075 Rushad Eggleston





IMG_1884The internet is a very strange and wonderful place. It’s great that now we are able to communicate with people on the other side of the world whose creativity just captures our attention. This is what happened when I stumbled across Rushad Eggleston in this video. When I asked if he’d like a feature on The Spiralling he graciously accepted and then sent me the most amazing responses to my questions!

Rushad was born in a log cabin in a redwood forest in Big Sur, California. “The first thing I saw was huuuuge trees. I have 2 younger brothers very close in age, my mother Nazneen was 21, a well-to-do teetotalling parsi girl from India, a classical flautist, and had moved to USA at 17. My father Bobby was a long-haired American ruddy-faced, draft-dodging, train hopping, sax playing hippie. He was into jazz, rock’n’roll, drugs, be-here-now type books, Zen, Sufism, and golf. They were idealist clearly so I was their experiment ‘lets start him young and let him just pretty much do whatever and see what happens’.”

At age 3 he began intense classical studies on violin. “I got kicked in the face by a giant bronco, I think it changed me. I won a contest at 5 but switched to cello at 8 to one up my brother. I was forced to practice an hour every day no matter what and put in orchestra against my will. Sometimes I liked it, an old guy once said ‘you play with VIGOR, young man’. I wished I was playing baseball, soccer, or tennis. At age 10-12 I was forced to spend 3 summers at an extremely serious prestigious music camp with way older kids. 7am-11pm EVERY DAY; 2 hours orchestra, private lesson, music theory, chamber music, lecture, practice, more lessons, more orchestra, faculty concert, doom. Fortunately there was an hour for sports which I kicked all the older music geeks’ butts at and there were girls to get rejected by.”

10253807_650150355065254_8771340882150291013_nAt age 12, everything changed. “I heard Nirvana, AC/DC, Metallica, Sabbath, Megadeth, Pantera, and Guns n Roses.” It was then he quit playing the cello for 3 years and picked up a guitar. “I didn’t have to play an hour every day so I played 5 hours a day, and won the school talent show. I played the only original piece. I was going to cover Red Hot Chili Peppers but got bit on my left hand by my dog Rugby and required surgery. I had no time to work anything up so I had to improvise. A lesson that stuck with me, originality wins.” 

Soon he was jamming with everyone, “We were arguing about band names, and watching Beavis and Butthead like it was church. I had a transcendent telepathic jam with my wild hippie uncle and his garage buddies. My dad gave me ‘the speech’ after that said I could do anything I set my mind to and gave me some hippie books. The next day I decided to always be a musician and burn all other bridges (good firewood those bridges), to fuel the music passion. Then I became fruity: I became vegan, grew long hair, painted flowers on my shoes (before ditching shoes altogether), listened to stuff that wasn’t hard rock, dug through parents’ records, Indian music, Jazz, The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Cat Stevens, and a general thirst for knowledge.”

It was around this time that Rushad found his old music theory books and picked up cello again with renewed passion. “I dropped out of high school at 14 to practice 8 hours a day and went to more advanced summer music programs, state orchestras, competitions and concertos. But the guitar and ‘fun’ continued. A friend brought a banjo over and turned me on to Bluegrass which profoundly impacted my life. A rich lady offered to pay my way to Juilliard if I cut my hair – I said ‘no way’ and I’m still glad about that. Eventually I started jamming on the cello playing Jazz and Bluegrass and triumphantly QUIT classical cello studies forever.”

He got a full scholarship to Berklee, an alternative conservatory, dealing with Jazz and Rock, not Classical. “After 4 years in Boston I had met a bunch of Folk, Bluegrass, and Celtic people who were legends and famous dudes. I made albums, toured the world, got nominated for a Grammy, I was going to move to Nashville like my heroes at the time did, then I had a wild spiritual trans-dimensional adventure with my friend where I realized I was a thnark and I knew my life was changed.”

