Arts & Culture

"Don't Look Too Good:" Patrick Rice on Exploring Musical Styles in His New EP

A Furman senior rediscovers his love for bluegrass on a new EP.

Furman senior, Patrick Rice, published the bluegrass EP "Don't Look Too Good" on all platforms this summer. Patrick Rice

On Jun. 26, Senior Music Performance Major Patrick Rice released an EP titled “Don’t Look Too Good” for streaming on all platforms. The demo features four songs, all heavily influenced by bluegrass. In collaboration with Dr. Andrew Carlson, visiting professor of violin here at Furman, and record producer John Keane, who has worked with groups like R.E.M. and Cowboy Junkies, Rice recorded the album professionally during winter break last year. Although  Rice is a student of classical guitar, each of his songs display his artistic versatility and ability to take on new styles and make them his own. 

At the start of his junior year at Furman, Rice explained he was searching for a different genre to explore after playing classical music since he was 12 years old. He “rediscovered a lost love for bluegrass” just as the Furman Music faculty welcomed Dr. Andrew Carlson, renowned violinist and fiddler, as a violin professor. Rice expressed his interest in bluegrass to Carlson, who then invited him to a jam session which resulted in a semester-long independent study that focused on “bluegrass guitar playing and arranging.” Rice’s experience playing classical guitar allowed him to achieve “proficiency” in the bluegrass style “in a relatively short period of time” and Carlson later helped Rice arrange his songs for the recording with Keane. “We cut a four song demo in one day” recalled Rice, who counted himself lucky that the recording was completed over winter break before campus was closed due to the pandemic. 

Though Rice classified  his music as bluegrass or progressive bluegrass, he said that each track has a unique tune to showcase “the different writing styles that [he is] capable of.” Still, Rice does not claim mastery of bluegrass guitar, stating “it has a language and vocabulary” and is different from classical guitar in its metronomic and highly improvisatory style. “I only want to get better,” he said.

Rice went more in depth on the variety of styles encompassed in this demo by describing his inspiration of each song. He explained that the comedic opener “Don’t Look Too Good” is representative of traditional bluegrass style in that each member of the band plays a verse and a break. The lyrics describe several missteps in the life of a young man, and Rice attempted to revitalize the traditional bluegrass tradition with words that are “relative to our generation.” 

Next up is the gentle and heartfelt “Future In Your Eyes.” In Rice’s opinion, “every good album needs a love ballad, right?” On this song, he took the approach of “a songwriter more than an artist,” and said it is really meant for someone else to sing as the style does not suit his voice. 

The third song, “Rusted Spade” offers lyrics reminiscent of a western movie with descriptions of fugitives—“hightailin’ outlaws”—seeking to outrun the authorities. Rice wanted to write a fast song for the album, and pushed this piece beyond its initial form by extending it and adding another section of instrumental solos. “Taking a song and letting the band tee off” as Rice described it is a common practice for modern bluegrass bands, also known as “jamgrass.” 

The final piece on the album “Paris Mountain Rag” acts as a lively and charming instrumental closer, offering virtuosic guitar playing without vocals. 

Rice cited his Furman Music education as key in his development as a professional musician. He said Furman’s music faculty is “genius” and explained that his studies with classical guitar instructors Professor Marina Alexandra and Dr. Silviu Ciulei provided him with “all the tools [he] needed to be the best guitarist [he] could be.” Dr. Carlson was also instrumental in helping him create art through his renewed interest in bluegrass. 

Rice shared that he currently is preparing to record an album which will “give him a more definable style.” Rice knows that both classical and bluegrass playing will be part of his future, and listeners can look forward to a combination of those styles along with his skillful instrumentation and vocals for more work that is lighthearted and infectiously fun.

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