After an email interview and several years of talking back and forth on social media, Lisa finally got the opportunity to meet and talk to Canadian singer songwriter Josh Taerk, at the O2 Academy Islington, during his UK tour to promote his new EP, ‘Stages’.
EP: Hello Josh!
JT: How you doing!
EP: Lovely to finally meet you after all these years!
JT: Absolutely! We’ve been following each other for a while now…
EP: We have! On Twitter, Instagram, and I’ve been following your haircut journey…
JT: Thank you! And what a journey it has been!
EP: I know! You’re almost unrecognisable! You had this huge bouffant, and now it’s really slick and rockstar (JT: I really appreciate that!)…not that it wasn’t before…
JT: It’s like different eras of rockstar!
EP: So you’re in the UK at the moment, and you’re promoting your new EP, ‘Stages’. So how’s that going?
JT: Fantastic. ‘Stages’ is doing really well, we released that EP in the States in October, and since then it’s been playlisted on tons of Triple A stations over there, and we were really excited to bring it back over here, because the UK is where I cut my teeth! I learned all about performing and really honed my craft as a writer as well, so being able to bring those new songs, and those moments back to the UK, it’s been fantastic.
EP: So you were in Bournemouth last night?
JT: At the Smokin’ Aces!
EP: And you were at the Bedford the other night as well! So you couldn’t do two nights in London in a row?
JT: Well I figured i’d give it a little break…
EP: So do you think you’ll get the same people coming to your show tonight as went to the Bedford? But you might get some more here…
JT: Definitely. We’re definitely going to have some new faces here tonight as well, but I’m very grateful because I’ve got a very dedicated and supportive fanbase.
EP: So are you switching up your setlist tonight because you are expecting a lot of the same people?
JT: Absolutely. We played a shorter set at the Bedford, and we’re going to be playing a lot more of the songs both from my last full length release, ‘Here’s To Change’, as well as from the EP, ‘Stages’.
EP: We were listening to ‘Stages’ today – what’s behind the EP? What’s the title about?
JT: Well ‘Stages’ is the next release after ‘Here’s To Change’. For me they’re very different albums, because I’m a different person now. A lot of my songs are based on personal experience, things I’ve gone through, people very close to me have gone through. Just by living life and being out there on the road and touring and experiencing these things, doing what I love to do – all those things then contribute to the songs I write for the next release. And when I was doing ‘Here’s To Change’, I really wanted to honour the music that inspired me to become a performer, that inspired me to write.
That classic 70s/80s rock and roll sound, where you had everybody in the room feeding off each other, no technology, no click track, nothing like that, just playing the songs the way they’re meant to be played. And after we’d done that record, I then started to tour and I started to experience more stuff, I started to grow as a performer, as well as an artist, and I wanted to honour all that growth and progression from ‘Here’s To Change’ to where I’m at now. And that’s what led me to the title ‘Stages’, because really I’m chronicling the stages of my life, the stages of my career, and the different stages that I get to play on! That’s what it’s all about. The moments in each song for me is kind of like a snapshot of the person that I was at the time I wrote that song.
EP: So John Oates helped you with your first album!
JT: He did! I still can’t get my head around that one!
EP: So is he still around? Do you still see him?
JT: Very supportive guy. Every time we’re in the same city as him, we meet up and hang out.
EP: He’s mentoring you still.
JT: He is the most down to earth guy I’ve ever met. They say to never meet your heroes, just in case, but I’ve been very lucky, the guys I’ve met in the business, and some of my heroes, have been the nicest people ever. You can tell that they genuinely love music and the music scene, and they’re willing to help out the new generation.
EP: How would you describe your style? You’ve been compared to Ed Sheeran, The Wallflowers, Bruce Springsteen, and I’m like….no! You’ve got your own style!
JT: Thank you! Those are definitely influences of mine, I’m a huge Springsteen fan, I’m a huge Ed Sheeran fan as well, but the way that I see my music is, it’s rock’n’roll. That’s the way I perform as well as write my music. To me rock’n’roll is everything from Neil Young to Greenday. It covers the hard stuff, it covers the folkier stuff, and I try and to bring that to bear on my songs, when I write them, really it’s the story that dictates to me how the rest of the song is going to sound, the kind of instrumentation that we use when we’re producing it. And, I would describe my sound, and my general vibe live, as energetic rock and roll. There was one writer actually, Dave Franklin from ‘Dancing About Architecture’ – he described it in a way that I love, and I use it all the time. He said that it’s “Stadium rock for the young and hip”. So that’s how I would describe my music!
EP: And the beauty of “stadium rock” is that you can play in a venue like this and you can play in a stadium, and you can still appreciate it.
JT: And that’s how I approach my live show. I’m excited to be there, I love to get up on stage and share what I do with the world. It doesn’t matter if how many people are in the crowd, whether it’s 500 or 5000. I’m going to play the same show, and give 200%, because that’s more fun for me. And I can only imagine that would be more fun for everyone else.
EP: ‘After The Fall’ on ‘Stages’. That’s a really poetic song. (JT: Thank you!) I’d gone through all your songs and thought, “why are they comparing him to Ed Sheeran!” and then I got to this and was like, “OH OKAY”. So what’s your favourite song on the EP?