PAW_0987Instead of moving to Nashville he instead started composing, singing, inventing words, and worlds. “I made a ‘Mystical 4 track Recordings of Snee‘, and realized my inner music was wild, weird, mystic and deep and I wanted to do something with it.” At the same time his folk band Crooked Still was getting popular. “We played almost every big Folk and Bluegrass festival. It was too limiting though, I wanted to get weird, do my own thing, folk was too trendy, so I quit.” After a succession of other bands and projects in different cities, and some emotional highs and lows, Rushad moved to Oakland and “strapped the cello to my bodice with a guitar strap for proper rocking out. I spent over 5 years of hard touring in a van through the states with Tornado Rider. I started smoking and drinking a lot, 2 very unnecessary things and still very far from my true music.”

More festivals and crazy adventures happened and then at 32, the band he was in ground to a halt. “I was tired from long grimy tours and no increase in dollars. I missed the chill family vibe of the Folk world and started playing solo again. I came up with new cello methods, discovered ‘the bounce’ a way of skipping the bow across the strings which added infinite texture and variety to my rhythms, and enabled me to play 3 times as fast. I also met my wife, Mouse Princess, and proposed to her playing cello in the sky in a hot air balloon by asking in song, it was epic.” 

jesticulationsHis style flourished and he wrote hundreds and hundreds of songs. “I strapped on a kazoo to the headstock and started getting very weird and experimental with music. I stopped taking it all so seriously and became much looser. I realized I was a jester and became that, stopped trying to be a rock star. I had my most fun shows ever with solo tours full-time. People were listening, people cared, people wanted to hear my thing my deep down soul thing. Instrumentals, vocals, poetry, many stories of beings from other worlds, songs about animals, humorous songs with jokes in them, I realized that by dropping the traditionally ‘wild’ front, I became truly wild. True wildness is inner freedom, absolute originality, not trying to be anything except yourself.”

One of Rushad’s proudest moments was getting invited to play in an all-star jam. “It was at a Bluegrass festival called Greyfox on the main stage, and I got to play with Chris Thile and Jerry Douglas, these folks were all legends and SERIOUS heroes of mine. I came up on stage and they asked me what I wanted to play and one of them said “I peed on a bird” which is a popular song of mine, so we played it, MY weird ass song. Time stopped for a second in the middle of Jerry’s solo and I thought about heavy it all was what was happening, and yeah, just a huge wave of delicious pride. You can see the video of it here.” 

For Rushad, performing and “being on stage causes the most powerful feeling I know of. I feel like I’m flying, and have superhuman powers, but am also super relaxed and feel no pain. Just playing at home is a wonderful feeling too. It’s very relaxing and I get in ‘the zone’ where ideas just start flowing non stop so I frantically scribble in my book or record on my phone. I tell people playing cello (or guitar) could get me through anything. I sit there for hours coming up with new methods and all my fears and troubles and worldly concerns disappear. I’m 36 but feel 18, like a little kid. Bouncy, fluffy and determined, knowing it has just begun. Really I want to be famous for cool stuff, for making people smarter and being original and having a good message that’s uplifting and full of strangeness delight and imagination. I want to encourage people to be boundless in mind.” 

10959010_833514980062123_3461725325911867934_nOne of the biggest things Rushad had to overcome was his stage fright. “I used to get so nervous my hands would shake and it made it very difficult to play. That was in the Classical era, in the Folk era I would get self-conscious and locked out of the zone, then I learned to harness this power in the Rock and Roll era by running around and screaming. Now I realize it’s a tremendous force that either works for you or against you”. The other thing was rejection. “So many festivals, booking agents, and record labels have refused to book me or work with me because I’m too weird, they can’t figure me out, or put me in a box. That’s why this internet thing is pretty rad. People who like it can find me and I have actually had a bunch of really cool gigs that paid well from Facebook and YouTube. Especially stuff in Europe, where they seem to be more down with strangeness and non commercial art. The videos that have gone viral are ones where I am being my weird self, singing in made up words sometimes or about weird stuff like bushes and tofu and eternal rabbits, dancing around sillily and playing the kazoo, etc. It is sweet revenge, the underground creeps into the sun.”

Rushad will be touring Europe all summer. “I’ll be in Italy and Switzerland and Belgium maybe France and Croatia. I would love to tour England soon (know anyone who can help?) and Japan eventually working up to doing residency things where I can play 8 hour shows every day for a month or do a concert where I play 1000 songs.”

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