Joshua James is yet another version of the so-called singer-songwriter. In the overflowing sea of this genre, Joshua is an artist that is steadily rising to the surface. Music is best when it cuts to the bone, when it offers immediate, simple satisfaction. It’s hard to define, but you know it when you hear it. In the whispery, distinct voice of Joshua James, the stage is set for this kind of instant gratification.
Joshua was raised in the heartland of Lincoln, Nebraska. Most of his teenage years were spent waxing rails and kick flipping his way through the local skate scene. At the age of 19, Joshua packed his bags and traveled abroad through South America, spending most of his time in Venezuela. Seeing the culture of another part of the world was an eye opening experience for him, and it provided a catalyst for the inspiration he would soon begin to tap. Upon his return to the U.S., Joshua found his true calling and began to write. It had taken him almost 20 years to pick up a guitar, but this inauguration had a spontaneous effect on his life. It was like his voice was there all along waiting for a chance to escape. And now at 24 years of age, Joshua has blossomed into one of the best new voices to come along in some time, and he’s just started his journey.
Joshua currently calls Utah home, and it is here that he began captivating audiences. First at house parties, but quickly becoming a staple on the Salt Lake City and Provo music scenes. Joshua has had a prolific few years and his songs have made their way onto the internet through social networking sites such as myspace. It was through the internet that some of Joshua’s demos caught the ear of Los Angeles based producer Shannon Edgar. In May of 2006, Joshua came to Los Angeles to record his debut record, “The Sun Is Always Brighter.” Shannon rounded up a group of musicians at his studio in Burbank, and the intimate gathering provided the perfect accompaniment to the stark and austere nature of Joshua’s music.
“I used to isolate myself in my parents basement, away from my five siblings, and devour records by Dylan, Marley and The Doors,” says James. These influences are clear in the simple beauty of his songs, deconstructed yet complicated. One could say his material deals in the contrast of absolutes: Love and Hate, Life and Death, Good and Evil, Pleasure and Pain. “It’s not all black and white, I do enjoy intricacy in my story telling,” states Joshua. “But leaving the gray area there for the audience to draw from often means more,” he adds.
The lyrics paint a somber picture on the one hand, but also have a way of bringing out the beauty that can coexist during challenging times of our lives. On “The Sun Is Always Brighter,” the songs “Tell My Pa” and “Lord, Devil, and Him”, provide a deeply personal account of the struggles associated with substance abuse that Joshua’s two younger brothers have had to face. Both of these songs paint a vivid picture of this battle. At other points on the record, Joshua becomes a story teller, like in “FM Radio”, where Joshua tells the chronicle of a childhood friend struggling with her father’s premature death. In “Commodore” Joshua gives us a snapshot of the Holocaust from a child’s point of view.
What is clear throughout the record, is that Joshua James has something to say, and he uses his arresting voice to deliver his message. “The New Love Song” talks about the overabundance of superficial “love” songs, and presents other priorities that we face in our troubled times. “Geese” addresses the environment, and “Our Brother’s Blood” is a commentary on the U.S. presence in Iraq. All of these songs have meaningful, insightful lyrics, that are complimented by Joshua’s compelling vocal delivery and performance.
Joshua has been out touring on the West Coast and recently played the Sundance Film Festival. He will also be performing at SXSW in Austin this March, and there is a groundswell of momentum that has been building. Joshua has a striking live presence and does not disappoint his audience. With the true gift he possesses as an artist, and the passion and ambition he has for his musical calling, it is clear that he will continue to convert audiences for years to come.