybe I could incorporate the politics into my studies there. It ended up just kind of feeling like it was a little too organized, a little too rigid for me.”
His unproductive college experience left Glabicki struggling under the crushing weight of depression, a situation he managed to slowly dig his way out of by channeling his thoughts into song. “What got me out of the depression was starting to write music,” remembers Glabicki. “After the first song I was like, ‘cool, I feel like there’s some outer expression happening.’ This door kind of crept open into this other world where I started to be able to breathe a little better and I felt energized.”
Soon one song grew into two and three, leading to a new-found inspiration to make music a primary driver in his life. With that, Glabicki formed Rusted Root, a multi-cultural rootsy rock-and-soul collective that mixed banjo, pennywhistle, hand drums, rapping, yodeling and African chants into a happy hybrid known for dramatic, polyrhythmic live performances. Lumped into the same neo-hippie movement that produced acts like Dave Matthews, Blues Traveller and Widespread Panic, Glabicki and his Rusted Root bandmates carved out a huge following, reaching their zenith in 1994 with the platinum selling album, When I Woke, and its hit single, “Send Me On My Way.”
As quickly as success came, so too did the inevitable backlash, as such earnest, world-beat music became a lightning rod for criticism. While his band continued to make music, they could never quite replicate the success of that seminal, pioneering album. “Rusted Root was at its best around When I Woke,” acknowledged Glabicki. “Everything past that was a struggle for everybody in the band. What I quickly realized was that the band was either trying to get back to the past, which doesn’t work because you’re out of the moment, or you’re trying to follow somebody else’s example.”
Despite seven studio albums and over three million album sales, Glabicki decided to put Rusted Root on hiatus, with 2012’s The Movement remaining the band’s last album. However, that hasn’t stopped his desire to create, and his UPROOTED project has continued to draw fans to his solo work – whether as an acoustic performer, in a band, or as a duo with Rusted Root guitarist Dirk Miller.
“When I started going solo, I started to realize that with Rusted Root, that was a sketch that went a certain way. These songs were certain sketches. We made this certain vision come true. With going acoustic and going as a duo, that it was completely wide open again, that it could be expressed in an infinite amount of ways. Every night is vastly different, and that’s exciting as a performer.”
For tickets and show time, visit: https://www.thesanctuaryarts.org/events.