A Conversation with The Goo Goo Doll's John Rzeznik
Mike Ragogna: Is it true that you almost finished your new album Something For The Rest Of Us in '09, but then decided to work on it a little more?
John Rzeznik: Yeah, we got the final thing and we listened to the mixes, but we kind of got the feeling that it wasn't right yet. So, we went to the record company, and they were like, "Yeah, take some more time. Make it better." So, we went back in the studio and tightened things up. We wrote another song, recorded some things, and remixed the whole album, and this is what we've got.
MR: Has the band done that with any previous albums?
JR: Not to the extent we did with this one. We really went in and tried to do the whole Bionic Man routine. We went in and worked with a couple of more producers and a different mixer. I just wanted to make a record that I thought would age well. We went back to a lot more classic guitar tones, and we really dug through old albums, listening for great sounds and trying to recapture some of those.
MR: This album reminds me of your older projects. Was that intentional?
JR: I don't think it was intentional, but I think it did kind of come out that way. I think that had a lot to do with the guy that ended up mixing the album because he mixes us live. He's our live sound guy, and we put him in the studio and let him go. I think it helps when somebody who mixes you live every night mixes your album because they know how you sound, and they put your stamp on it.
MR: That's a good point because, although it's not live, it has the energy of a live performance.
JR: Yeah. We used to go in the studio and stand in front of a big microphone, and have to stand three feet away from it. You can't move, and it's really emotionally restrictive, you know? So, I just grabbed a regular, hand-held microphone, and just sang all of my lyrics into that. I could actually kind of perform while I was doing it, and it felt really comfortable.
MR: So, essentially, you captured a true "performance."
JR: Yeah, you can throw a lot more emotion into it, you know?
MR: Yeah. Now, "Home" is your new single?
MR: And it comes with a video.
JR: I've got to be honest, man, I don't really like the video. They kind of wanted to do this sort take off on Lost In Translation, and I'm doing a hundred things, and I'm like, "Sure, okay, that's fine. Let's do it." You know, there's another video out on YouTube that the fans made. They sent in little video clips and some woman edited them together, and I think it captures a lot more emotion than the official video did.
MR: Often, fans do know what's best.
JR: They do, they always do.
MR: And they've been following you for a while. This is your ninth album, right?
MR: Now, you've had many hits and have been nominated for a few Grammys, especially for "Iris." How did you feel about that level of success?
JR: I don't know, man. I just hope that the music we put out is still relevant and relatable. We've accumulated a lot of stuff over the years, a lot of nominations.
MR: Something For The Rest Of Us also is released as a deluxe version with a digital download of "Home," a signed lithograph, and three bonus tracks--Flesh For Lulu's "Postcard From Paradise," Pete Townshend's "Rough Boys," and the Kinks' "Catch Me Now I'm Falling"?
JR: Yeah, yeah.
MR: What inspired the covers?
JR: Well, I love that Flesh For Lulu song. It's such a great song, and I was looking through the old CDs and stuff trying to download it online. Actually, I have to confess that I went to Limewire and found a copy of the original song because I couldn't find it on iTunes. So, if I ever run into the guys from Flesh For Lulu, I promise I'll give them a buck (laughs). It's just such a great pop song, and people don't write songs like that very much anymore.
MR: I remember when Pete Townshend's "Rough Boys" came out on his album Empty Glass. At the time, that was a real landmark record.
JR: Yeah, that was a big one; Robby sings that one. The Kinks' song, I couldn't believe it, I was listening to the lyrics and I was like, "Wow, this song is really relevant today."
MR: Yeah. That's one of my favorite Kinks songs. "Now I'm calling all citizens, from all over the world. This is Captain America calling. I bailed you out when you were down on your luck, so will you catch me now I'm falling..."
JR: Yeah, yeah, it just feels like we're falling. Sometimes it feels like we're falling apart.
MR: Yeah, it's hard. It just seems like an impossible task to get over the economic aftermath of a long period of, to be kind, strange decisions.
JR: Very strange decisions, and very screwed up priorities. I guess Obama's trying, I'm sure he's trying, but the right-wing attack machine is, like, in overdrive. I'm really kind of getting over politics. I have my opinions about it, but the thing that worries me is that I wonder, "What the hell has been going on in Afghanistan? What is the end game?" Why are we putting people's lives in danger? Is it really going to advance the cause of democracy or whatever? Why don't we worry about our own democracy here at home, and let people make up their own minds without having a boot put to their neck.
MR: Do we really know what the end game is in Afghanistan?
JR: Well, if you look at history, that's where empires go to die.
MR: Very interesting. You'd think we would have learned a lesson from the old Soviet Union's defeat in that region.
