Catch up with acoustic folk pop singer-songwriter Josh Ross and listen to his single "She Rules My World" off his album Love Never Fails, to be released January 2017.
What first got you interested in music and in songwriting?
Josh: My sister was taking piano lessons when I was really young and I just started banging on the keys and my parents were like, "oh, we should get him some piano lessons," and it wasn't my first choice but it basically got my feet wet. I joined piano lessons a few years later and I told my dad I wanted to play the guitar and he said, "well, first you should learn how to really play the piano," and so I did that, playing my piano and practicing more and then, when he saw a year later that I was really serious about it, he got me a guitar. Being able to play guitar, I really started to fall in love with music. Around 8th grade, my dad said, "oh, it's great that you can play guitar, but you should learn to sing". I hadn't thought about singing at all and I thought singing was just for girls, but I kind of secretly started looking at a bunch of videos and books and trying to learn how to sing and then just really started to love it. There's something about singing that is so powerful and that got me back into playing the piano and playing a few other instruments. Around that time too, 8th or 9th grade, I just experimented with songwriting; I was like, "oh, what would happen if I just played a few random chords and started writing something?" and something clicked. The first song was terrible, but I kept up with it and I really enjoyed it and I started to listen to other people's songs and started analyzing, what is it that makes that song so good and enjoyable? I started copying not the songs but the structure and I got to find what structure or topics make a good song. It started opening the door for me to start writing songs and to really express myself best; what was most important to me, my feelings about a girl. I think that's what got me into songwriting and music in general.
Do you remember the first song you wrote that you were proud of?
I think the first song I wrote that I was somewhat proud of was called "One More Year". It was just about how time passes and how we're getting older and just the evolution we go through from being young and really outgoing and caring to growing up, becoming wiser, and how life changes with each year. I think that was the first song I was actually pretty proud of.
Which musicians have you been influenced by?
I guess I would say Jason Mraz is at the top. Green Day got me really into music; Green Day got me playing guitar and got me into singing. But I would say now, it's Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson and, most recently, Ed Sheeran. Those artists have really inspired me a lot; I believe they really challenge their musical styles to take new directions. And also Adele. I love Adele. I love that she can sing music that seems like it was written in the '60s or the '70s - or even earlier - and it still feels timeless. I think, with Adele, a lot of her music is timeless and, in general, the music I like most is timeless. Whether it's Ed Sheeran with "Thinking Out Loud" or Jason Mraz with "I'm Yours", I really like songs that could have been performed at any time in history and it would still ring true.
Do you have a favorite artist from 2016 that you think everyone should hear?
Well definitely Adele. I got her most recent album and I've listened to the whole thing quite a few times. I always seem to be impressed by her, she is extremely talented. I also pre-ordered Michael Bublé's latest album. His music is great. I really like to dance with my wife and Michael Bublé's music is so perfect for just chilling out and having friends over or, if you actually want to dance, to get up and dance. His music is phenomenal.
In your own words, how would you describe your sound?
I would say that my music is easy listening like Jason Mraz or Jack Johnson. It tends to be more acoustic and intimate sounding. Even though I have drums and other instruments in quite a few songs, it still has this intimate feeling that feels like I'm right in the room with you singing to you and so the music is very easy listening, calm, and hopeful.
It's pretty straightforward, but what were your inspirations behind your single "She Rules My World"?
[Laughs] Well, very good question. Really, with this whole album in general, the idea was to create a love story. The first few songs on the album - "Do You Wanna Dance?" and "Someone New" - are about first meeting someone, getting to find that woman who you're so attracted to. And then, "The One I Want", I wrote for my wife, Lea, after one of our dates; it was December 27th actually, not long after our first date, but it was then that I knew that there was really something special about her. And then, "Do You Remember?", that was our first dance song; we actually danced to that song at our wedding and I recently recorded a music video for that song, too. "She Rules My World" I actually wrote after we got married and so I think the main inspiration for this song was, I wanted to write a song about both the joys of meeting some girl who's beautiful and wonderful, but also how it changes once you're married and what the relationship looks like. It's not always easy to be the man that she needs and this feeling that I feel, that she needs more than I can give but, at the same time, she gives me a reason to want to be more, to want to keep being the best version of myself. So definitely my wife inspired this song and, really, my hope with this song was writing a song that could be enjoyable for people who are single and just like the lyrics and enjoy the music but, also, the couples who sometimes get frustrated with the over romanticized songs that talk about how beautiful love is and how great it all is. It's not all pretty, sometimes love is really difficult and frustrating, especially when it pushes your buttons down, but it's still worth it in the end. Marriage is for life and it's not easy, but it's definitely worth it.
Is that single indicative of what we can expect to hear on Love Never Fails and could you tell us more about that album?
