It’s the eve of the release of “Wasted on Love,” the first single from country piano-man Josh Charles. The song will be released via Downhome Records/ THC: Music/Ingrooves/Fontana, and is Charles’s first single since 2011′s critically-acclaimed “Life Ain’t Fair.” In addition to releasing his single this month, Josh recently went to Nashville, where he recorded with Grammy Award winner, Toby Wright and he’ll be backed by Blake Shelton‘s touring band, Rob Byus, Tracy Broussard, Kevin Post and Beau Tackett.
We discussed his background, who he’d LOVE to duet with, country music in NYC, his oddest job (hint: I’ve fallen and I can’t get up) and more! Plus, what’s it like to open for Blake Shelton? Read on to find out!
KIC: For those readers who may be ‘meeting’ you for the first time in this blog, can you give us a little bit of a back story as to how you began performing?
JC: Well, I started playing piano when I was 8 and guitar around 13 . My first professional gig was playing blues in a music joint in Kansas City … I was concert trained and went to band camp too ha. I moved to New York City and started playing around clubs in all kinds of genres (jazz to hard rock) and was discovered and had many ups and downs like a lot of folks in the music business. I sure can say that you can never, ever, ever give up. Everyone has THEIR time.. I hope and this feels like for all the years and hard work I’ve put into my craft that it’s my time. We’ll see.
KIC: Your site describes your sound as “modern country mixed up with southern rock and roll and some New Orleans style.” That’s pretty eclectic – who do you liken yourself to?
JC: I don’t know.. my piano style comes from New Orleans guys especially Dr. John who was my mentor, but also guys like Benmont Tench (Petty), Roy Bittan (Springsteen)…So as far as my voice I’m not sure.. I tell people that I’d like to be seen as a piano playing Brad Paisley. He’s a virtuoso on guitar and supremely talented singer/songwriter/performer – that’s where I see myself but I don’t think I sound like anyone in particular vocally or piano playing wise.
KIC: You currently live in NYC, do you feel that it’s harder to make it as a country artist there? (It’s def harder to be a country fan here!)
JC: Oh yeah, we just got our first country station (Nash FM 94.7) in 17 years! Country fans are in NYC but up until recently, the artists didn’t come through town and there’s not a lot of places to play country music especially if you want people to listen and pay attention. I hope that changes. There are die hard country fans even in NYC but it’s only starting to get the attention it deserves here.
KIC: Tell us the story behind your new single, “Wasted on Love.”
JC: I had the idea floating around my head and the title and came up with a lot of the music and some lyrics. I sent it to my co-writer Milton L Brown (“Any Which Way You Can”, “Every Which Way But Loose”) who is just amazing at putting words down on paper that move me. We have this amazing chemistry – who knew? He’s a legend and is 80 years old but we write all of our songs together and I couldn’t be luckier to have such a great co-writer.
KIC: Your previous single “Life Ain’t Fair” received a ton of buzz and critical acclaim. Did you set out to top it with “Wasted on Love”?
JC: We put “Life Ain’t Fair” out on our own with no promo or anything and sent it to the music press and they just felt it was special and did a lot of write ups on it of which I was so grateful for. It was my first time reaching out to the country music community in Nashville and they welcomed me with open arms. I wish we could have gotten it to radio because folks always ask me, ‘When do I hear “Life ain’t fair” on the radio?” I guess it’s never too late. I had a feeling about “Wasted on Love” when we finished it the day before we cut it in Nashville. I knew it was special and it just felt like a hit even though I don’t write that way. I write what sounds good to me and hope the fans like it. We struck a deal and we’re releasing it through our own imprint label, DOWNHOME / THC: MUSIC and through Ingrooves/ Fontana. I can’t wait for every to hear it!
KIC: What is the writing process like for your music? Where do you get your inspiration from?
JC: Normally Milton and I will talk about what I’m looking for song wise and he will send me a lyric and I’ll turn around and write the music and maybe change a line or two here and there but he’s so damn good at this and knows what I’m looking for in words as far as meter etc. I’d say most of our songs are written that way. The other way is I’ll come up with a musical hook, title and maybe a few lines here and there and we’ll trade it back and forth. We never write in the same room together and just trade back and forth over email. Technology has it’s perks!
KIC: You opened for Blake Shelton – How did that happen?
JC: A guy we’re working with submitted me to Blake’s people and then it took months before I heard back because Blake had to listen to me since he always picks his openers. I told him how grateful I was for such an amazing opportunity and his fans have become very loyal to me and now I’m recording with Kevin , Beau , Tracy and Rob from Blake’s band as we speak so there’s a connection there. I hope I get the opportunity to open more shows for Blake, he’s a great guy.
KIC: You’re currently working on new music with Producer Toby Wright & Blake Shelton’s touring band. Has that been a major pinch me moment for you?
JC: As write this, I’m getting ready to go to pre-production and head into the studio tomorrow to record the new music.. I’m so excited to work with Toby, who’s sold over 55 million albums in the hard rock format, but has also done Wallflowers, Chris Whitley. We have been spending a lot of time on SKYPE getting ready for the sessions and I want him to bring a unique sound to contemporary music . The rock element makes perfect sense to me because a lot of country is heavily rock oriented nowadays. I like the idea of bringing the piano into the contemporary country rock format in a new unique way. that’s our goal. I knew Kevin from Blake’s band and asked if he wanted to get the rest of the band to do a record with me and Toby and they said yes. We’re gonna try and create magic in the studio!
KIC: What’s been the best moment of your career thus far?
JC: In country music, opening for Blake in my hometown in front of my friends and family and thousands of fans who stood in 100 degree weather was an amazing experience. I’ve had a few really great moments in my career but that definitely stands out as one of them.
KIC: Have you had to work any super odd jobs while pursuing music?
JC: WOW, uh yeah, it’s a long list but one that stands out is I sold Life Alert – that button: “Help I’m falling and I can’t get up.”
KIC: You can tour with two other artists – who do you put on the bill with you?
KIC: What’s one thing you’d like our readers to take away about you after reading this interview?
JC: First off, thank you for taking the time to interview me and for all of your continued support. There are so many talented country artists and so much music to choose from so I hope your readers listen to me and realize that I’m not like another artists out there. I am so grateful to country fans who are the best on the planet. I just want to give you the best music I can that’s honest, pure and rocks your ass off.
All time favorite country song: “Take These Chains From My Heart” – Hank Williams but I’d like to throw in Merle Haggard’s “The Way I Am “, “When You Say Nothing At All” - Keith Whitley , and “Troubadour” from George Strait because it’s impossible to name just one or even a few…
Guilty pleasure: I watch a lot of TV shows.. all kinds but I love Duck Dynasty, Property Brothers, the League and tons of other shows too many to name .. thankful for Netflix!
Dream Duet Partner: Miranda Lambert
Celebrity Crush: Scarlett Johansson, but my girl said I have a “man-crush” on Paul Rudd haha
Last song listened to: “Lover’s Eyes” – Mumford and Sons
Favorite place in NYC: I really like this Tibetan spot next to my apartment called Tsampa…
Favorite Pizza Topping: mushrooms