Introducing Josh Hoke

Let me introduce you all to a very talented singer songwriter called Josh Hoke. His music has been part of my collection for a while now and I thought it was about time that I made you all aware of him. I was first introduced to his music when I listened to his song ‘Too Easy to Love You’. There was something about the acoustic soulful sound and that was delivered with folk style vocals that grabbed my attention. After hearing this, I checked out more of his music from his Bandcamp site (click HERE) and I was blown away with what I heard. This was my type of music that has an honest feel and I had to make it part of my collection.

I was curious to know more about Josh and his music so I decided to ask the man himself. We talked about his influences, song writing and a little more. This is what he had to say:

Who or what inspired you to become a musician and which musicians have influenced your sound?

I’ve always been musical since my earliest memories from childhood. We had a piano in the house and I can remember “writing” my own songs at the piano and singing along, making up words. So I guess you could say it came very naturally to me. I grew up in the Midwestern United States, so a very conservative area and my dad’s a Christian minister, so I grew up spending a LOT of time at the church, playing with the big organ whenever nobody was around, learning the pedals with my hands since I couldn’t reach with my feet. I did a lot of music for church from a very early age. Then, when I was a teenager, I discovered rock and roll, first with the classic singer-songwriters who most influence my songwriting I think; legends like Neil Young and Crosby, Stills and Nash, James Taylor, Jim Croce, Joni Mitchell, and Carol King were constantly being played in the house – my mom loved those. As for my sound, it really comes from listening to old gospel and soul singers (again, my mother played them around the house and in the car – I have great memories riding in the car with my mom singing along to Aretha Franklin at the top of my lungs). Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye – these were the voices I most loved to sing along to. I’d say as far as my voice is concerned, it was the old soul singers who have most informed my sound.

Your music has an honest feel about it, is this quality important when you write new songs?

When I write, I try to be as honest as possible – with myself, with my audience, just all around. I think it’s paramount to be authentic and very genuine as it comes across when people hear it. You can just tell when someone is singing, saying something from their heart, deep from within their soul as opposed to someone who is singing, let’s say, very technically correct. What’s that Bono line? “I can’t sing but I got soul.” I always loved that; it really sums it up for me.

Talking about writing songs, which is you favourite song you have wrote and why?

Favorites are so hard to choose – the old cliche being that it’s like choosing a favorite child. But, for the sake journalism, I shall press on! I have my favorites to play live, favorites lyrics, favorites compositions, but for brevity, I’ll choose which one I could say is closest to my favorite overall, Forever’s Not Nearly Long Enough. I think I love that song so much because it goes back to that honesty we were discussing. I wrote it from a very honest and vulnerable place and I think that vulnerability is rewarded in the way the song comes across. I really like it lyrically and sometimes wonder how I came up with some of the more poetic lines because when I’m writing I feel so clumsy, like I’m wandering blind, taking each step carefully, clawing in the dark at what comes next, and somehow, sometimes, the write words come together. I think I lucked out in this way for Forever’s Not Long Enough. I can belt out that chorus every night and still feel the raw emotion of it, like I’m letting go and grasping hold all at the same time. It’s a great release and, for me, a sort of sacred remembrance of days gone by and hope for those to come.

If you were headlining a world tour which two musicians/bands would you choose as your support?

Well, of course I’d love to tour with some of my heroes, but then it’s hard to say I’d ever headline. But for the sake of journalism, once again, I shall try… I think I’d go with Glen Hansard as one. He’s such a legendary singer/songwriter and his live show is so incredibly raw and emotionally charged. I love his stage presence and have definitely copied more than a couple of his moves. He’s always trying new things, even with his old stuff, giving something new a try right out there on stage in front of everyone. I love that vulnerability. It draws me in every time, I just love it. For the other, and again I’d be lucky just to open for him, I’d say Tom Petty. I’ve always loved him and he’s one of these road warriors who’s been on tour for forever and probably always will. I can’t picture a world in which Tom Petty isn’t on tour or coming around somewhere soon. His music stands up over time. The records of course are classics, but it’s the live performance that so impresses me. Again, he’s honest and raw and vulnerable and as a fan, it never gets old seeing him perform live. He’s from Indiana too, just like me, so there’s always been a connection there. Wow, you’ve got me dreaming now – Tom Petty, Glen Hansard, and Josh Hoke on the same marquee? See what you can do about making that happen, would you James?

