Artsits Spotlight - Josh Gracin: Finding His Own Redemption
By: Matt Bjorke
Before there was a Carrie Underwood and before there was a Scotty McCreery, there was Josh Gracin, the first artists to successfully move from American Idol to country radio airwaves. Signed to Lyric Street Records after the show, Josh immediately hit the charts with a string of Top 10 hits which included #1 hit Nothing To Lose.” His self-titled debut album for the label sold well and eventually went Gold (as did “Nothing To Lose”). After the label found the second go’round a little harder (but still good enough to score his 4th Top 10 hit with “We Weren’t Crazy,”) Josh and the label parted ways. The artist eventually signed with strong independent label Average Joe’s Entertainment and set about recording a record that would truly represent him. Released November 8, the US military veteran showcased his true talent by co-producing and writing all but one of the album’s 16 tracks.
Below is our conversation about Redemption along with many other topics discussed, including how Josh supports veterans in partnership with SEARS and how he helped recognize the teacher who made the biggest impact on his life.
Matt Bjorke: How would you compare the process of making this record in comparison to your other two records?
Josh Gracin: well, the process of making this record was much more in-depth of a process for me. The production was handled by somebody else and the first record, I didn’t write anything and the second record I wrote three of the songs. But for this record I was able to co-produce the record as well as write or co-write [nearly] everything on it.
Matt: Did it take a while to gather the songs for this project?
Josh: No, it didn’t take too long to gather the songs. There are 16 songs on the record and those were basically what I had these songs going in. Most writers in Nashville finish a song no matter what it comes out sounding like, which is unlike what I do. Because, when I write I have a lot of half songs and quarter songs on my iPhone and notepad where if I’m not feeling it, I’m not gonna write it. That’s a great thing about owning my own publishing as well; I don’t have to meet publisher requirements. So these are the songs I had finished going into recording the album and I’ve continued to write after.
Matt: How great was it for you to be working with a record label like Average Joe’s?
Josh: It’s been fun. It’s been a great learning experience. Coming from Lyric Street, they had deep pockets and could basically do whatever they wanted to, if they wanted to make something. Coming to this label, for everyone except Montgomery Gentry and myself, everyone else on the label has great success regionally and through grass roots. They might not have 250,000 fans spread out throughout the country but they’ve got them in one area. So it makes it a little easier when you know where to market.
So with Average Joe’s, I’ve learned some stuff about how to move the things from a national scale and try to dig in on a grassroots level and try to get the fans more involved and engaged again with my music.
Matt: So is it safe to say that you’re active with your social media networks?
Josh: Absolutely! I do my own Facebook and twitter pages and I think that when I took over the Facebook from lyric street, I think there was something like 6900 likes on Facebook and 1500 on Twitter and my Facebook has over 44,000 and my twitter has over 13,000 and that’s just from being active and the fans finding out it’s just me. So the word of mouth from fans telling their friends has helped a lot.
Matt: That’s kinda like our Facebook...
Josh: Word of Mouth is amazing!
Matt: What can you tell me about the single “Long Way To Go?” How did it end up on the AC charts?
Josh: Somebody from outside of the label had heard the album and they were basically consulting with him about where to take the music after it was finished and he really wanted to take the song and see what it’d do at AC. Me being in country the last 8 years, I’ve heard horror stories about people trying to do something else so I kinda put my foot down a bit and said you can do this if you want to but I don’t want to ignore country music and we needed to plan on what the single would be for country. It’s what we’re doing now and we’re leaning towards “Can’t Say Goodbye.”
“Long Way To Go” has sort have been the dark horse of the album and while I’m not a new artist, usually that chart has hits that come from other charts first. So it’s been a learning experience but fun.
Matt: “Can’t Say Goodbye” has a great story behind it. What can you tell me about it?
Josh: Sears approached me in March of 2011 and asked me to be involved with their Heroes At Home charity which is a charity to benefit disabled veterans. They go into homes and add ramps and help fix houses to make it easier for disabled veterans to move around their homes. And they were doing a contest to have people from around the country and globe and write in their stories about their military hero. It was up to us to choose the top story and up to me to write a song based on that story. I had three months to do it and I didn’t finish the song until to the night before.
We were going into the studio and there was going to be a film crew filming it along with Seana, who wrote the story, coming as well. It took me 3 months and I must have went through 50 different ideas and had completed it a few times but it didn’t feel right so I had one more conversation with her and it hit me and I wrote it. It was an awesome experience. The song is great and the video they made for it was amazing.
Matt: So are the proceeds for the song’s single downloads going to the Heroes at Home foundation?
Josh: Yes. For every download go people get, all the proceeds to heroes at home and now they’ve allowed it to be on the album so a portion of the proceeds of the album sales will also go to Heroes at Home. I’ve been involved since March and Sears keeps asking me to do things involved with the charity.
Matt: I’m sure you can relate to the charity well, being a veteran yourself…
Josh: I absolutely can. In fact, while I was stationed in California, I actually worked at Sears. I wanted to make sure my daughter had a great Christmas one year so I worked there.
Matt: What can you tell me about the “Behind Every Famous Person is a Teacher” campaign?
Josh: Yeah, that’s a campaign that I was approached about and they asked me if I would like to take a picture with a former teacher of mine who had inspired me. And I thought it’d be real cool to be a part of it. Miss Fritz was my music teacher, vocal music, in elementary school, from grades 1-6. And I didn’t do choir for middle school, didn’t want any part of it…
Matt: because it wasn’t cool…
Josh: Exactly! But when I got to High School, she was there. I was like “I’ll try it.” Just because she was there, I went. She gave me direction, and taught me some things and she was a teacher for over 25 years. I thought there wasn’t anyone more deserving. It was well deserved for her.
Matt: How much fun do you have taking the music to the fans across the country?
Josh: I have a lot of fun. It’s kinda like if you’ve ever played sports or hobby, practicing and working up to it, trying to perfect your craft, you don’t like that part. But everything is worth it when I step on the stage, regardless of whether there are ten people or five thousand people there. It’s a great time.
Matt: If you had to describe country music in one word, what would it be?
Josh: Honest. That’s why I love this genre. It tells stories, no matter who wrote it or who is singing it. Either the songwriter has gone through it and is writing about it or the singer who is singing the writer’s song, they chose it because they can relate to it and that’s what I love the best.