dOut of one of the meccas of music, Nashville, comes one Josh Gray. While working hard on his second album he was kind enough to answer a few questions about his music and lyrics.
Firstly, who is Josh Gray?
I’m an Americana Singer-Songwriter in Nashville. I grew up in Maryland and moved down a little over two years ago. My songs are very lyric focused, that’s my main interest.
When did you first discover that music could be a tool to get a message across?
I started listening to a lot of punk and hardcore in high school. There are tons of bands with messages in those scenes, straight-edge, anti-racist etc. When something interests me I have a habit of researching it’s roots. So I traced people speaking out in music back to folk music and then blues. I got really into both of those genres and they’ve influenced me a lot.
How important is it for you to write socially conscious or political lyrics?
I seem to be on a path of having socially conscious songs on each of my albums. Granted I’m only on album two right now but it’s not a bad path to be on. First and foremost, I’m concerned with staying true to myself. Anyone who knows me knows I speak my mind so it only makes sense that I’d do the same in my songs. If I have a strong opinion about something then it’ll likely make its way into one of my songs at some point. At the same time, I’d never force myself to write social or political lyrics if I didn’t feel them.
“This city is a great home-base and a great place to network with other musicians and create music. But if you want to find success you won’t find that sitting in any city, you have to hit the road.”
What are some of the things you explore in your writing?
When I sit down to write I let my mind wander and see where it takes me. I almost never sit down and say today I’m going to write about this, it doesn’t work that way. I’ve written songs about love, loss, mortality, police brutality, homelessness, high-speed car chases, westerns and many more topics. I try to keep it interesting for myself and challenge myself to create something I haven’t done before.
How is the music scene around you? I imagine Nashville has a vibrant music community?
Nashville has a great scene and the average talent level I would say is higher here than most places. I think a lot of people have misconceptions about this city. They dream of coming here and getting discovered in some little bar. For the most part everyone who has success has earned it through years of work. This city is a great home-base and a great place to network with other musicians and create music. But if you want to find success you won’t find that sitting in any city, you have to hit the road.
Have you noticed an increase in protest music in the last years in Nashville, or elsewhere?
Nashville is known for country music and there are a few artists speaking their mind. But it’s few and far between and when someone does say something it’s usually pretty vague. Managers and labels will tell you it’s not good for your brand. The mainstream thing to do is write lyrics that anyone with a pulse can relate to. Country music in America is by far the most nationalistic genre. It’s funny but often the people who see themselves as the most patriotic are the first to chastise you for using your right to free speech.
Do you partake in activism outside the music?
I make it out to as many protests and marches as I can. I think it’s very important to have your numbers be seen. When people are online they’re in their own little bubble and it’s easy to think there’s no opposition. I believe in equality and justice and I’ll fight for that in any way I can.
Can you share with us some of your favorite political musicians, current or not?
Some of my favorites are Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs and Neil Young.
What is on the horizon for you?
Towards the end of the year I have a new full length album coming out that I’m excited about. Ten new songs and one of them being “Darkest Before the Dawn”. It’s a very blunt protest song, I don’t mince words. It’s probably been the hardest to write of all the songs I’ve written. It focuses on a number of injustices, I actually had to cut a couple verses for length. It’s tough when you can’t possibly say everything you want to in one song. I can’t expect an audience to sit with me for three days while I rant at them with my guitar though haha. Unlike my first album this one will have more of a full band sound. I’m envisioning one song at least to feature piano instead of guitar. Part of the fun of music is not doing the same thing all the time and challenging yourself.
Thank you very much for participating and for the music. Anything else you would like to shout from the rooftops?
Thank you to everyone who has supported me along the way. I’m looking forward to releasing this new album and seeing you on the road wherever you may be!
Official Website: www.JoshGrayMusic.com
Halldór is the managing editor of Shouts – Music from the Rooftops!, an investigative journalist, audio engineer and an animal rights activist on a nomad journey through Europe – still without a definite destination.