JR: I don't think we have. I never thought I'd say this in my life, but I think American foreign policy is definitely dictated by the privileged in this country, and the fact that we have an all volunteer army plays a very big role because I think there are corporate elitists and very wealthy people who are perfectly willing to sacrifice a poor kid's life. If there was a draft--and no matter if you were the president's son, a senator's son, or a garbage man's son, you're going--I think that would definitely rationalize our foreign policy more. It's just not fair. If your parents have money, you go to college and go to keggers. If you don't have money and you want to go to college, you go fight in the army.
There is an increasing chasm between the rich and the poor in this country. I live in Los Angeles, and I'm really starting to see pockets of third-world poverty. When I go back to Buffalo to the neighborhood I grew up in which is a working class, Polish neighborhood, it really looks like somebody has been fighting a war there, literally. The buildings are burnt out, falling down, and boarded up. I'm being really bottom line about this; we can't afford to fight these wars. It's a huge contributing factor to destroying our country.
MR: I would say they absolutely destroyed our economy, combined with a few other factors. And we had layoffs, bank and corporate bailouts...there's only so much money in the piggy bank.
JR: The funny thing about the bank bailout, which is really bizarre, is that the institutions that were too big to fail just got bigger by buying other banks and not giving anybody credit, loans, or anything. It's just like, "What are you supposed to do?" Sometimes, I really think it was Bush's last, big cash grab for his buddies.
MR: It was beyond obvious, then President Obama got stuck with the aftermath.
JR: Yeah, we definitely went through the looking glass for eight years, and I just don't get it. Now it's Obama's responsibility to get us out of it, but you just can't keep borrowing money and cutting taxes, it's wrong. You don't do that at home, you can't do that with a country. How the hell are we going to dig out of this debt? And in Iraq, we pulled out fifty thousand combat troops?
MR: I think so.
JR: But there are fifteen thousand new, private mercenaries going over there. What are we doing, are we privatizing a war? If you want to run a private war then go to the people that are going to make money off of it.
MR: Well, we did that with Blackwater.
JR: What is the world coming to when corporations start fighting wars and expect tax payers to pay for it.
MR: Well, now they're considered citizens, thank you, Supreme Court.
JR: Someone might want to think about that when they're trying to get rid of the fourteenth amendment or change it.
MR: Exactly. Now, getting back to Something For The Rest Of Us, there's been an evolution in the band's sound over your nine albums.
JR: We were a band from '86 to '95, and we were these indie darlings. Then we had our first "hit," and our manager said, "Look, don't let this go to your head. Now you have to work twice as hard. Just keep your head down and keep working." We've done that, and we just poked our heads back up and it's like, "Oh my God, it's fifteen years later." It's insane to think about it, and so much of it is just a blur.
MR: Are there any specific events that occurred where you've thought, "Oh my God, if it wasn't for that, then this wouldn't have happened"?
JR: Well, we had a really bad record deal that we had to get out of. In my opinion, it was a really bad record deal. The one thing that this band is really, really good at, is that in times of crisis, we know how to circle the wagons and stick together. We grew up in Buffalo, and there's a certain blue-collar mentality of how we live our lives and work. You've got to get up and go to work, and you keep going until the work is done.
MR: There are some acts that don't really seem to care about evolution or longevity. In fact, there are weeks when if there were no such thing as pitch correction, we wouldn't have a Top Ten.
JR: Yeah, it's kind of interesting.
MR: There seem to be two main routes to success now: Be an indie band that works the Internet and gets a huge fan base that's loyal and supportive, or let a major entity with deep promotional pockets who becomes a partner in your image and sound.
JR: I feel for these kids because, you know, they're talented, but I think one of the things with the whole American Idol deal is that they grab a hold of you and you do what they tell you. I wrote songs with David Cook for his last record, and he's talented, man. That kid can sing, he can play guitar, he knows what he wants to do, and he's constantly fighting for his identity and his right to be an artist. I respect him a lot.
MR: Me too, and you have to admire Daughtry or Josiah Lemming because they shake up the generic sound that's applied to virtually all American Idol graduates.
JR: I worked on a TV show called The Next Great American Band. We had some time off, and I needed some money, so I was like, "Sure, okay, I'll do it." It was actual bands, and the people all played and they were insanely talented. It just turned into this thing, where it was like, "Wait a minute, what about the original music?" It kind of turned into the same thing. The show got canceled, and I'm really grateful that it did because I don't want any part of this anymore. The complexion of it changed because the first couple of weeks, the bands got to play their own music. Awesome bluegrass, and crazy big band stuff, I was like, "This is really cool." Then it sort of turned into, Beatles week or Elton John week, and it started to turn me off.
