No one is more surprised that Rudolf Korv songs sound the way he does than Rudolf Korv himself. The singer-songwriter from Eugene is celebrating his first full-length album, The Divided, released July 4 on CD and major streaming platforms.
Since moving to Oregon from Arizona a few years ago, Korv has played diligently around Eugene and the Pacific Northwest, performing sets of originals and covers with a big, country-tinged baritone.
Locally, though, he’s perhaps most known for hosting a well-received songwriter’s open mic Monday nights at First National Taphouse in downtown Eugene. The event is back in action after a COVID pause.
“I grew up a ’90s boy,” Korv explains on a recent sunny afternoon at a table in front of the Taphouse. Born and raised in Lake Havasu, Arizona, Korv is a self-taught musician, honing his musical skills as an associate pastor and playing music almost daily.
Back then, Korv mostly listened to heavy alternative hard rock from bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Metallica and Green Day. “But the songs I write sound completely different,” he says: more tender and less aggressive.
That sound felt out of place to Korv until he moved to Oregon where, with the wisdom of age, he found a creative outlet in Americana music.
“It just evolved that way,” Korv says. “I just ride the wave.”
From Divided, “Oregon (The Land I Love)” is an expansive acoustic tribute to Korv’s adopted home state, brightened by slide guitar. Elsewhere, “When I Get Home from Memphis” is a country-lite, sad-traveler ballad landing somewhere between Marc Cohn and Chris Stapleton — Korv’s voice gruff yet somehow silky.
Experienced with DIY home recording, Korv nevertheless tapped Eugene-based producer Tyler Fortier to record the debut.
Working with a producer helped Korv focus on the music. “I can do a better performance when I’m not worried about hitting the button,” he says. “It was a breath of fresh air.”
And it also took the sound in some surprising directions. “They hear things you wouldn’t normally hear,” Korv continues. “I just went with it.”
For example, Korv sang and played all the guitar tracks on the record before shipping the tracks off the session musicians, most notably the Nashville-based musician, Philippe Bronchtein, on the title-track “The Divided.”
Known for his organ work with ascendant Nashville soul and gospel group The War and Treaty, Bronchtein’s contribution gives the song a swampy, Stevie Wonder-meets-Hank Jr. groove.
This turn toward country-funk was an unexpected development for Korv, but within country music, he hopes to remain gritty, with real topics and sad songs about heartbreak and real situations. He wants to represent the genre well, he says.
And any song in 2021 called “The Divided,” from an album released on July 4, tempts a topical reading. That’s not lost on Korv, who says that since the Trump era and throughout COVID, the barriers between Americans have only become more entrenched, and we’re worse off for it.
Through music, Korv hopes to remind us to see ourselves as humans first, and political beings second, and that’s what the song’s about.
“I identify as a human being; I’m a musician,” Korv says. “When Trump got elected, right or left, people lost identity, because they identified through politics,” he says. “They didn’t know what to do. Everyone’s trying to win.”
“I believe ‘the divided’ will become one,” Korv says. “It seems so far off but I’m optimistic about it. We’re built for greater things than what we’re seeing and what we’re doing.”
The Divided is available now on CD from RudolfKorvMusic.com and on major music streaming platforms. For more information search Rudolf Korv Music on social media.