Josh Stevens is among the industry elite in songwriting and producing. He has artistically collaborated and co-written with a broad spectrum of respected artists the likes of Beach Boys Frontman, Bryan Wilson, to Pitbull, JLo and Wiz Khalifa, among many others. Currently he is set to take the reigns of his own solo artistry, and has recruited some of his illustrious colleagues to collaborate.
His debut, entitled Story of Summer, is set to release early this fall. It details what he described as, “A story based around a summer that was instrumental in me becoming the man I am today.” He is known for writing with his heart and harnessed the emotions we all experience during a tumultuous season of love explaining, “I wrote these songs and hope it helps other people heal, or at least let’s them know they’re not alone while going through similar experiences of heartache.”
Take a listen to his debut single, “Hill Top” in the video above, and while you do, read on! Get to know the man that promises to steal your heart this fall with Songs of Summer.
Marian: Hi Josh, I wanted to start with the basics. It’s obvious music has always been a passion for you. What were some of the early inspirations and influences that led you to a career in the music industry?
Josh: I think the earliest influence was just digging in my parents vinyl records they had tucked away in their closets. There were LPs from bands like The Who, The Beatles, Moody Blues, Men at Work… so much so, that I just recently showed my significant other the music video for Down Under (by Men at Work) when she asked me about my favorite song of my youth. [laughs] It’s funny because I come from a back ground of west coast hiphop, so I could tell you what a “40” is, but I’m still a bit unsure about what a “vegemite sandwich” is. I’ve also been a huge fan of songs like Return of the Mack. [Josh smiles] But I’m still a big fan of more recent bands like Walk The Moon, Mumford and Sons, Coldplay, Bruno Mars, Pharrell, and I appreciate any bands or artist who’s music is well written and thought out.
Marian: Can you remember what the first song you wrote was? How does that put into focus the trajectory your career as an artist has taken?
Josh: I don’t remember the name of it, but the first song I wrote was about what every kid goes through; isolation, self discovery, and navigating the wonder years. You know, dealing with hardships and coming to terms with the harsh realities of life, because, for me, writing was therapeutic. It was one of the only ways I felt I could honestly and genuinely express myself. I still write that way today. Heart on my sleeve and totally visceral.
Marian: Let’s talk about your latest body of work, “Story of Summer”, I understand it is based on the tumultuous rise and fall of a love story. What inspired this concept?
Josh: Exactly! Story of Summer was conceptualized from real life events that I experienced. Intimate relationships that were tumultuous, passionate; party filled nights, with lonely brief relationships, but ultimately finding true love at the end. It’s a story based around a summer that was instrumental in me becoming the man I am today.
Marian: Who worked, and collaborated with you on this album?
Josh: Spencer Ludwig is an AMAZING musician who plays trumpet with the band Capitol Cities, and is featured on my single “Hill Top”. Drew Hester, best know for his work with Foo Fighters played drums on the EP. Red Bull artist THURZ is a vocal feature on ”The Kingdom”. I got to work with some really talented musicians and artists. Matt McJunkins from the band Perfect Circle is even featured as the bassist on “Story of Summer”. I’m truly blessed and still rather shocked that each person said yes when I pitched them the ideas [laughs]…I still joke with a couple of them like “Aaahh, can’t get out of it now, the songs are already mastered.” I’m just kidding of course. Each person was stoked to play, and I was more in awe just to be apart. Each are masters of their craft, not much more I can say.
Marian: What is the release date for the album?
Josh: Story of Summer is scheduled to be released October 21st, 2015. Watch Out! Im SUUUUPER STOKED about it and can’t wait to share this piece of me with the world!!
Marian: Any plans in the works to tour? If so, when?
Josh: I’m looking forward to a lot of bookings and tour dates this coming year. I’ll post all the up coming dates on my social media. A lot of my performances will feature artists who are represented through my firm, Stadium Music Enterprise, Inc., Like Naima Mora (America’s Next Top Model Winner), Loren Smith, and Island Apollo. So glad to be performing alongside great talent, who I also consider my good friends.
Marian: What is your songwriting process like? Is it more contemplative and reflective, or do you prefer to collaborate and work with other artists?
Josh: Both. I really just sit at my piano and let poetry pour out of me very honestly. I take inspiration from everything, so the song writing process for me is totally organic. I can write alone in solitude and mystery, or sometimes music gives me the opportunity to write with some of the worlds top musicians and artists – to which I am extremely, and greatly humbled! An example would be, Jason Valverde (credits include Tao Cruz and Wiz Kalifia). He plays guitar on my album, and would come up with a melodic riff, and we’d go from there. Or I’d be working on a lyrical verse or concept that would eventually be put into a song. Its a compelling yet simple and beautiful process.
Marian: You are already a very successful songwriter, what is it like to work with some of the industry’s top artists? Who among them perhaps inspired you to become a solo artist?
Josh: To be honest, there’s so many people that have inspired me. LMFAO inspired me to write songs that speak to the world, while learning how to make a career from “parting” and living on no sleep. EVER! It seemed, [Josh laughs]. But I’ve had the honor of working on projects with artist that include the likes of JLo, Nate Dogg. Warren G., Bryan Wilson from the Beach Boys, Steve Aoki, Wiz Kalifa, Snoop Dogg, Too Short, and even Pitbull, who I had the pleasure of spending some fun recording studio time with once. By observing his work flow it really showed me what it takes to be a successful artist.
I think the one common trait that I found in successful artists is the mental strength to never give up, and keep on going. No matter who, at some point in their career, there was a person that threw dirt at the idea of them accomplishing what they set out to do. This is the theme of my song “Call Me Crazy” on the EP. Additionally, I have also found that it takes a team to be successful, and right now I believe I have the best team in music. I appreciate my team to the utmost. I am truly thankful for each of them and the dedication they have brought for years now; some for more than a decade! We are probably the most cliche when it comes to the saying, “It takes a lifetime to become an over night success”.
Marian: How difficult has the transition been to go from songwriter, to solo artistry? What has been the biggest challenge?
Josh: Its not very difficult really. Writing music is just writing music, whether for me or someone else. I just enjoy the process. By being a solo artist, I can take alot more authentic risk rather than asking someone else to take it. It’s like taking a leap of faith in my own life and talent. The challenges are more around being pigeon holed into just being a writer or a producer or ‘sound guy’, you know the behind the scenes person. It’s funny I’m so accustom to being behind the scenes, that I forget sometimes that I’m now the artist, and need to smile when someone says ‘picture!’ I’m still working on that transition. [Josh laughs]
Marian: To wrap it up on a lighter note, I know all songwriters say that all their songs are unique and their own standalone accomplishment; but, if you had to pick, what is one of your favorite songs that you’ve written?
Josh: My song ”Anna” from Story of Summer is one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written. I think its the most honest song I’ve ever written. I mean, I’ve been apart of writing a lot of songs about partying and drinking and just having fun, and that’s all real. But Anna is a story of what happens behind the facade of all of that, when the lights turn off, and the crowds have gone home. When it’s just you and your conscience reflecting on decisions made. I wanted to heal myself from those dark times and implement what I learned from it. So, I wrote these songs and hope it helps other people heal, or at least let’s them know they’re not alone while going through similar experiences of heartache.
Marian: In general, whether from your own catalogue or any other artist, what is one of your favorite songs of all time?
Josh: My favorite song of all time would have to be The Beatles “Let it Be”. I even have it tattooed on my right arm as a mantra to myself about things you can’t control, but remembering that life goes on. For one, it was the first song I ever learned to play and sing at the same time, so it stuck with me through the years.
Thanks for inviting me on the Examiner.