JT: That’s a really tough one to answer! It’s like picking your favourite child! Every song for me is a different moment, and brings out different emotions, I would say that ‘Learning To Let Go’ is an incredible song, that’s the song that’s been playlisted all across the US, and when we were talking in the UK about releasing the songs, they said, “that’s the song we want to go with here” and it’s doing really well.
EP: So how do we learn to let go?
JT: See I never quite figured that out! That’s why the song’s called *Learning* to let go! It’s an ongoing process. It was a really full moment when I wrote that song, I was with my producer Teddy Morgan, in Nashville, at the time that was the first song we’d ever written, we’d just been working on ‘Here’s To Change’, we’d finished coming off the road with that record, and we wanted to do something together, so we got into the studio and we just started talking about life, and it’s one of those really cool moments where we were both in the same place mentally and emotionally, and we started talking about the idea of letting go of having to control the outcome and knowing what’s going to come next, and just live in the possibilty of right now.
EP: It’s a very freeing way to live isn’t it!
JT: Can be a little scary too, but as you say, it’s a really big freeing moment when it happens, when you just allow stuff.
EP: Because if you’re so controlling over every aspect of your life, you may miss out on opportunities that come your way. For instance, I might never be interviewing Josh Taerk!
You’re a Canadian. How do you feel being Canadian affects your music? Canadians have a reputation for being laid back, easy going, polite…
JT: I would say that, you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been, and the fact that I grew up in Toronto was incredible, because Canada has a very rich musical history. Neil Young was from there, Joni Mitchell, Bryan Adams, Rush – so you’ve got tons of incredibly talented people from different genres that have come out of Canada…
EP: Why is that!
JT: To be honest? I think it’s just because of that desire to break out of the country that you’re in. It’s a wonderful country, but that desire to bring yourself to the world’s stage…
EP: It’s a big country but it’s pretty spread out…
JT: It’s a big country, but it’s a very widespread country. The entire population of Canada could fit into the state of California. That gives you an idea of the size of the country, but also the number of people who actually live in it.
EP: I come from Australia, and back there we have the same deal. Most people live around the edge, and hardly anyone lives in the middle.
JT: The majority of the Canadian population lives along the Canadian/US border.
EP: The weather’s more bearable…
We’ve touched on the differences between ‘Stages’ and ‘Here’s To Change’. Let’s go into a litlte bit more detail.
JT: I think because of the experiences I’ve had, just going from ‘Here’s To Change’ to ‘Stages’, the more knowledge that I’ve gained about performing on stage, and producing, and creating a record from start to finish, I think that all of that has been brought to bear on ‘Stages’, and the different moments that those songs take that picture of, create that snapshot for, those were all moments that happened in between the time I released ‘Here’s To Change’ and I went on tour.
EP: So have you got all your album titles worked out in your head already?
JT: For me, I’m a storyteller, and that’s one thing I’ve always love about music, the ability you have to communicate with people, to explain your point of view and tell your story, and hopefully have other people connect with you. So when I approach an album I’m always thinking about what story do I want to tell, what story are the songs telling on their own? At the end of the day, I’m the messenger, and it’s my job to get those stories out there and put them out, and so when I sit down and listen back to all the songs I’ve written, and decide which ones I’m going to put on the record and which ones I’m going to put on the EP, I always look for that flow, and that common thread that runs through them, or at least a similar vibe or feel, that they all contribue to one big whole.
EP: So you record in Nashville. What is it with Nashvile?
JT: I tell you, there’s a reason they call it The Music City. The first time I was told to go down there, I was like, I’m not a country artist, I love country music, but I’m rock, I’m not a country singer. So I was like, let’s see how this goes. But there are so many talented writers, producers and performers down there. I mean, Jack White just moved down there. Kings Of Leon are based there, Paramore…You couldn’t get a more diverse list of artists.
EP: Kesha comes from there too.
JT: Absolutely! Everyone started to move down there. The thing about Nashville is that they’re really embracing all these different genres, and they’re very excited about encouraging all these artists.
EP: So you’ve never thought about going to LA, or New York?
JT: Absolutely! Over the past three years I’ve gone to New York, Chicago, Memphis, Texas, I’ve been all over the place.
EP: What’s next for Josh Taerk? What’s your New Year’s Resolution?
JT: New Year’s Resolution is to just keep doing what I love to do and just get my music out to as many people as I can. We’re going to be doing more videos, I’m going to be releasing a full length album at some point this year, and we’ve got a new single that we’re going to be taking to UK radio, ‘Learning To Let Go’, and that’s very exciting, and so when I get back to North America at the end of January/February, we’re going on tour there again, and play a lot of shows, and working on new music.
EP: Brilliant stuff! Well! My last question is, and I probably have asked you this before, but what question do you wish someone would ask you in an interview, but nobody ever does?
JT: That’s a really good question! What’s my favourite novel?
EP: What’s your favourite novel Josh?
JT: My favourite novel is called, ‘A Dirty Job’, and it was written by this fantastic comedy writer named Christopher Moore. He has this way of telling stories, that when he writes dialogue, you can actually hear it happening in real time as you’re reading it. And I just think his stories are really funny, but brilliantly poignant at the same time. Highly recommended!
EP: Thank you very much Josh!