In this interview spotlight, I chat with Nashville based Josh Warren; the Warren half of Jonas & Warren which we have featured previously. Josh is preparing for the February release of his new project The Josh Warren Family Band.
We discuss Nashville’s music scene, the grassroots approach to recording his new album, challenges, the stabilizing music industry and more.
Full Q&A along with links and music below.
How’s music life in Nashville? There has been an overwhelming amount of artist transplants (from all over the globe); does this make it harder to compete and get attention? Are there any advantages to having so much new life flooding the scene?
When I moved to Nashville about a year ago, my big fear was that this gigantic country industry would overshadow any musician who pursued a different scene. I think that’s the perception of most outsiders. But I pretty soon realized how diverse and exciting Nashville’s music is. For indie rockers and the like, the support and energy surrounding the historically ‘fringe’ genres for this city is huge and only growing.
Any Nashvillian knows that everyone here is a musician. And every musician is better than you. Some people take that and say, “Well, it’s hopeless for me”. But for me, it’s thrilling. Peer pressure is the great motivator. So, when you’re in a creative ecosystem where everyone is an incredibly talented musician, improvement is inevitable. I’ve lived in places where no one is a musician. That only makes you stagnate. I want to be in a place that inspires me and pushes me, and thankfully Nashville has provided that.
You’ve taken a grass roots approach to this project. Can you share with us a little about that process and the various locations where you recorded the material?
The ability to have a ‘mobile studio’ while still having a presentable finished product is something that’s really only been possible for the past ten years or so. I wanted to take full advantage of the capabilities of this new age of recording music. The drums were recorded in a tiny apartment in Nashville, some stomps and claps in a garage in Arizona, some flute and cello in cramped practice rooms in California. A friend set up some pots and pans and we tracked some auxiliary percussion right next to his kitchen. Some things were recorded on iPhone’s Voice Memos. Does it result in the highest fidelity? No, but that’s what I love about it. I love that I can hear cars rushing by on the drum recording, or that I can hear people shouting in the background of the vocal tracks. That’s what makes it real, what makes it authentic. More importantly, it opens up new doors for collaboration. I am able to work with so many talented people in so many different locations simply because I can pack my recording equipment in a bag and hit the road. When you’re using someone else’s space as I had to do many times, you have to work very efficiently and that drives you to make creative decisions that you can’t have second thoughts about. It’s exciting.
How is this new project different from your Jonas & Warren release? Sonically, creatively, otherwise?
With the Jonas & Warren project, Pete and I knew we were both moving to different states and would not be able to perform the songs live anytime soon. So, we really explored using the studio as an instrument and creating new sounds – sounds and ensembles that wouldn’t necessarily be able to be reproduced live. With The Josh Warren Family Band, I knew I’d be playing these songs live and so I restricted the production to music I knew I’d be able to take on stage. One approach isn’t better or worse than the other, but they each provide you with possibilities and limitations that the other one doesn’t. Pete Jonas played on this album as well – he did the organ and guitar on many tracks.
When we chatted last, I asked about challenges faced in this oversaturated digital music age. Have those challenges changed over time? Do you face any new ones?
I think the music industry is seeing its first period of relative stability in a very long time. Starting at the turn of the century, there was, of course, the epidemic of illegal file sharing which lasted for many years. We thought that was the end of the industry. Then when streaming started to pop up, many musicians and labels shunned the new medium. We thought that was the end of the industry. But in the past three years or so, there has been a general acceptance, albeit a reluctant acceptance, that streaming is the future. We’re still trying to work on the kinks, but the music industry is once again seeing growth, and it’s so exciting. I think the key is to continue leaning into the new challenges the digital music age has offered, instead of shying away. We get into this revisionist history mindset where things were perfect at a certain point, and that’s just not the case. The music industry has always been unstable, and always will be, so we need to take on the challenges it presents in 2018 and beyond and make the most of it.
Where is the best place for us to jam the new project? Connect with you online? (NOTE: I can send you links with the various streaming/buying links once they’re live).
Spotify or Apple Music are probably the most popular options, but you can also buy the album on iTunes or Amazon. Buying it through Bandcamp supports me most as an artist so I can keep on making this stuff. You can stay up-to-date on the things I’m doing through Facebook, Instagram, or my website.
Anything else before we sign off?
Thanks for talking!