10 Questions with ... Josh Thompson
September 13, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
A native of Cedarburg, WI, Josh Thompson made the move to Nashville in 2005 and immediately started honing his songwriting chops. He's had cuts with Jason Aldean, Brad Paisley, and coming soon, Tim McGraw, Jon Pardi, and Joe Nichols. Thompson signed with Columbia Nashville in 2009, releasing "Beer On The Table," which reached the top 20. He followed up with another top 20 single, "Way Out Here." After a shuffling of artist rosters at Sony Nashville, Thompson left Columbia and was soon on Show Dog Nashville, quickly hitting the top 30 with "Cold Beer With Your Name On It." Now Thompson is taking charge of his music and career, partnering with ole Digital/The Orchard, with plans to release two consecutive six-song EPs: "Change: The Lost Record, Volume One" due Friday, October 9th and "Volume Two" to be released early 2016 partnering with ole Digital/The Orchard for digital distribution.
1. Thank you for taking time to answer "10 Questions" for us, Josh! Let's start with your EP. This is going to be a six-song EP, is that correct? And this is stuff that you've had for a while, right?
It is, yes. This is the record that I had cut at Sony in 2011. And we took the record when we left, and it's been sitting there on the shelf - winking at me! And now is the right time to put it out, so I split it up in to two EPs, because I just feel like it's easier in today's record-buying climate to digest EPs.
2. That kind of goes back to what Blake Shelton did with a couple of his "Six Pack" albums, which is basically an EP. So, will these be available on iTunes, or how are you going to get that out there?
Definitely iTunes. Mainly digital. We are going to have some physical copies that you can get at shows and stuff like that.
3. So, you are without a label now, is that correct? You went through the Sony iteration and then went over to Show Dog-Universal. So, I guess you just answered my question, in a way - do you just want to do it on your own right now and want to own this music?
Yes, I am label-less. And that's another reason that I'm putting this record out now - because I would have to give it to a record label. There's just no sense in that! I think when we left Show Dog in January, it was my goal to kind of take a break, stay off the road, and not do 250,000 dates a year! I just kind of wanted to really concentrate on my writing and put this record out this year. Those were the two main things I wanted to accomplish, and it looks like we're getting it done.
4. Now, as a songwriter and with that arm of this, would something like what Thirty Tigers is doing appeal to you? I know their business model is - if I understand it correctly - the artists still own their music, and Thirty Tigers provides promotional support.
That's what I'm doing with ole. It's basically the same thing; they're taking the reins in the digital release and hitting all the outlets, and I just have to show up with the music. So, I'm going to try it out, and we'll see. The world is our oyster, so to speak!
5. As a songwriter with cuts on various albums from Tim McGraw and Jason Aldean to Jon Pardi, and as the co-writer on the new Joe Nichols single, "Freaks Like Me," it would be easy to sit back and let the mailbox money roll in. Why is it important to put this out now, as an artist, and take the long road of the life of an independent, unsigned artist?
Because, I don't know what my next step is going to be - where, when, how, why I'll cut another album or for who for myself - but it was important for me to get this out and release this before I can move forward. This is also good at bridging the gap. This is the first second record that came out third! It's important to really bridge the gap between "Way Out Here" and "Turn It Up." And I think sonically, when you listen to all three back-to-back, you'll get that.
6. To the writing, we've touched on some of the folks you've had cuts on, so as a songwriter who is also an artist, for guys like you, what stuff you want to keep and what stuff you want to pitch. How do you decide? If someone gets a song and they want to put it on hold, does it depend on who it is, or how does that work?
That really, for me, is tough to say. I love pitching songs and getting songs cut outside. But that being said, when I'm cutting a record, I'm definitely holding the things that I love. But it's got to be right around the time I'm cutting a record. I won't hold anything for too long; I won't prevent myself from getting an outside cut because I want to save it for a record I'm cutting in two years. It's got to be - everything is let-go-able unless I'm cutting a record in the next two weeks!
7. This is the first second record that is coming out third, is how you described this project. So these songs date back to being cut in 2011 and written on or before then, correct? So, we're talking about five years ago, almost. The format was very different then - before Florida Georgia Line and what some people called "Bro Country." The format keeps moving, so as a songwriter, do you worry about the fact that you wrote these things four, five, or more years ago and it may not fit in with what is happening in the format now?
