In Music

Rundman finds progression with new producer

Singer/songwriter Jonathan Rundman isn't a Wisconsin boy, but the Minneapolis-based Rundman, who is originally from Chicago, has played here so often that you'd be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

With his guileless personality and boyish All-American looks, Rundman is sort of the embodiment of the upper Midwest. So, it's little surprise that his music is notable for the same qualities. Direct and heartfelt, his melodic sound is a bit edgier, perhaps, than Mellencamp, but follows in a grand tradition of American heartland rockers.

For his latest disc, "Public Library" -- released on his own Salt Lady Records, which has issued discs by other artists, too -- Rundman enlisted producer Walter Salas-Humara of The Silos (and, before that, of the Vulgar Boatmen), who also produced a disc for Milwaukee's Wooldridge Brothers (who also have Minneapolis and Indiana connections).

The result is a disc that has the same intimacy and immediacy as his previous works, most of which had been recorded at home on a 4-track machine, but with a notable sonic improvement and a streamlining of arrangements that only a producer with good instincts and ears can achieve.

Those qualities are what made Salas-Humara attractive as a producer to Rundman.

"I love everything that Walter has produced in the past, so I really trusted his instincts," Rundman says. "I've made so many albums in my career where I was the producer, the main musician, and the songwriter, so I've had plenty of experience expressing myself and exploring my own vision ... so I think I got that out of my system. I was completely ready to cede control over to someone I trusted. And I'm thrilled with the results. I learned a lot from watching Walter work, and from listening to his input. It was like rock 'n' roll grad school."

Of course, like most of us, Rundman first became acquainted with Salas-Humara's work via The Silos, who, despite having a pretty low profile, are one of the most respected modern American roots bands.

"Throughout the '90s I'd go see The Silos every time they played in Chicago," Rundman recalls, "and I gave Walter a copy of every CD I recorded. Then, when I was on tour in New York a couple years ago I met with Walter in NYC and asked him if he'd like to be the producer for my next album."

On the record, Rundman also benefited from a band anchored by drummer Konrad Meissner and bassist/guitarist Drew Glackin, Salas-Humara sidemen both.

But, Rundman's new career step has coincided with a major new life phase, he's become a father. So, while he says he'd love to work with Salas-Humara again, there are some logistics problems.

"Now that I have a kid, and I'm the stay-home dad, it might be more difficult for me to record away from Minneapolis, where I live. So, it might be trickier to involve an out-of-town producer, but I really hope to collaborate with him sometime in the future. We both really enjoyed the process, and got along great."

The same issues have caused Rundman to scale back on his normally packed schedule of gigs across the Midwest.

"I'll do shows around the country," he promises, "but a lot less touring than I used to do. Parenthood is my new full-time job."

That should leave him plenty of time to write, then, shouldn't it?

"I made a rule when we finished this album that I wasn't going to write any more songs for a long, long time," Rundman says. "I'm trying to focus on this particular group of songs at this point."

But don't take that to mean that we won't hear any Rundman music for a while. No, Jonathan's got that good ol' Midwestern work ethic, too. He can't sit still for long.

"I'm always working in my basement studio on getting songs tracked," he says. "I've got a fairly large pile of unused and unheard songs that I've written over the years; stuff that didn't make the cut for this new album (and) tunes that never seemed to fit on other albums. So, my goal is to get through all those old songs and make the definitive recording of each one. That should take awhile. When all that stuff is done, then I'll give myself permission to make up some new songs."

Rundman's Web site is saltlady.com.

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