SOBRIETY & SINCERITY
So often artists are touted as the best new thing or re-inventors of a genre or style. There is of course a time and a place for all those things but there’s equally much to be said about an artist who captures the purity and authenticity of a style. An artist like Joshua Hedley.
Joshua Hedley, a Florida native who has found his spiritual home in Nashville, has for many years been a highly respected fiddle player and sideman for artists such as Justin Townes Earle and Jonny Fritz. A tour EP he recorded came to the attention of Jack White’s Third Man Records label who offered him a recording contract and the opportunity to release his debut solo album Mr. Jukebox.
“I did not expect to put out a solo record,” says Hedley. “It was sort of birthed in Australia when I was touring over there and I didn’t have a record and people kept coming up and asking at the merch booth if I had one. I made an EP to sell on tour and then Ben Swank and Jack at Third Man got a hold of it and they asked if I wanted to turn it into a full length record. I wasn’t expecting that!“ exclaims Hedley. “It’s been pretty cool and a real learning experience. I was fully prepared to tour with Jonny and play at Robert’s Western World for the rest of my life!”
Robert’s Western World is the bar in Nashville where Hedley has for many years entertained the drinkers and the tourists with his favourite country songs. “I’m still doing it and I plan on doing it as long as I’m able to. It’s the only time I get to play these cover songs I like and I get to play with my band there. I have a different touring band as all the other guys have families. It’s almost like a security blanket for me when my life feels like it’s all upside down. When I can play at Robert’s I still feel like myself,” he declares honestly.
Hedley became sober three years ago and it was a major turning point for him that opened up a whole new avenue of songwriting, leading to the songs on Mr. Jukebox. “I didn’t necessarily write the songs to be an album. I hadn’t been writing, I wrote two and those were the only two songs I had for a long time. I quit drinking and got sober and I just started writing and got ideas and started writing them down as fast as they were coming to me. I must have written 20 songs in two months as opposed to two songs in 20 months,” recalls Hedley. “I had a lot more free time, not being at the bar every day and not sleeping until 5pm,” he laughs. “It’s not a very creative way to live. Something clicked in me and I started writing and I ended up with more than an album’s worth of songs.”
With a lifetime steeped in country music – Hedley was requesting a fiddle from his parents from the age of three – he’s learnt the ins and outs of writing and performing across the genre. Along the way he discovered what he believes is the most important elements of country music.
“For me it’s relatability and sincerity. Those are two things you have to have when you’re writing country music. I always write from personal experience but I don’t want to write a song that is so personal to me that the average person can’t relate to it. The average working class dude on the street. He can’t relate to a song about touring 200 days a year but he might have had his heart broken a few years ago and relate to a song that I wrote about me getting my heart broken. It’s about conveying an emotion in a way that everyone can feel it too.”