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Tim Rushlow is comfortable - and downright content - inside his contemporary skin. "I'll never tell anyone I'm a traditional country artist," he says, " 'cause I'm not." He explains, "I don't want to cut a pop record or an alternative country record. I'm a contemporary country performer."
It's clear that Tim - whose first single as a solo performer is the moving ballad "She Misses Him" - knows exactly where he's going with his music. He also knows, as the former lead singer for the band Little Texas, where he's been.
"My influences growing up were Steve Wariner, Larry Gatlin, Gary Morris, Charlie Daniels," reveals Tim. "But those artists aren't belt-buckle-wearing, hat-wearing guys. I realized early on if I was ever going to create my own music, contemporary country was my spot. This album shows I've reached that spot."
Tim confesses that his excitement escalated with each song he selected for his self-titled CD.
"I hate buying an album because of one song I love and then the other songs stink!," he explains. "It's like, 'Wow! I just wasted $14.99 on that crock!' So it was important for me to have 11 songs that absolutely kicked butt."
The journey to Tim's debut solo career wouldn't have been complete without Little Texas. Between 1991 and 1997, the group had 12 Top 20 songs, including the No. 1 "My Love" and the pumpin' "God Blessed Texas."
"I'm proud of everything I did in Little Texas," Tim acknowledges. "I don't have any bad memories. But there's a difference in riding the coattails of your past and being proud of your past. I am proud of my past, but I took the time to come up with a great album that shows who I am on my own."
Little Texas disbanded in 1997. "About the middle of that year, we knew things were stale," recalls Tim. "It was kind of like being a pro football player - a lot of guys love the game and they don't know when to quit. We loved Little Texas and we loved it enough that we wanted to walk away when things were still good. So we decided to pull the plug."
That's when Tim pulled the plug on the "old Tim" and reinvented himself musically.
"I pulled away from everything," he explains. "I quit watching country video networks or country music-related TV. I quit listening to the radio. I unplugged my cable TV."
From January 1998 until January 2000, Tim didn't even come into Nashville, though he lives in the nearby town of Franklin in a neighboring county. His only companions were his music, wife Mary Jane and daughter Bailey Nicole, now 5.
"I hunkered down and I went through immense change and growth as an artist," he confides. "I came out with music that is real and solid."
The songs on Tim's album, five of which he co-wrote, span the emotional gamut - from the good timin' "Crazy Life" and "American Cars" to the poignant Top 10 "She Misses Him," about a devoted wife caring for her husband suffering from Alzheimer's.
"Alzheimer's is a devastating disease," confesses Tim. "You lose somebody twice. You lose them when they no longer know you and again when they die."
Tim is becoming sort of an expert on Alzheimer's, with "She Misses Him" emerging as an anthem for raising awareness of the disease. He's performed the inspirational tune at special events across the country, including April's candlelight vigil in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the National Alzheimer's Association.
" 'She Misses Him' is a song that's much bigger than me," notes Tim. "I'm just the artist who was blessed to get to sing it. The way it's touched so many people is overwhelming. I've been flooded with letters, e-mails, faxes and phone calls."
Tim's not just hearing from people who have Alzheimer's in their family. "I got an eloquent e-mail from a cowboy living on a ranch outside Philadelphia. He's a horse trainer who has multiple sclerosis. He said, 'I've got MS and when I fall down my wife picks me up.' It was powerful."
"The song's most precious message is unconditional love. It's easy to love someone who's right there with you. But when they 'go away' because of this terrible disease and you continue to unconditionally love them, care for them and honor them by treating them well, there's nothing bigger than that."
-- Larry Holden