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Interview: Josh Woodward

Let’s start with your hometown- Findlay, Ohio. How did it effect your musical style to be born in Ohio?

As much as I sometimes try to hide it, Ohio is truly my home. I live in a very conservative, small-town area, so I don’t exactly fit in. On the other hand, it’s amazing inspiration for songwriting; I see so many strange things on a day-to-day basis that I never run out of things to write about!

I think it’s influenced me musically as well, much to my chagrin. I almost universally dislike country music, but I get a lot of comments that my sound is country-twinged. There must be something in the water here that you can’t avoid.

In last six years time, you have released seven studio albums. In the year 2010, no new studio albums, but projects are going on such as remixes, videos. Could you please tell us how this year is going for you, please?

No studio albums yet. That will change very shortly – I just put the finishing touches on my next CD, and it’s going off to the manufacturers on Monday, hopefully with a November release date. This is the first time I’ve worked almost completely “in the dark”. Usually I share the demos I’m working on, but I decided to try making this CD differently. I gave the songs longs to ferment after writing them, rather than banging out a quick demo that I tweak a little and release as a CD. I think it worked – I’m not sick of it even after hearing the songs thousands of times, so that’s as high a praise as I can give myself. :)

You are quite productive. When you look back to your old albums and yourself, what has changed in years?

I’m probably not the best person to ask that to, since I’ve evolved in tandem with my sound, so every album feels like where I was at that moment in time. “Here Today” sticks out to me as an album where I hadn’t yet found my sound, and while I’m proud of the songs, they were all over the board stylistically and didn’t really gel. That started to change with “Crawford Street” – the album definitely has a distinct feel, if only because I pulled it from a pool of 40 songs, so I was able to assemble a fairly thematic sound. “Only Whispering” and “Not Quite Connected” were exploring more of my folk side, while “Dirty Wings” was made specifically to scratch an itch to make a darker rock CD. With “The Simple Life” and “Breadcrumbs”, I think my songwriting has matured and tightened up, less goofiness but also less bleakness. And the upcoming CD is somewhat of a continuation of that trend, but with more energy and depth. For 2011, I’m planning to dive off the deep end with a couple of completely off-the-wall projects, just to give my brain a little stretch.

On your MySpace page, you have an “influences” list. Most of the musicians try to stay away from revealing their influences, but you don’t. What is the aim on revealing this? I don’t think it’s all about to pull those bands’ listeners to your music…

Those have been there since I started my MySpace page, which was more as a civilian. Honestly, I don’t want to try to play into some sort of pretense that I’m some sort of rock star wannabe. I’m just a guy who makes music in his basement when he gets some spare time. I devour CDs, just like any musician or fan, and I’m influenced by a lot of them. I’ve never been criticized for being a ripoff of so-and-so band, but I absolutely study what my favorite bands are doing well, and incorporate it into my own music, consciously or not.

You are sharing your songs from your website. As far as I know, over two million downloads so far. How much do you concern about the numbers? As a musician, what are your main purposes?

It’s amazing to me. For all the panic of the collapse of the music industry, it’s actually a beautiful time to be an indie musician if you’re willing to take a few leaps of faith. I wouldn’t be able to make much more than a very basic living from music at this point, but I that’s not a goal for me. I make music because it keeps me relatively sane, and it’s just an added bonus that people are finding it. I was thrilled when dozens of people were listening to my music, and I’m even more thrilled now. But I don’t fixate on numbers, because I don’t want to start writing music just to please the largest number of people. There are already thousands of bands out there doing just that, and most of them are better than me at it.

When you listen to some songs, you get the feeling like, “with a couple of touches, it could have been good…”. But your songs make me totally satisfied in this way, personally. In only musical way, are you satisfied with what you are doing?

That’s awesome; I wish I was the same way with my own music! I’m my own harshest critic, and while I don’t often go back and listen to my older material, when I do, I pick it apart mercilessly. I’m still mostly very happy with the songs themselves, which is a relief. But the production and performance of my earlier work (and even some of the newer ones) has grated on me over the years. That’s why I’ve been doing a relatively odd thing recently – remixing my old CDs. I don’t record anything new, but I far too much going back and nitpicking every little detail to fix the problems I hear. I come from a computer engineering background, so a lot of it is my natural inclination to push out a version 2.0 to fix the bugs in the first version.

Do you ever imagine the profile of your listeners- what would they look like, how lives would they have? And the most important thing; what kind of identicalnesses you build up with the people listening to your songs?

Not really, no. I’ve probably gotten better about writing songs that are more universal, but I really dislike lyrical pandering. A lot of times, I’ll come up with a specific topic to write a song about, but then I’ll leave out some details or veil it in a metaphor to add a level of abstraction. I think it makes for a better and more relatable song, without resorting to writing yet another lovesick ballad.

I think you make catchy and loopable songs which means they are too strong. Here is a personal question from me: You articulate my feelings in “I want to destroy something beautiful”. If not so private, could you please tell us about the factors push you to make such a song. I am so hungry to hear anything about this song!

That was a rare song that was inspired by something specific, in this case, a line from the movie “Fight Club”. The song itself isn’t connected to the movie, but the image it evokes is really powerful – the song just spilled out from there. So much music is written to make the narrator (and by extension, the artist) seem like the good guy, but I think it’s more interesting to show the other side of the human experience. That song, to me, is the final stage in frustration, where you’re ready to indiscriminately tear down everything in your life to stop the unknown source of your problems.

In “Fight the Sea”, you have such beautiful rythms on backround between 01:09-01:45 and 03:46-04:05? I just love that detail…

That was just a drum part pitch-shifted up a little, hit with some rhythmic delay, then run through Antares Filter, which is a beautiful sound mangler that I still use now and then.

Have you ever been abroad? How do you see beyond the USA?

I love travelling. Life has caught up with me and I don’t get as many chances to do it these days, but I love jumping outside of my comfort zone and learning about different cultures. I do love my country, even though it pisses me off far too often. But in the spirit of “Rogue Nation”, I want to fix the system from within the system.

But actually, as far as concerts go, I don’t even tour locally anymore. The economics of touring don’t make sense for someone like me who has a large audience worldwide, but not concentrated in any specific place. As amazing as it is for someone like me to have a fan in, say, Glauchau Germany, that doesn’t fill a club in any given place. Plus, I just feel like I’m past that point in my life where that makes sense. I have a nice bed. It’s got a pillowtop or something, I don’t remember what it’s called. But it cost extra and it makes it really soft.

Josh Woodward: Website, Wikipedia, MySpace

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