Born in the small town of Paxton, Nebraska, he moved to various places in the Midwest during his childhood due to his father's military career. Following his time at Austin Peay State University, he eventually settled down in Tennessee, where he met some local musicians and began recording.
The initial recordings he put to tape eventually became his debut release, Dressed Up Like Nebraska. Released to critical acclaim, it allowed him to tour and begin performing full time, eventually releasing a second album, Home, in 2000. His songs would later be featured on a variety of television shows and movie soundtracks.
In 2002, Rouse released Under Cold Blue Stars, his first for Rykodisc. Following a tour with Guster, he would release another album, 1972. A concept album of sorts, in the style of songwriters from the time of his birth, it was released in 2003. In 2005, he released Nashville, which featured the single "Winter in the Hamptons". In 2006, Subtítulo, was released, which corresponded with his move to Spain.
Along with his normal full-length albums, Rouse occasionally releases EPs featuring demos and alternate takes on his personal Bedroom Classics label. The volumes are usually limited to small numbers in release, and for sale only through his website or at live performances. In 2007, Rouse released a duet EP with Paz Suay under the moniker She's Spanish, I'm American.
A new album, Country Mouse City House, was released July 2007. The album was promoted by a US tour in September and October, followed by a European tour in November and December.
In April 2008, Josh announced his official website www.joshrouse.com will become Bedroom Classics Closet Archives, where for a yearly subscription users can download rare and unreleased recordings in MP3 format. The first three of these releases are a complete live recording of December 7, 2007 performance at The Shepherds Bush Empire in London; 4 additional recordings from an April 20, 2006 KCRW radio performance with a string quartet (the rest of this performance is available of the digital EP 'Guitar and Strings') and the 5 track Bedroom Classics Vol.3, featuring 4 new original compositions and a cover of Mother Love Bone's Chloe Dancer.
On October 13, 2009 Josh released an ep titled "Valencia EP". The four song ep included the title track which also is a featured track on Rouse's latest album, "El Turista". "El Turista" was released February 2, 2010 in the United States and February 1, 2010 in the rest of the world.
As of June 2011, a promised new release with a new band, "Josh Rouse and the Long Vacations" has been slated for Autumn/Fall with a pre-sale slated for mid-Summer. A preview of a new track - "Diggin' In The Sand" from the forthcoming album can be heard for an undisclosed period of time at www.noisetrade.com along with a selection of previously released material.