Yeah, I would definitely say that that song is pretty indicative of the sound throughout the album. So the first song is "Do You Wanna Dance?". This song I actually wrote quite a few years ago, [laughs] I wrote it to ask a girl to prom, actually, but I adjusted the lyrics a little bit when I got married. That one is very much more of a Jack Johnson, kind of jazzy piece. "Someone New" picks up the pace a little bit and I actually wrote that song with my wife. "The One I Want", I already told you about that one, that's a nice acoustic song that was about one of my first dates with my wife. And then there's a couple of stand-alone tracks that are a little bit different, a little more unique, like "Dance With Me (Baila Conmigo)"; I was literally just jamming on my keyboard and messing around and came up with this beat and then I started writing the lyrics for the chorus but every time I tried to come up with lyrics for the verse, they always sounded really lame and kind of stupid. So I played it for my wife and my mother-in-law and was like, "okay, here's the song," and they were like, "oh, that's so cool, I like the beat," and it had more of a Latin feel to it, like a Salsa almost. They're like, "why don't you just sing an 'ahh' or an 'ooh'," and I was like, "okay". I messed around with that and I was like, "oh, that sounds actually really cool!" and so the whole song is just 'oohs' and 'ahhs' until the chorus where I actually sing all the lyrics [laughs]. "Do You Remember?" is a piano ballad and, again, that was the first dance song at our wedding and we recently recorded a music video re-enacting our first dance. And then, "It's Us Against The World", I'd never done electronic music before and I've been hearing a lot of it so I wanted to experiment with doing a couple electronic tracks, so there's actually two tracks on the album - "It's Us Against The World" and "Give You My Life" - which are both electronic; it was a lot of fun to experiment with the different styles. "Somebody That Matters", that's just piano and voice; that was probably one of the most basic recordings I did and, for some reason, it seems to be the most liked and most popular of my songs, actually. I think it was played on SoundCloud 90,000 times or something and a lot of people tell me that they really like that song and, I don't know; it's similar to "Someone Like You" by Adele, except with slightly more hopeful lyrics [laughs], it's not as depressing. That actually was one my last album but I remixed it for this album. And then, "Love Of My Life" is in Spanish and English; again, kind of a nice ballad and the interesting thing about that song is, depending on how you read the lyrics, you could think that it's a love song for a girl - talking about how she's the love of my life and how wonderful it is - or you could say it's a love song to God - you could say it's this beautiful relationship you have with a higher power; that one was quite a bit of fun. And then "Dobranoc (Good Night My Love)" - [laughs] my wife is Polish, so I actually did my best to write some lyrics in Polish and the song is kind of tongue-in-cheek; it's not the greatest Polish but the most basic things you might say like "hi" and "how are you" and basic things like that, so that one was quite fun; we both went to Europe this past year so I wrote that song while I was on the plane to Poland. And the last track, called "Masterpiece", is, again, inspired by my wife. There's a bonus track called "Freedom In E" which is just instrumental, there's no singing on it, it's just piano, and it's a bridal procession, so you could imagine the bride walking down the church in her white dress and looking beautiful to this song; it's similar to "Canon in D" and has that very simple processional sound to it.
If you had to choose, which track off the album would you call your favorite?
I feel like it's very difficult to answer that question because it really depends on my mood. I'm definitely quite proud of the first track, "Do You Wanna Dance?"; it's just so chill and laid-back and a nice, simple song. "She Rules My World", I love the lyrics to that song and the idea; I don't know if that's my favorite song on the album... It might be "Do You Remember?". I really like "Do You Remember?". It was a fun song to play and now that I've recorded the music video with my wife about dancing to it, every time I hear the song I think about that. Maybe that's the one I'm most proud of, but it's difficult to pinpoint which one is my favorite.
How would you sum up Love Never Fails in one sentence?
Love Never Fails is a love story about meeting, befriending, and living the ups and downs of a joyful marriage.
What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?
I think that the biggest thing that people can take away from my music is, when they hear my music, they can hear that there's some real heart and soul in it; that they can hear that I really mean what I am singing about. My music can be enjoyable just as listening music in the background; it can be great for being played at weddings or during cocktail hours; but it also is great when you give it 100% of your focus, when you're sitting down - or even if you're driving in your car - and you're really listening to the lyrics and hearing, "wow, this is really true," and you might even get a couple songs stuck in your head and play it over and over.
Is there anything you want to add?
For people who read this interview, I would definitely encourage them to listen to the album. You can find it on joshross.bandcamp.com and you can listen to almost all the songs - I think there's 13 out of 15 tracks - and then, if you choose to buy the album, it's actually name your own price so you can pay $1, $10, $25; and if you feel so inclined during Christmas, you can actually send it as a gift to some of your friends. And I'd encourage you to check out our video "Do You Remember?" because it was a really fun video to make with my wife and we got to do what we love to do, which is dancing and singing together. And also, I have an email list and I'll put up a video for Christmas, a video for Valentine's day, and all the other holidays and send a nice little video and message [join the email list here].