With the leadoff single to his first solo project, John Rich has captured the tenor of a troubled age. "Shuttin' Detroit Down," a populist anthem that gives voice to millions of hard-working Americans who have watched an economic elite benefit while the nation's economy collapses, has quickly swept the nation. Its premiere airing on Detroit country radio stations galvanized the working class in the beleaguered blue-collar city, and the universality of its sentiment lit up phone lines across the country and made it the fastest-rising single of Rich's storied career.
The song is a fitting kickoff to Son of a Preacher Man, an album that finds country music's Renaissance Everyman giving full rein to his own creative voice in a project as personal as it is musically arresting. With its release, one of modern music's most prolific and creative spirits opens yet another chapter, stepping into the front ranks of solo performers amid a career in musical partnerships and as someone whose songwriting and producing skills have helped shape the talents of others.
"Shuttin' Detroit Down" is as powerful an entree into a solo career as an artist could hope for.
"It's a humbling experience," he says. "This song is bigger than me. It's bigger than my career. It's one of those divine experiences you have once in your lifetime, if you're lucky, as a songwriter."
And it came to him, as so often happens with art of this import, quickly and unexpectedly. He had been watching news reports involving yet another company whose top brass were buying frills after bailouts from U.S. taxpayers.
"I felt so disrespected as an American taxpayer," he says. "I felt like these guys were laughing at me and laughing at the American people in general, like they're getting away with something, and guess what--they are. I figured I had a choice. I could sit at home and be mad, or I could do what a country songwriter does--pick up a blank sheet of paper, a pencil and a guitar, and write a song about it. And that's what I did."
He played the song live at stations he was visiting as part of a radio tour, and the reaction was so strong he rerouted the tour into Nashville on a Friday night, recorded the song on Saturday, and hit the road again with the CD. Two weeks after he wrote it, it was part of the Son of a Preacher Man album, which to that point had been considered finished.
For those familiar with John's wide-ranging creativity, the lessons of "Shuttin' Detroit Down" John's finger on the pulse of America, his unbridled creativity and penchant for connecting with his audiences are nothing new. Few people in Nashville history have had the wide-ranging success that John, an entertainer who can truly do it all, has had.