Music sometimes makes you do crazy things, like trade the peaceful plains of Kansas for the bustling concrete jungle of Brooklyn, N.Y. That’s what roots-rock band Country Mice frontman Jason Rueger decided to do a few short years ago, making the move from his quiet home of Beattie — population: about 300 — to the Big Apple to make a go at a music career.
“I was going to move to Chicago or New York, and I decided that if I was going to do something extreme, I might as well as go as big as I could.” he said.
The transition was as difficult as you would imagine: Rueger didn’t know anyone, and on his first night, his bike got stolen. Things were hardly smooth sailing from there.
“It was hard, a slap in the face,” Rueger said. “Nothing comes easy. Finding a rehearsal space, paying for cabs to move gear around town — it was a shock at first. Once it settles, it kind of works. After that initial shock, it’s a great place to be in a band … it’s worth weathering through.”
Loads of luck helped him find fellow Midwestern transplants — and even a fellow Kansan — to help craft Country Mice’s “Dinosaur Jr. meets Neil Young” alt-country/folk sound, the latter of which he couldn’t escape even if he tried.
“My parents always played old country music,” he said. “Going through my teens, that was never what I listened to or wanted to listen to, but it started phoning in unexpectedly when I wrote music. … I will probably always write about growing up on a farm and moving to such a big city. Your heart is always back there.”
That subtle Southern charm stood out in the glitz and glam of the New York music scene, and the quartet soon caught the attention of a small, but influential indie label.
“The first thing you always hear about us is that we are a Brooklyn band that doesn’t sound like a Brooklyn band,” Rueger said. “We don’t have a typical New York sound, and it made people notice a bit more. We didn’t plan on getting the response we have here in New York. You don’t typically think of us being wellreceived in the Northeast, but people are digging it here.”
Country Mice’s debut, “Twister,” which dropped in May, has been praised for its ability to dip between emotional country ballads and ’90s-era alt-rock anthems at the drop of a hat.
“It seems to be getting understood in the right light,” Rueger said.
“We never wanted to be this classic country band or a huge rock band, we were aiming for something in the middle of that, and people seem to get that.”