Joshua Worden is a solo artist and producer based in Atlanta, GA, whose music is an original blend of R&B, jazz, and indie pop with electronic production. The mood is downtempo; the slow burn. Inspired by artists such as Frank Ocean, Raphael Saadiq and James Blake, his music and lyrics, though accessible, veer heavily towards introspective and atypical territory. Joshua is a trained musician (in jazz guitar) and, as a multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter, he writes, arranges and produces all of his own material.
Says Joshua: "I love music and genuinely believe that it is my path. I feel that music, more than any other pursuit, is the way that I can give back to the world."
Joshua released his debut EP, "The Withered Tree" in July of 2012, and his first full-length album, the daring and vulnerable "Always This", in June 2013. Worden's live band consists of himself (vocals, keys, guitar, synth, samples) and Will Montgomery (drums, vocals, samples).
Interview with Under the Gun Review:
We’re thrilled to bring you this exclusive interview with an Atlanta based artist that you should certainly have on your radar. With influences ranging from D’Angelo to Floetry, Joshua Worden has emerged from straight-forward indie rock to a more soulful R&B approach and his newest effort, Always This, is an impressive example of his passion that he puts into his work and his talents as both a producer and a vocalist as well.
We had the chance to speak with Joshua about this solo endeavor, his new record, and much more regarding his work and how he got his start, so read through and get acquainted with your new favorite crooner, Joshua Worden.
What originally influenced your choice to get involved with music?
I was a typical bad kid; bored and mischievous and purposeless. I got in a lot of trouble with my parents, got expelled from school, got in fights, smoked weed. But then, when I was 12 or so, my dad bought me an electric guitar. I started taking all that chaotic energy and pouring it into the instrument. I’d found an outlet, and it really changed me.
So that was your first foray into music?
As soon as I knew a few chords and scales on the guitar I was jamming with anyone I could find. I haven’t stopped since.
Your album, Always This, just dropped last week. What can you tell us about what this album means to you? And how do you feel at this point about the fact that people are finally able to listen to it?
For the last few years I’ve been really fascinated by enso paintings. Enso is an ancient style of Japanese calligraphy where the artist, usually a zen master, paints a simple circle in one brush movement. That’s it. The whole process might take 20 seconds. But it has to come from the right place. You might try 100 times and only get it right once. If it comes from the wrong place, it’s bullshit, and you know it immediately and trash it. An enso doesn’t have to be a perfect circle — that’s not the point. It rarely is. But when the inspiration comes from the right place, it’s about as real of an expression of the artist in that very particular moment as you can get.
That was the spirit that I tried to make this album in. I’m not so sure that I got it right, but that’s what this album, and art in general, means to me.
When you began writing the material for this album, what was your focus for how you wanted it to turn out as far as the style and production? How did you want to evolve beyond The Withered Tree?
Honestly, I really didn’t give that much thought. I just kept writing songs as they came to me until I had enough material for an album. There’s definitely an evolution from my last EP — Always This leans more towards R&B, but that wasn’t a conscious decision. I rarely think consciously about genre or style, and that might be a weakness, but I’ve found that whenever I do think that way, the songs I write feel forced and shallow.
Now that the album is complete and you’ve had the chance to listen to the finished product, would you say it’s exactly how you wanted it to turn out? Is it what you had originally envisioned?
I think so. By the time I’m done with an album I’m so goddamn sick of it that I don’t even want to think about it, let alone listen to it. The real test will be in a year or so, when I have some distance and perspective. At that point, I could tell you if I like it or not. I’m hoping that I will.
The album was produced, recorded and mixed all at your own home, correct? How do you think having that creative freedom contributed to what the album became? I would imagine that makes you even more proud of it than if you had done all of that at a different studio.
Yes, most definitely. As a song starts to evolve and take a definitive shape I really like to take my time and let it evolve naturally. It’s a slow process of discovery. It’s really nice to work at home and not have to rush things or stay on budget like you would in a traditional commercial studio setting. Having that ability to throw away sub-par ideas and wait for the right one makes all the difference.