What are you future plans and goals for your music?

It’s hard to know what the future holds, especially with some serious health problems I’ve had of late that have kept me off the road. The road has been such an important part of my career, connecting with fans in new places, and staying sharp in terms of my live performance. Quality recording is just so expensive these days with very little return that it’s tough to make it as a recording artist solely. However, that’s where I find myself at the present moment. I’ve been able to continue to write and have recorded a little bit this year with my Free As a Bird EP out just in time for summer and then a Christmas song called Peace on Earth – I’m particularly proud of the way this one turned out-  that will be out later this year. So, the plan, if you can call it that is to stay the course with these new releases, hope they generate some income while I’m on the mend and to continue to write, write and write some more. I think you’ll see with the Free As a Bird EP a pretty significant step up in terms of quality and production compared to my previous releases, and my long-term goal at this point is to write and record a full-length self-titled LP with the same producer (Troy Welstad out in Portland, Oregon) and band lineup and sound that we achieved on the EP. And, then ultimately, my hope is that I will be able to tour again, as performing live is and always will be my first love.

Let’s talk about Josh’s music. In January 2013 he released his album Ghosts and Glory which is a wonderful release from start to finish. It’s foundations are built on a combination of a soul drenched acoustic sound with a wonderful folk style vocal talent that could be compared to Ray Lamontagne with the emotional tone of Glen Hansard (I can’t give a bigger compliment than that). I like how he uses the guitar to deliver this honest feel in a subtle way to let his singing take the spotlight. For me, the greatest singers wear their hearts on their sleeve when they sing and this is what Josh brings to his music. When you listen to one of my favourite songs ‘Sunlight’ you can hear exactly what I mean, which is also a beautiful and well written song. I must quickly add, you need to check out the songs ‘Love me or leave me alone (feat Hannah Glavor)’ and ‘Flightless Bird’, as they are more great examples why this musicians music needs to be in your collection. I think his song writing ability is an underrated side to his sound as it helps to give his music soul. The more you listen to his lyrics the more you appreciate what he has created with each song. Put all this together and you get the wonderful sound of Josh Hoke that you need to hear.

He followed this up in June of the same year with the EP ‘Wait for Me’. When I first heard this EP it felt like a continuation of his album. Josh stick’s to his winning formula to deliver more music with a soul drenched folk sound, I guess if it isn’t broke then don’t fix it. Like his previous release, you get to hear more great songs which show off a vocal talent which is nicely controlled with an impressive range. I highly recommend the song ‘Untitled’ which is lyrically captivating and it delivered with the usual high standard you expect from Josh.

We had to wait too long (in my opinion) for newFree As a Bird EP cover art music from Josh but it was worth it. The 2 track EP ‘Free as a Bird’ delivers an evolution to his music. His overall sound has improved, what sounds like improved production value has resulted in more layers within his music. Musically, the arrangement of both songs stand out which helps them sound so good. Another improvement from these songs is the vocals. Josh delivers a much stronger vocal performance that feels more controlled as well as having more emotion. I do like it when musicians surprise me with their improvements like this. My favourite song is the title track ‘Free as a Bird’ which has this wonderful retro soul feel. Overall, this EP is a taster of great things to come and continues to show off Josh’s outstanding song writing talent.

To listen to Josh Hoke’s full collection of music in full then head over to his Bandcamp site (click HERE). Then when you finished listening, you can purchase his music while you are there as music this good needs to be part of any music fans collection!

I really hope that Josh gets the opportunity to release the full length album that he is hoping to produce or even an EP would be good. This is a musician that needs to share his amazing sound with the world. To help make this happen we need to do our part as fans to purchase his music (to help fund future projects) and to spread the word about his music.

If you want to keep up to date with the musical world of Josh Hoke then you can visit his website at Joshhoke.com or his social media sites at Facebook and Twitter. Go and say hello, he’s a cool guy to chat with.