If Nashville-based singer-songwriter Josh Gray were packing a suitcase for a lifelong journey through genres, he’d need only a pen, paper, and his favorite Martin D28 guitar.
As if he were a time traveler, Josh jumps back and forth through the decades drawing inspiration from a vast array of musical influences. Josh has studied musical legends spanning the last one hundred years of American music. With his diverse blend of folk, bluegrass, and country, Josh Gray’s music bridges both generations and genres.
In this interview spotlight, we chat with Josh Gray about his newest release, influences, the digital music world and more.
Full Q&A along with links and streams below.
Where are you from and what style of music do you create? (In your own words, not necessarily in marketing terms or by popular genre classifications.)
I grew up in Maryland and moved to Nashville in early 2016. I’m often classified as Americana which is accurate but also doesn’t do much to describe my sound. I’d say I’m a mix of folk, country, bluegrass, rock and blues. I don’t have an interest in trying to fit into a genre. When you label music a genre there are often preconceived notions people have. I prefer to put songs out there and let them stand on their own. I’m self-taught on guitar and my main focus is songwriting.
The songs I write deal with topics such as love, loss and mortality. I have an interest in making each song sound a bit different than the last. I also work to keep my sound honest. What I mean by that is you hear a lot of songs these days that have all the soul polished out of them in the studio. When I recorded my debut EP I did it live and used almost no effects. When I listen to an acoustic album I want to hear the person’s fingers slide across the strings. I want to hear that one mistake you only catch from listening to a song twenty times. I’m writing about human emotions and situations and the music needs to sound human.
What led you down this path of music and what motivates you to stay the course?
I started writing poetry when I was twelve and got a guitar when I was sixteen. I was listening to a lot of punk and hardcore music back then. When something interests me I like to trace it back to its roots. What I loved about punk was people speaking out about things they believe in. I went further back to ‘60s folk revival era music and really enjoyed that. I then went even further and started listening to a lot of blues music from the ‘20s. Some of my favorites like Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Willie McTell, Leadbelly etc.
If you need motivation to keep creating, then what you’re creating is not your passion. I never sit down and say I’m going to try and write a song about a specific topic today. I make the time to sit and play guitar with a pen and pad near. If something comes from it then it does but often it doesn’t, I don’t worry about it. Something always comes eventually and one spontaneous idea is worth a thousand forced ones.
How is your new release different than previous ones? Did you set out to accomplish anything specific?
The latest thing I’ve released is the official music video for my song “Mortality Blues”. It was filmed here in Nashville by Kay Laon Productions. Definitely check them out if you are looking to make a music video. I’m also planning on releasing a full length album later in the year. My debut EP was solo and very stripped-down. This next album will feature more of a full band sound. All I can say is expect badass story songs and possibly even a duet.
Do you face any challenges as an indie musician in a digital age? On the flip side, how has technology helped you (if it has)?
The internet makes it easy to share your music but because of that it’s really cluttered. If you are unique, you persevere and have a good strategy; you can get people’s attention. Streaming services are good for exposure but they also make it nearly impossible to sell digital albums. One great thing is so many people have in home studios these days. If you know what you’re doing you can save a lot of money making an album. I myself have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to recording so I’d leave that to professionals.
Where can we follow you online and hear more music?
You can find me on www.JoshGrayMusic.com for all my latest show dates and social media links. While you’re at it sign up for my newsletter for a free song download. I play most of my shows in Nashville but I plan on touring a bit later in the year so stay tuned!
Anything else before we sign off?
On my EP I recorded a cover of the Dead Milkmen’s “Punk Rock Girl”. I’ll be playing a very cool show at Fond Object in Nashville on 3/20 with Joe Jack Talcum of the Dead Milkmen! Come hang out!