Rick Monroe is a travelin' man. Born in Florida, he grew up in a variety of places -- California, Connecticut, Kansas, North Carolina, even England. After settling in Nashville and launching his career, the young singer/songwriter performed in every state except Oregon (an omission he aims to rectify soon). He's sung the National Anthem during Fourth of July celebrations in Vietnam, performed in more than a dozen countries and entertained former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who expressed his thanks by kissing Monroe on the cheek and calling him "pop star."
But as far as he's wandered, Monroe has always stood firm on the bedrock of country music. And with the release of "Great Minds Drink Alike," the third single from his EP, IT'S A LOVE THING, Monroe brings it all back home.
Cracking the Billboard Top 50 shortly after its release, this good-time anthem triggered an instant thumbs-up from MusicRow ("This oomph rocker is produced and sung with great gusto … Shut up and dance!"), One Stop Country ("Rick Monroe's strong vocals blend perfectly with each chord."), East Bay Express (" … a killer track!") and other media outlets.
"I'd like to say that this song came about from some great epiphany," says Monroe. "But what happened was, I saw a plaque that read 'Great Minds Drink Alike' and I thought, 'I can't believe that no one has written this song! I'd better get to it quickly!' So Dan Adams and I got together that night and knocked it out. It was one of those songs that are already there; you just have to peel away a couple of layers to get to it."
It's an instant country classic, a snapshot series of barroom escapades set to a pounding beat and sing-along hook. It also only hints at Monroe's capabilities. Having already seen more of the world and its people than many get to experience in a lifetime, this gifted troubadour possesses a rare empathy with people from all backgrounds.
"No matter where you go, they key word is 'people,'" he affirms. "People are people. Everybody has the same wants and needs. Once I realized that, it actually took a lot of pressure off from me. No matter where I was playing, I understood that everyone just wants to have a good time. All I have to do is enjoy what I'm doing onstage and it'll transfer to them, because the more you see of the world, the more open you are to the world."
Many artists are drawn to country music while spending their formative years in one place, maybe a small town or a family farm. Paradoxically, it was Monroe's peripatetic life that led him to the genre. "I guess it was my escapism," he admits. "I learned to adapt as we moved to different places. And music gave me something to hold onto through it all."
All kinds of music filled the family playlist. "In my house there was everything from Vivaldi to Hank Jr. to Garth Brooks to Metallica," Monroe recalls. "It was Jim Croce who inspired me to get into guitars and teach myself to play. I was in a rock band as a kid in California, but when I started getting more into Dwight Yoakam, it didn't work out very well."
Committed fully to music, Monroe went to Los Angeles and enrolled in the Musicians Institute, where he concentrated on vocal studies. He also started picking up gigs in local country bars. There weren't enough of them to keep him booked full-time, though, so he began adding trips to Nashville to nurture his songwriting skills. Eventually, as he puts it, "I realized it was stupid to keep going back and forth."
With that, Monroe relocated to Nashville and began building his career. On a shoestring budget, he recorded a debut album, AGAINST THE GRAIN and cut his first video on "The Midnight Rider." He learned on the job how to work the business side of music, culminating in long-term relationships with his various sponsors.
His most enduring corporate relationship dates back seven years, with Jägermeister, who welcomed Monroe as the first artist ever to play in their office lobby at Wolfenbüttel, Germany. He continues to be the Brand Ambassador for the annual Jägermeister Country Tour. Guest headliners have included Lee Brice, Eli Young Band, Randy Houser, Aaron Lewis and other major names; only Monroe has been invited on each trek as the welcoming act and emcee.
While this tour has served Monroe well, this year he assigns top priority to progressing his own career. He has already clocked around 45,000 miles on radio tours since the beginning of the year. He has opened for an array of major artists, including Dierks Bentley, Charlie Daniels Band, Eric Church and Montgomery Gentry. He has signed new sponsorship deals. And by August "Great Minds" was on the rise from No. 49 on the Billboard chart, further broadening his impact among country fans.
"IT'S A LOVE THING shows the kind of diversity I can offer as an artist," he says. "I'm not so linear in my approach to music; I'm more diversified. My influences range from A to Z and I always try to put that into my music. But my home base will always be country because it's not just about the hype of an idea; it's based on songs. To me, country is like going out for steak and potatoes as opposed to grabbing a Reese's cup on your way out the door -- it might taste good but it's not going to keep you alive."