MR: You're on tour right now?
JR: We're going to do a run of small towns in America, then we're going off to the U.K., then Canada, Japan, and Australia.
MR: Touring with anyone?
JR: The opening act on this run is going to be a really great band called Spill Canvas. They did part of the summer tour opening for us, and they're just a great rock band. They go out there and they don't mess around, man.
MR: As you know, in addition to being on The Huffington Post's entertainment page, this interview also will be broadcast on solar-powered KRUU-FM. What do you think about solar power?
JR: You know, I live in California, and every time I look at my electric bill I'm like, "Uh, maybe we should look into these solar panels?" I think it's amazing that you guys do that.
MR: I'm amazed that we're the only ones doing this in the Midwest and that more stations aren't jumping on it. What's wrong with that picture.
JR: I don't know. I think you guys are really kind of blazing a trail here, and you're showing that it's feasible. You guys should be really proud of yourselves.
MR: Thanks John. Do you have any advice for up-and-coming acts starting out right now?
JR: Yeah, just be yourself. Don't be afraid to be yourself. And don't worry about getting famous because that means nothing. There are a lot of really useless people in this world that are famous. Do something good, do something you're proud of, speak your mind, and do it fearlessly.
1. Sweetest Lie
2. As I Am
5. One Night
6. Nothing Is Real
7. Now I Hear
8. Still Your Song
9. Something For The Rest Of Us
10. Say You're Free
11. Hey Ya
(transcribed by Ryan Gaffney)
A Conversation with David Gray
Mike Ragogna: You have a new album called Foundling, and when I spoke to you just this last Fall, you had released your previous project, Draw The Line. These albums are coming fast and furious, so I guess you're going through a major creative period.
David Gray: I've changed my pace. Enough of the jokes about my quiet years or my years off; I'm back now, and it's like every year, there's one coming out. People will be sick of me within months.
MR: (laughs) No, no. Hey, I remember Draw The Line had some very cool guests. You had Jolie Holland, and Annie Lennox on "Full Steam." The vibe of that record was kind of personal in comparison to some of your previous albums. How did you approach Foundling from a production standpoint?
DG: It is very stripped down. The band is playing live, and I'm singing live. That's what I'm after, really, capturing a moment. That became the thing that I was most interested in, and it's really the way my career started. So, I've kind of gone back to my earliest principles. Foundling takes the idea further than Draw The Line does in that the songs are quieter and there's really nothing going on at times. It's just about as quiet as I've ever recorded, and I think it sounds sweet because of that. That's what I was striving for, anyway. "Less is more" is a rather overused phrase, but elements of the song and the arrangement sing out so clearly that you don't need to embellish with much at all. Where instruments are added, it's kept to a minimum, and that's my basic philosophy on both of these records, but particularly Foundling.
MR: Are you going on tour to support this record in the States?
DG: The tour that I'm doing is really the end of the Draw The Line tour. To represent this record, I'll need to put a different kind of sound together for live, and a different kind of band. So, I'll be doing that next year. I'm going to leave a little pause, then I'm going to come back and play some shows to support that record separately.
MR: Let's get into some of the music on Foundling. As you mentioned earlier, it sonically has more in common with material you recorded early in your career. "Gossamer Thread," for instance, seems like a nod to that period than most of the other tracks. Am I off base there?
DG: No, I think everything bares a relation to something else familiar, for sure. They've all got cousins or distant relatives on other albums. In "Gossamer Thread," it's just executed to a different level. It's just a band take--with bass, acoustic guitar, drums, and that's it. There's just one overdub on there, which is the piano at the very end. There is the story of the song itself, then there's an outro, where it spills over into a different section of music until it goes to a final outro, which is again, different. It's a kind of journey song, something I'm slightly preoccupied with, like a song that changes its face several times. It's not necessarily lyrically linked together in any particular way, but somehow, it's all part of the same picture. It's a bit like the song called "Dream Gerard" by Traffic, which is really inspiring, and does just that. You can look at most of the songs on Astral Weeks, and they also move off and then expand in different directions and follow a kind of stream of consciousness. So, that's an idea I was pursuing with that. But yes, the instrumentation is basic, rugged, and it just is what it is. Hopefully, it fills up the track. I'm particularly pleased with that because it was a difficult take to get. It was a long take with a lot of complicated changes, and we managed to pull it off.
MR: You talked about stream of consciousness, and "Davey Jones' Locker" has lyrics like, "At the edge of consciousness, where logic starts to fade. Where the spirit goes unchecked..." By the time you hit "Davey Jones' Locker"'s chorus, are you talking about transcendence or evolution?
