"There is always the voice inside me that says I could do better and that spurs me on to keep making music"
Interview by Dawn
Josh Doyle has just arranged a run of eight UK gigs at the end of April. Two of them have already sold out, with the remaining dates not far behind. It’s hard to tell who’s more excited - Josh or his eager ticket buyers – but it’s fair to say that he’s been itching to get back across the pond with his acoustic guitar ever since he last toured over here around six years ago.
"I did one show [back then] without a band where I just sat and played to a cosy pub room, up close and personal," he says. "It was laid back and informal and a lot of fun. I thought that would be a great way to travel around the country, not to mention a lot cheaper than bringing a band over from the USA."
It's been an interesting few years for the Kent-born, Nashville-based musician. Back in the early '00s he graced Saturday morning TV shows and Melody Maker front covers as frontman of the Dumdums (who garnered a handful of UK chart hits and a prestigious support slot with Bon Jovi), but after the band split he moved to America with his family to make a fresh start. He took a job as a waiter and for a while it seemed that perhaps music had taken a back seat.
"Working a day job can be pretty deflating but I always had a fanbase that wanted me to make music and tour so that was a huge motivator," he says. "Apart from that, there is always the voice inside me that says I could do better than I've done before and that spurs me on to keep making music. Even when you have a day job, getting better as an artist is something you can always work towards."
And so, following a couple of self-made/fan-funded EP releases, Josh was one of 17,000 people who decided to enter the 2011 Guitar Center Singer Songwriter Competition - and he won. The grand prize included $10,000 and the chance to record an EP with renowned producer John Shanks (Bon Jovi, Alanis Morisette, Kelly Clarkson). Shanks, however, was so impressed by what he heard that he took the opportunity to instead make a full album with Josh - with Matt Chamberlain (Pearl Jam, Tori Amos) and Leland Sklar (James Taylor, Jackson Browne) among the legendary musicians enlisted to lend a hand.
Invitations to 2013's Glastonbury and Hard Rock Calling festivals followed, and Josh eagerly seized the opportunity to try and gain more fans - although it seems that even he was surprised by the demand: "Both gigs started with the hardcore at the front of the stage and then the tents were filled up with strangers by our third song. In fact, it went so well with new fans that we didn’t have any merch to sell after the Glastonbury show - we sold out and apparently sold twice as much merch as any band on that stage over the weekend!"
Which brings us to the present day where, this month, Josh will head out on his tour of small UK venues as a thank you to his increasing audience: "The UK fanbase is definitely a mixture these days," he explains. "I'm sure there are a few Dumdums fans that still listen to exactly what they listened to back then and aren't bothered with what I'm doing now, but the majority of the audience have moved on with me from just punk-pop and are very into what I'm doing. My lyrics are pretty raw and always have been so that could be the connection - also listening to album after album of mine is following a story of someone’s life, I think, which could be compelling as well. It’s been quite the story from a fan perspective of this guy who doesn't ever give up. There are a good number of new fans - I just keep collecting them in my travels one at a time!"
The locations of the April gigs have been carefully chosen in response to audience demand measured on Josh’s Facebook page and hopefully the success of these dates will lead to further UK shows in the not too distant future: "Yeah, the tickets have been selling well in albeit smaller venues," he says, "but it bodes well to be able to do this again. That’s the plan - just keep building the audience slowly and do great every time so they will want more! I do try to go where the demand is, though. I have very real bills to pay at home in the USA and we live month to month so I can’t afford to play places where I spend more than I make."
In a recent message sent out to his mailing list, Josh mentioned that he has been busy writing and recording demos and hinted that they are for his next incarnation, which will be revealed in due course. "This feels to me, inside, like a rare second chance after the Dumdums," he says gratefully. "I feel like a new artist just getting started. It’s not like I'm trying to resuscitate something dead though, I was always wary of that – I never wanted to cash in on the past. I just wanted to keep getting better as an artist and going in directions I felt like going. This is really part of a bigger plan."
Josh is already looking to follow up his DIY tour of the UK with a similar set of dates in the US based on fan demand, and explains that his American audience is about the same size as his UK one, but more spread out and so more difficult to reach: "There was a lot of exposure in the USA after winning [the Guitar Center competition] and getting on Jimmy Kimmel Live and various other mainstream TV shows. I also got radio play over here. In Nashville I can sell out one of the larger small venues, but my next step is to be able to do that all over the USA, which only comes with treading those boards and playing shows."
Asked whether the things that inspire his songwriting now are the same things that inspired him back in the Dumdums days, Josh says that although his sound may have changed, there are definite themes that have kept with him: "Individuality and not being forced into someone else's mould is a recurring theme. I told myself a few years ago I needed to write only songs that would be important to sing so I tend to write less throwaway stuff, but even a love song can be important if it takes you back to a place or makes you think about where you are going in life. I do like to inspire people to think about their lives, where they have been and where they are going. As an artist in the big picture I prefer to change into different things in a way David Bowie has done, just to keep it interesting - as long as it comes naturally I think you can write about anything and sound like anything."
With huge thanks to Josh. For more information visit http://www.joshdoyle.com. Josh’s UK tour runs from 21/04/14 to 28/04/14. Sheffield and Birmingham have already sold out but you can still buy tickets for the rest of his shows at http://smarturl.it/jdtickets.