Milwaukee-based musician D.B. Rouse is a troubadour — with a goal of becoming “the best damn hobo musician in the world“ — although he keeps the heart-thrumming pretense and over-earnestness to a minimum. He’s a traveler with a sense of humor, a perspective both irreverent and crooked as his past experiences working as a cruise ship lounge singer, goat farmer and cabana man gleefully inform his warped folk-pop mutations. Hesitant to keep still for too long, Rouse has grown familiar with the road, finding purpose in makeshift stages, bars and various other venues across the country. And he shares these winding tours with a guitar named “Meal-Ticket” and an unnamed kazoo.
During one tour, as he and his wife were sleeping off a night of drinks in his van, thieves quietly broke in and stole his laptop and most of his instruments (thankfully, “Meal-Ticket” wasn’t taken). After his insurance refused to cover his losses, Rouse reached out to his fans for donations which allows him to replace the stolen gear. As a result of the theft, he decided to stop drinking, as he saw it being one of the contributing factors to his loss. This sobriety galvanized his creativity, leading him on a collision course with the songs that would eventually form the basis of his upcoming record, “Choices Were Made,” which is due out Feb. 1st.
On his new single, “Get My Shit Together,” Rouse confronts the consequences of his past decisions and explores how they have provided inspiration for his future. The sound is loose and ramshackle, filled with acoustic strumming, beachy rhythms that feel slightly skewed and scraggly electronic flourishes. It’s all a mass of different influences and experiences tied together by Rouse’s determination to completely subvert your expectations. He’s a singer-songwriter whose work pointedly defies characterization. There are moments when he approaches the sounds so often attributed to folksy storytellers, but “Get My Shit Together” isn’t interested in conforming to your assumptions — it’s a song that sidesteps the usual musical associations.
Rouse plays around with a handful of genres here, allowing the track to wander around until it has severed its connections with any individual aesthetic. The result is a mercurial collection of miles-long melodies, a catchy chorus and Rouse’s spirited, self-deprecating introspection. But as easygoing as the song may seem on its surface, there’s a bite to it as well, and it offers a serious look at how our choices affect us and those around us. He effortlessly tackles this difficult thematic material by wrapping it up in a bundle of wobbly pop effects and upbeat rhythms, giving it room to evolve and grow into its own revelations — and it manages to do all this in under 3 minutes.