What themes would you say are prevalent in the lyrical content on Always This? I don’t hear anything outright personal but are there more personal elements in your songs that may not be obvious?
Yeah, my lyrics aren’t really autobiographical in the usual sense. To me, it’s more about a feeling — the way that the musical and lyrical elements blend to create a particular mood or image. I do believe that my lyrics are personal in a shared way — they may not be direct truth or linear stories, but they evoke common feelings and images that I think we all share. Or at least they do for me.
My favorite writers are the ones who use the simplest language to talk about the most mundane shared experiences. John Prine and Hemingway come to mind. There’s no fluff or bullshit in their work, but it moves you to the core. If I could summon 5% of that talent I’d be a happy man.
Blctxt is featured on the album’s closing number but did you consider more collaborations on this album? Any reasoning for just the final track?
Blctxt was one of the first friends I made when I moved to Atlanta last year and we immediately clicked. He is a super talented dude. Collaboration was inevitable. Since tracking this album I’ve made many more musical friends around the city, so there will definitely be more ATL collaborations in the near future.
The artwork by Helen Poser for Always This is very unique. Was that all her vision or did you have some effect on how that turned out?
It was pretty much all Helen. I’ve always admired her work, especially her portraits. They’re very unique — the perfect balance of realism and off-kilter weirdness. I mean, anything is weird if you look at it long enough. Like staring in the mirror too long, or saying the word “milk” over and over. Eventually it just doesn’t mean the same thing anymore — it becomes alien. Her portraits give me that same feeling.
Are there any specific artists that have inspired you to venture into the R&B genre or that have influenced your writing style?
I discovered D’Angelo back in 2002 or so and immediately latched on to the neo-soul movement. Erykah Badu, Raphael Saadiq, Maxwell, Dwele, Anthony Hamilton, Jill Scott, Floetry–I just couldn’t get enough of it. It’s funny because the music I was writing at that time didn’t reflect that at all; it was straight indie rock. I guess it took 10 years for that influence to bubble up and manifest itself in my writing.
I know you did the Frank Ocean cover awhile back. Is he a more recent inspiration to you or do you just enjoy his music?
Yeah, Frank is great. Great voice, great production, great lyrics. He’s the real deal. Channel ORANGE is a timeless album. The song “Pink Matter” that he did with Andre 3000 is a masterpiece.
Are you familiar with artists like Active Child, How To Dress Well, or Josef Salvat? These are guys I’d like to see you on tour with personally. I see you have a couple shows coming up but do you have any plans to tour in support of Always This?
Yeah, those guys are great. I would definitely like to break into that scene more.
This project has been so DIY — I do all the production, recording, mixing, promotion, web design, merch, booking… It’s good in a way, being the control freak that I am, but it definitely makes things like booking out of town shows a little harder.
However, I am leaving for a short Florida tour in a few days and am planning another southeastern tour for later this year. I’m getting out there as much as I can.
Are you currently involved with any other projects outside of this? What else do you have going on in your daily routine?
At this point I’m not involved in any other bands. This solo project is enough work on its own. I try to spend as much time as I possibly can on music. It’s what I live for, and I probably spend over 8 hours a day writing, practicing, promoting or recording it.
I’m a freelance web designer by trade and I scrape by doing as little of it as possible. It’s the perfect job, really — I can set my own hours and work from the road if I’m touring.
What has been your ultimate goal for this project? Is there anything particular you hope to accomplish?
I want to move people. Sometimes I’ll be listening to a piece of music and I’ll just be overcome by it. My spine will tingle and my eyes will water and for a few seconds I’ll forget who I am. I always listen to music at the gym and it tends to happen there. Maybe once every month or two I’m this weird dude with headphones and watery eyes sitting blankly on the incline bench. It’s such an overwhelming experience, and I can’t think of much else besides music that can make you feel like that.
I want to share that feeling.