Since releasing the first of eight studio albums 13 years ago, Rod Picott has earned a reputation as a songwriter with a talent for gritty honesty and wry eloquence. He will showcase his latest album, “Hang Your Hopes On A Crooked Nail,” on a West Coast CD release tour that includes an 8 p.m. Friday, July 25, concert at The Palms Playhouse, 13 Main St.
“For me, it’s really about the lyric,” said Picott in an email. “That’s where I live.”
The veracity and vivacity in Picott’s music are due to the deftness with which he spins parts of his own life into songs. Though Picott draws on his experiences, his songs are neither self-indulgent nor blatantly self-referential.
Though Picott gave his music and tours the tongue-in-cheek nickname “Rod Picott’s Circus of Misery and Heartbreak,” veins of hope — occasionally dimmed but not gone — and perseverance run through his songs.
“To me, there’s nothing more beautiful in this world than someone who won’t be denied what they love, someone who won’t stop trying,” Picott said.
Picott knows a thing or two about not giving up. The son of a welder, Picott (along with childhood friend and “longtime/sometimes co-writer” Slaid Cleaves) grew up feeling like an outsider in his small Maine town. After high school, Picott moved to Colorado, then Nashville to pursue songwriting, working as a drywaller to pay the rent.
Success was neither quick nor easy. Picott didn’t release his first CD, “Tiger Tom Dixon’s Blues,” until he was confident in the songs, many of which he’d honed while opening for Alison Krauss.
“I look back on that first CD with a lot of pride,” he said. “I worked very hard to get to a place where I had 10 songs worth singing. I was 35 years old already… I had … sacrificed a lot already to get to that place. I had done my painful growing as a writer in private leading up to ‘Tiger Tom Dixon’s Blues.’
“Since then I’ve grown mostly by becoming less self-conscious and trusting my antennae.”
Picott’s latest album demonstrates that understated confidence. Picott chose to work with producer RS Field, who suggested a new studio and session musicians, which Picott called “nerve-wracking” and “exciting.”
“Everything was outside of my little world,” said Picott, who is pleased the recording “really sounds like a Rod Picott CD. ‘You can put carrots in its ears and teach him to hula hoop, but it’s still just a rabbit.’ ”
But even with all the growth, Picott said he feels some limits.
“I think the biggest constraint really is the same for any artist,” he said. “How do you step aside from how you want the world to see you and get down to the dirt of what it is you have to say and offer? If we could do that, we would make amazing art. As it is, we struggle to set aside ego and vanity, and it trips up our art and doesn’t allow us to fully distill the ideas to their most potent. You get there sometimes, but it’s a struggle for most of us.”
Tickets are $20 and are available at Armadillo Music in Davis, Watermelon Music in Woodland, Pacific Ace Hardware in Winters and at the door if not sold out.
For more information, visit palmsplayhouse.com and rodpicott.com.