Yeah, they sound like - when you listen to it, and what I love about it when I listen to it again - it almost has a throwback element to it. That was one of the things that made me want to put it out now, is because it just sounds completely different from anything that's going on right now. So I'm excited about that. I'm not worried about it at all, because people don't get their music from just the traditional sources anymore. They can get it online. They can find anything online! So I think a record like this is going to be at least a good anchor point in the middle of a sea of Pop. If people don't like it, they can search for something else, but I think my fans are going to dig it.
8. Obviously your music is Traditional, in a sense. Some of the music you've played for us feels very much like throwback music, as you were saying. As a person who just naturally puts that out and writes that naturally, as you look around at everything on the radio and hear how wide open the sound of the format is, what do you think as a Traditional guy when you hear artists like Sam Hunt and the styles that artists like Thomas Rhett are bringing to the table on Country radio? And are you pitching songs to the Sam Hunts and Thomas Rhetts of the world, or do you stick to pitching to more traditional-sounding acts?
I think it's always been a jump-ball. If you take away the production, lyrically they are still well-written songs. There's a few that are questionable - but there have always been a few that are questionable! So, yeah, I think lyrically they're still rooted in Country music. It's just a production thing. Country music has always kind of followed Pop and Hip Hop in some sense, so we're basically just doing the same thing we have done since the 70s. These are well-written songs. I'm writing songs full time and pitching. We're getting on a lot of records these days, and it has been good to really focus on that.
9. We see a lot of really young artists coming through who are aspiring artists and songwriters. Do you have a core of people you tend to gravitate towards, and what would you say to young people who are coming in to town and wanting to get in to that community, which is kind of a hard nut to crack? I don't know how many appointments you take with newer songwriters, but what are the things they lack when they first get in to this craft of songwriting? A lot of writers have told me that it's more perspiration than inspiration. Is that true, and how should young songwriters work on the craft?
Yeah, it's a hard nut to crack at first. I've definitely got my core - David Lee Murphy, Casey Beathard - and there's a group of newer writers I've been writing with a lot and having great success with lately. There's definitely the go-to, but it's always good to get outside and write with somebody new. I guess to the young people who are wanting to do it, I guess my advice would be that you've really got to be in it for the long haul. If you want to make money in the music industry, just get your CDL and drive a bus for somebody! That's where the money is at! I think the main thing that I see - and I struggled with it, too - is writing too personally. To be able to take your idea, what you want to say, and be able to put it out in a more widely accepted commercial way. If you want to write about your hometown, don't put your street names and your grandpa's name and how your day went. It's got to be - you can get the same point across, but it's got to be a little more commercial and a little more appealing to everybody. That being said, what I really love about new writers is they haven't been influenced or affected by what the veteran writers are doing, so they're fresh and wide-open, and they go to different places that you don't normally hear.
10. When you were with Sony and then Show Dog, you got out to radio a lot, and you made a lot of friends. So, now that you're on your own, you have a good following with radio - you have a lot of fans and friends in the radio world with PDs and MDs. Are you still reaching out to those guys? I know this is an independent project and it's a little different doing it with an EP, but how much will you be counting on and hoping for radio support on this?
I'm not counting on or hoping for radio support at all, really, I'm just trying to put some music out. There will be - I do have a lot of friends in radio who have already asked me if they can play some music, but it's not something that we are going out gunning with a promotion team and trying for. There won't be a "first single" off the EP. It's just good music that we want to release, and hopefully people enjoy it.
1. You're from Cedarburg, WI, correct? I know about Milwaukee and Madison, and for some reason, I just don't think of Wisconsin as a big core of Country listening, but I suppose there is a real Country lifestyle there? And growing up, did you listen to mostly Country, or a little of everything?
Yes, 90 miles south of Lambeau Field! But yeah, it's all farms once you get outside of the two cities. They love Country music! They have more Country music festivals in that state than they have all around the country. They've got like 14, and the Hodag [Country Festival in Rhinelander, Wisconsin] is the biggest one of them all, I think, with about 20,000 people. The Hodag is like our Bigfoot or our Swamp Monster that nobody ever sees! Growing up, it was mainly Country for me. My dad liked the oldies - The Everly Brothers and Beach Boys, things like that - and my mom listened to Randy Travis and Patsy Cline and Conway.
2. The first time you ever heard yourself on the radio, where was it? And does it feel different hearing yourself on the radio than it does when you hear a song you wrote that someone else cut?
I can't remember what station it was. We were on I-5 heading from Seattle to California, and it was then that I heard "Beer On The Table." It was awesome! It's still weird to hear yourself. As far as something someone else cut, I'm not really sure. I guess I'll have to let you know in three weeks [when "Freaks Like Me" recorded by Joe Nichols impacts Country radio]!