Rusted Root started making music when "making it big" meant getting signed to a record deal and going into the studio to produce a record, cassette or CD.
For the most part, that was the only way fans could hear their favorite bands. That, and following them around to clubs and arenas. In those early days, the Pittsburgh-bred Rusted Root broke with convention in a bid to connect with fans.
More than 40 Rusted Root songs only exist on rare bootlegs recorded between the years of 1991 and 1995. Founder and lead singer Michael Glabicki said the Rusted Root connection with its fans remains the same 23 years after the band formed.
"It's really about the audience and what they bring to the show," Glabicki said.
Rusted Root kicked off its 2014 tour with a New Year's Eve show that Glabicki called "amazing." The band plays The Chameleon Club Sunday, Jan. 12.
Known for its unique fusion of acoustic, rock, world and other styles of music, Rusted Root has sold more than three million records to date. Its latest album, "The Movement," was released in October 2012. Glabicki said he will release a solo record later this year, then the band will begin its next project.
The band's peak came in the mid-to-late 1990s, when its "Remember" album reached No. 38 on the U.S. charts. In those days, Rusted Root was very popular on the college circuit. Glabicki said it was very different in the band's early days.
"Word of mouth for us starting out was such a big thing," he said. "It just spread like wildfire. That kind of happens now, but I don't think people trust it as much because of the Internet."
These days, it's much easier for a musician or band to get their music public. Glabicki said that can be both good and bad.
"It's good in the sense that you can get music out there. The problem is ... it's kind of a diluted, washed-out space," he said. "It's tough to get things through anymore.
"For us, it's fine. We have a pretty dedicated following, but when you want to get stuff out to a new audience, it's tough."
The group's main songwriter, Glabicki has been a constant from the beginning, but Rusted Root has gone through several lineup changes. Currently a six-member band, Glabicki said the size of the group does not hamper the creative process.
"At this point, part of the maturity of the band is I know pretty much what the band is going to come around to," he said. "Things are actually much more creative now and much more fluid than they ever have been."
As band members move into middle age and beyond, Glabicki said they continue to write about life experiences. If performing ever gets "stale," he said it would be time to pull the plug on Rusted Root.
"The best time of my life is being on stage," he said. "Each night we just bring it in a fresh and new way."
If you go
What: Rusted Root
When: 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 12
Where: The Chameleon Club, 223 N. Water St., Lancaster
Cost: $18, $20
Details: Visit www.chameleonclub.net