It takes guts to walk away from a successful project and attempt something new. But Tim Rushlow, former lead singer of the mega-Platinum pop-country act Little Texas, braves two challenges: his self-titled Atlantic Records solo debut proving himself as a "new" act, and establishing his own songwriting voice.

"I didn't have time to write in Little Texas," explains Rushlow. "My focus was always on being the front man, lead singer, main mouthpiece, and radio-and-TV guy. When I did start writing, what came out was real vulnerable stuff - the sorts of things I hadn't been able to do in Little Texas."

The coolest thing about writing songs is the freedom of it. There are no walls.

Rushlow took a sabbatical from the music biz after Little Texas folded. He didn't want to rush into the next phase of his career, he says, "I believe that anything good, real, and positive happens organically, so I tried to let my writing evolve on its own, naturally."

The straightforward and heartfelt material of Tim Rushlow may startle some fans of the singer's former group. "I'm a real emotional person," confides Tim. "That's why I ended up with such an emotional record. I like to sing songs about real issues. And the coolest thing about writing songs is the freedom of it. There are no walls. You can do whatever you feel."

Rushlow compares his songs to photographs. "Each one is like a snapshot. They're all pictures of things I may feel or want to sing about. It can be something I really experienced, or an emotion I had to 'climb into' to write. I try to create lyrics that fit my style as a vocalist, which can be hard at times. But when it works well, it's a great feeling."

Tim finds it tough to generalize about his songwriting habits. "It's always different," he shrugs. "Things always hit me at different times. I've written songs in an hour, and I've spent months on a single song. But I do try to write with a select group of writers who know me well. Writing is so personal for me that I really have to feel comfortable with my collaborators."

Rushlow crafts all his material on guitar. "Sometimes," he says, "I come up with a riff on electric that I might use, but basically I write on acoustic." Tim's current axe is a Yamaha CPX15W. "It's outrageous," he raves. "It exceeds any hopes I ever had of finding an acoustic that I could use in my living room, but that also sounds great in front of a few thousand people. It plays like a dream and looks like a million bucks. Between its bridge pickup and internal mic, I can get any sound in any room. It's not one of those guitars that are okay plugged in, but sound bad acoustically. It's awesome from every angle."

Onstage, Rushlow and his lead guitarist Kurt Allison strap on Yamaha PAC604W solid body electrics. "We're quite impressed by the tone options and overall feel," says Tim. Meanwhile, bassist Collin Whinnery plays Yamaha 5-strings-an RBX765A and a TRB5II fretless. Keyboardist Billy Welch uses a Yamaha EX5 synth and P200 piano. And acoustic rhythm player Doni Harris strums another CPX15W. "He's in love with the guitar's ability to change from the bridge pickup to the internal mic and back," reports Rushlow. "Each room we play is different, so it's great to be able to change when we need to."

The Tim Rushlow album definitely finds the singer plummeting to new emotional depths. But anyone who might fear that Rushlow has become so introspective as a writer that he's lost his sense of fun will be instantly reassured by "American Cars," a rollicking ode to gas-guzzlin' wheels and carefree cruising. And you almost certainly will hear it. "It looks like 'American Cars' will be a national ad for the Ford Motor Company," says Tim. Drive on!