“I think that show made me more nervous than any show I’ve ever done, especially leading up to it,” Rodriguez told Pollstar. “I grew up in Austin and I’ve watched ‘Austin City Limits’ since I was 2. It seems like it was part of my youth. But once we got out on stage this calm came over me, which tends to happen. Even when I’m very nervous, when I pick up my fiddle it just sort of disappears.”
Rodriguez had asked her manager for a big favor: for Gary Louris, the Jayhawks songwriter and a co-writer on her sophomore album, to join her on stage. She figured he wouldn’t but it meant a lot to her.
In, “like, two seconds,” Louris said yes, Rodriguez’s manager, John Porter, told Pollstar. “And it was really nice. But he’s so much taller than she is that I thought it would look stupid on TV. But they figured it out; they’re professionals.”
As Porter put it, Rodriguez is “sick talented” and can play anything with strings. Along with violin and fiddle, her arsenal includes the mandobird (an electric mandolin) and tenor guitar.
Rodriguez has been a solo performer for about two summers. Not yet 30, she has spent much of her career as a duet partner of Chip Taylor, writer of “Wild Thing” and “Angel of the Morning.”
She began playing violin as a kid, taking group and private lessons. Eventually, she was invited by family friend Lyle Lovett to sit in on a soundcheck.
As a young adult, she went to Boston’s Berklee College of Music and learned fiddle technique from her roomie, Casey Driessen, who became violinist for Bela Fleck and Tim O’Brien.
She has spent most of the 21st century on the road with Taylor and made three duet albums with him. But Taylor was instrumental in launching Rodriguez’s solo album, Seven Angels on a Bicycle. He gave a copy to Lucinda Williams, who invited Rodriguez to join her on tour, where she would open up the show and join Williams’ band during the headlining set.
“I don’t think I’ve ever sold as much merch as I did on that tour,” Rodriguez said. “In her own show [Williams would] come out and say (putting on a thick drawl), ‘Now, all of ya’ll out there better go and buy Carrie Rodriguez’s CD because I say so. So you better do it.’ And they’d do it!”
Now she’s opening for Alejandro Escovedo and playing in his band. And like Williams, Escovedo helps out by telling his audience to give Rodriguez a standing ovation.
“It certainly helps to have those people ordering their audience around,” she said.
She’s opened for the Dave Matthews Band but that wasn’t nerve-wracking at all.
“Well, I was playing in Alejandro’s band. If I was fronting it I might have been a little nervous,” she said. “You know the one place that would freak me out is the Troubadour, because it has so much history. Plus, Lucinda came out to the show. She was on the floor. She goes to shows a lot to support her friends. The next night both of us went to see Kasey Chambers play at Hotel Café.”
Rodriguez is one of only a handful of artists Mike Kappus of Rosebud Agency has signed sight unseen. However, his staff saw her at SXSW last year and he put trust in their opinion, he told Pollstar.
“Carrie has unlimited potential,” Kappus said. “She has great songs, an intriguing sound, great stage presence and real integrity as an artist. I’m constantly hearing songs in my head and then I stop and realize that they’re Carrie's songs. We’re thrilled to be working with her and see a long and healthy career for her.”
“She’s amazing,” Porter added. “She works really hard. She’s beautiful, she’s nice and she has no ego. I’m really thrilled to be working with her.”
Rodriguez said she’s been very lucky to have rarely needed to book her own shows or be her own manager. She started playing with Taylor right after music school in 2001 and was offered booking by Monterey Peninsula’s Nashville office.
“When I made my first solo record, there was already a booking agent in place,” she said. “More of a folk/bluegrass kind of agent. It didn’t really end up being the right fit.
“But I’ve been so lucky,” she continued. “I don’t understand how it worked out so well. When I’m out there on the road I try to do everything I can to do the best I can because I feel so grateful for having all of these things like a great booking agent and manager. I feel there’s a lot of people out there helping me for some reason.”