Then there’s the success of Take The Week Off’s lead single and title track, Ruttan’s fastest rising single to date and the #1 Most Added song in Canada in it’s first week of release. And as if that’s not enough, one of the album’s tracks, co-write ‘Mine Would Be You,’ has already cracked the Top 5 and Top 10 on the Canadian and US Country charts respectively and become a runaway hit for Country superstar Blake Shelton.
When asked about the album’s freewheeling vibe, however, Ruttan just says: “I guess I’m up for having a little more fun these days.” That certainly comes through loud and clear on album opener ‘Pass It Around,’ an irresistibly hooky stomp that celebrates good times past while reminding listeners there’s no better time than the present to fill up a mason jar or three, break out some guitars and throw a party. “And the older you get, the more important that is,” Ruttan adds, “because our time here is fleeting and we need to enjoy it when we can.”
The album does play out like a raucous party; complete with a barn burning jam session featuring A-list players including guitarists J. T. Corenflos and Kenny Greenberg, multi-instrumentalist John Willis, bassists Lee Hendricks and Alison Prestwood and drummer Craig Wright. But alongside the party anthems there are plenty of more reflective moments – songs Ruttan hopes will prompt listeners to reflect on the people who’ve passed through their own lives and the good times they’ve had with them over time.
That’s a major preoccupation on ‘Good Thing Gone’ and ‘What a Memory,’ but nowhere more so than on Ruttan’s co-write with Tia Sillers (Leanne Womack, Dixie Chicks), ‘The Space Between,’ a track that expresses just how important it is to take time out for friends and family. “We’re here and then we’re gone and all we have is that space between,” Ruttan says, “so we should make the most of it.”
Take The Week Off also finds Ruttan channeling the energy of his 2011 release, Up All Night – Deric Ruttan Live, into this, his fourth studio record. “Up All Night really reinforced how much I love performing and I wanted to inject some of the raw energy of the live show, where we dial up the overdrive a bit, into this record.”
At times on Take The Week Off Ruttan shows off a side of himself lyrically that’s a bit outside his comfort zone. In fact one song, ‘Happy Place’ – a breezy, laugh out loud funny tune about getting your ‘smiley face’ on for no good reason other than the fact you can – almost didn’t make the record. “I wrote that with one of the first people I met when I moved to Nashville nineteen years ago, David Lee (Lady Antebellum). He, Brett and Jim Beavers all sing on it. We all had a shot of tequila, gathered around the microphone and let loose, so it sounds like what it is, a bunch of friends playing music together, but honestly, I was apprehensive about recording it. It’s fun, but it’s kind of silly. Then my wife said, ‘Johnny Cash had a hit with ‘A Boy Named Sue,’ but he also sang ‘Hurt,’ so I’m gonna say Johnny Cash gave me permission to be ‘the serious guy’ and ‘the fun guy,’ and ‘Happy Place’ is going to be a fun song to play live.”
Working with co-producer and Grammy-nominee Luke Wooten (Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley) also had an impact on Take The Week Off, Ruttan says: “I produced my last two records alone, so it was great to have another set of ears to bounce things off of this time. And Luke’s very patient, which is a necessity when you work with me,” he adds, chuckling. “I like to think I’m easy to get along with, but I will debate a single word or phrase in a song for hours – like every brush stroke in a painting, every word is important so I really get in there and dig.”
Ultimately Take The Week Off will resonate with anyone who’s ever felt a sudden, irresistible need to kick back, party it up and – maybe after a beer or two – spend some time reflecting on just who and what makes their life worth living in the first place. That’s something co-writers Ruttan, Connie Harrington and Jessi Alexander certainly do on album closer, ‘Hometown,’ a song that says no matter where you go or what you do, the place you came from is where you learn to prepare for everything you’ll do later in pursuit of your dreams. “And that line in the second chorus,” Ruttan says, “‘with Nashville circled on my glove box map,’ that is very specific to dreamers and particularly dreamers who come here to Nashville like we did.”
As always Deric Ruttan credits his audience for helping him realize his dreams, but also, as importantly, for reminding him again and again that the words and notes he strings together for a living truly have weight to them. “That’s why I spend days crafting lyrics and weeks and months deciding what songs to record, because they have the potential to become meaningful in people’s lives, and often on levels you’d never think they would.”
Granted, the effect some of the songs on Take The Week Off will have on listeners is to inspire them to have a rip roaring good time and maybe head back to the bar for another drink, but that’s all good, too, he says: “They deserve it. They work hard.”
-written by Kevin Young