There are two types of musicians: those who were born for the stage and those who are forced onto the stage to share their songs. Dallas' Ronnie Fauss is the latter. He toyed with songwriting for most of his life before working up the gumption to perform at an open mic at a corner bar in downtown Santa Fe.
“I think the reason that I felt the courage to get up there was because I was in a town where I wouldn’t know anybody," he tells the Dallas Observer.
Fauss spent a long time playing dimly lit open mics before he built the confidence to take on more. Today, the alt-country musician, who is signed to Nashville's New West Records, embraces the performance aspect of artistry and enjoys developing rapport with an audience.
“Performing is not so much natural to me, but I was writing all these songs that I really wanted people to hear, and I realized that if I wanted people to hear them, it was going to have to be me to sing them," Fauss says. "I enjoy it now, but that’s what got me started.”
Putting his feelings on paper was never a problem for Fauss. He says for as long as he can remember, songs have been sprouting out of his heart with little to no conscious effort.
“For whatever reason — I can’t explain it — the songwriting thing is just innate to me. I just write songs when I’m not even thinking about anything. Next thing I know, I have something, and I need to go write it down or record it."
On the cusp of releasing his third album, Last of the True, his first without a producer, Fauss is excited to have had the opportunity to create something utterly his.
“I wanted to be the sole commander of my own ship," he says. "If I wanted to try something out that was a little bit wacky, I didn’t have anybody try to talk me out of it. I was really enjoying the challenge of, you know, sink or swim — this thing all falls on me.”
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Heavily influenced by Bob Dylan and alt-country bands like Whiskey Town, Uncle Tupelow and the Driveby Truckers, Fauss' songs wend their way through the introspective, small-town existentialism and sonic simplicity common to the alt-country subgenre, which has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity thanks to the likes of Jason Isbell, the Turnpike Troubadours and Sturgill Simpson.
The first-person yarns Fauss weaves in his songs are an aggregation of real and imagined experiences, set against easily accessible, sensorially rich physical backdrops. For example, his song “Saginaw Paper Mill” is set in, you guessed it, Saginaw, Michigan’s paper mill, but Fauss has never been there.
“I have never been to Saginaw, Michigan; I have never been to the paper mill, but it’s a first-person song about that. It is a vehicle [for the message]," Fauss says. "A lot of the principles that are reflected in that song, the things that I’m saying, the things that I’m feeling, are all true, but they’re set against this backdrop that I honestly have no idea where it came from."
Last of the True comes out Friday, Oct. 27. You can see Fauss perform at 3 p.m. Saturday at Good Records, 1808 Lower Greenville Ave.