Artist in the office: James Rustad


Amid the studious atmosphere of USF with students receiving an education to help achieve their dreams, there are professors that chase their dreams as well.

Dr. James Rustad has been practicing psychiatry in Tampa and a professor at USF for the past five months. He teaches psychotherapy, talk therapy and medication management to psychiatry residents, and provides opportunities to shadow him in the field.

While he helps patients and teaches during the day, he spends his nights and weekends chasing another dream: his passion for music.

With his guitar and a Nixon-masked backup dancer, Rustad visited the Oracle office to perform two of his recent political parody pieces about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as part of his preparation for this weekend’s performance. 

He will perform at 7:30 p.m.Friday at Sacred Grounds and next month at Mojo’s Books and Music. 

Oracle(O): Is music a hobby for you, or is this something you want to pursue?

James Rustad(JR):I do get that question a lot. I think it would be really awesome to do both. I am pulling it off really well thus far – doing the doctor thing during the daytime and doing the shows on nights and weekends while writing songs. Of course if Simon Cowell came to me and gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse, I would sure have to entertain it. 

O: What made you decide to pursue music?

JR: It just kind of happened. Music is something that I have always enjoyed. My mom forced me to take piano lessons as a kid. I didn’t
really pick up on the piano as much as I did with the guitar but it gave me a good foundation. I have been singing my entire life and I even did a little musical theater when I was much younger. It was just always a natural thing. It helps to provide balance in my life with the professional responsibilities. 

O: What have you done to get your music out there?

JR: As of late, I have been on a relentless Twitter and Facebook campaign to promote my local gigs and my original songs. Since moving here, I have been out pounding the pavement, looking for gigs and playing shows in Pinellas County.

My goal right now is to build a local following and play more shows. I have been doing a lot of shows in Pinellas because I live in Safety Harbor, but I would like to do more shows in this region. 

O: Do you just do parody songs?

JR: I do pretty much everything. I play with a band and we do like classic rock stuff. With my own (music), I have some songs that are just straightforward pop. I also do some reggae-ska kind of stuff. It wasn’t until the last five or six years that I have been doing more of the comedy stuff just out of boredom with conventional love songs. 

O: Where do you get inspiration for your songs?

JR: Especially recently – the news. I have been keeping an eye on what is going on in politics and the world. A lot of the times, the song will start with a lyrical concept and then I will come up with a basic framework for the lyrics and then I will sit down with a guitar and try to come up with a tune that is as catchy and infectious as possible.

I was waiting for a topic like (Chris Christie’s bridge scandal). When the whole bridge thing came out, I actually wrote this song and another song two days before (Jimmy) Fallon’s came out. I was all over it. I only have about 200 hits on YouTube, but I am going on a wild Twitter campaign and I have been getting a lot of good feedback for this one.

O: How long have you been playing the guitar?

JR: I have been playing guitar for 21 years. I started playing guitar, bass and upright bass around the same time when I was in junior high school in Vermont. I have trained in classical, jazz and rock over the past 21 years in addition to the solo acoustic stuff. 

O: Who is your biggest musical inspiration?

JR: By default, my answer would be The Beatles. They are so catchy, influential and revolutionary. This recent explosion of songs that I’ve had, I would say I have been inspired by singer/songwriters from the ’60s like Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton and Pete Seeger – just the real rabble-rousing, muckrakers in the music world.


“What Would Richard Nixon Do?” lyrics

When I get myself in lots of trouble

Richard Nixon speaks to me

Why don’t you wiretap them

Just like me


The crooked politicians who are

Lying in this world agree

Intimidate your rivals

Just like me



What would Richard Nixon do?

He wouldn’t give up until he was through

No matter how bad things look

He would say, “I am not a crook!”


When the “you-know-what” hits the fan

Ollie North whispers to me

Shred all of your files

Just like me


When I look as guilty as sin

Ronald Reagan speaks to me

Say you don’t remember

Just like me



What would Richard Nixon do?

He wouldn’t give up until he was through

No matter how bad things look

He would say “I am not a crook”