DG: I'm talking about slipping through one of the side doors, and down. Take me out of my conscious mind, and take me down into dreams, into sleep, or into imagined worlds that are just as big as the real one. That's what it means to me. Strip off the artifice and take me away from my tiresome construct that I toss up. I want to be free of my logical, conscious thought process. It's a yearning to just go down into the kingdom of the drowned.
MR: Beautiful. I'll bet there are those who will hear this song and say, "Woh, he's speaking my language."
DG: To me it's just an alternative. Take me somewhere that isn't here, and that's what music does for me, and that's what writing does. It allows me freedom to go places without getting on an airplane, which as we all know, is pretty tiresome these days. It's an alternative form of travel, music.
MR: There's also the very subtle "In God's Name." What is the exact instrumentation on that? I was hearing all sorts of things, and then later on, I started second guessing myself.
DG: It's basically a baritone guitar, upright bass, and drums. Then there's a hurdy-gurdy and some piano, and there's a bouzouki, and then you hear an electric guitar as well.
MR: "The Old Chair" reminds me, thematically, of a Neil Diamond song called "Morningside," where he talks about a table that has been in the family for many years. Everybody treasured it because it was where everybody gathered, ate, talked, and grew together. There was a lot of sentimental attachment by the parents, but when the kids inherit the table, they get rid of it. Then there's the song "Forgetting" which ties in thematically. You're discussing the blessing of forgetting with some great imagery, especially emphasized by the sirens...well, the musical equivalent of sirens. Then you close the song with that very dramatic string section. Do you have any thoughts about all this?
DG: Well, the lyric doesn't really need unraveling. I think the concept is there to be understood as it stands. We forget, don't we? Everything disappears. I remember when my dad died, and somebody rather callously said, "It's amazing how quickly you forget what they look like, and everything about them." It's so true. I think without a visual prompt like a picture or some video footage, memory gets very hazy very quickly, and it's hard to distinguish whether it's some projection or what, anyway. I think when you get old, it becomes even more so, and also you're living in the past, which is weird. The idea is about fleetingness of everything. The song is self-explanatory, and I don't want to make it sound more clumsy than it already is.
It's the only thing I've recorded in a long time where I've done the lyrics first. So, I had this writing scheme, and I thought, "This works. I could write like this all day." And I did write about twenty verses for it. Then I just sat there at the piano on a sort of quiet day, and I picked out some chords and kept the foot pedal down to sustain them so they would blend into each other, which is kind of in keeping with the idea of the song. That was it, it just sort of clicked. I recorded two versions of it, and the one you hear is the second one. It all just came together, and I've never recorded so quietly. I was barely hitting the chords on the piano, and the vocal was just a whisper, really. I didn't get above thirty percent on the singing for the whole track, and it sort of blossoms on the mic in a really lovely way. Then I added the idea of a static string line that just sort of comes from nothing and grows, then the fall on the cello, with all the notes just bleeding into itself.
We had beautiful playing for our production from Caroline (Dale) on the cello, and from Iestyn on the knobs. It really came together very simply, there was hardly anything to it. My guitarist, Neill (MacColl), put this really eloquent acoustic part to it, and it didn't really need much, but it's just a little bit of flavor to help the song come to a crescendo around the lyric. That's really it, it's as simple as possible, but I guess the ingredients were right, and the writing was strong, and the whole thing just holds together and has a real tension about it. So, yeah, it's a bit of walled off, and it's not like I can really follow that with another song called "Remembering" or "Walking." It's a "one of," but I really love that track, it came out really good.
MR: It reminds me a lot of the old singer-songwriters, Randy Newman especially comes to mind.
DG: Yeah, we we're talking about things like "I Think It's Going To Rain Today," and that kind of stuff. "Broken windows and empty hallways..." That's a stupendous bit of string arranging there.
MR: Are you familiar with Randy's album Sail Away, Good Old Boys, and maybe some of his older stuff?
DG: To go from a world where everyone is emoting hell for leather to that dry, calm, ironic, understated delivery, I love it. Weighty things dealt with without this sort of super emotional delivery. So, you've hit the nail on the head there with the Randy Newman reference.
MR: Thank you. Now, most people in the States caught on to you, in a large way, through your hit "Babylon." But how would you guide us through your earlier records?
DG: Well, it's weird. Listening back to your stuff is kind of embarrassing. I don't listen back to that stuff, it sounds nothing like I sound now, in a way. Yet, there's obviously a cause, a voice behind the song that's mine. I think my first record came out well. I had time to prepare for it, I had a record company that gave me a budget, it was all very structured and well organized; I had a producer who was respectful of my music and made it sound good and allowed me to concentrate on performing the songs live in the studio, which is what I wanted to do. It was all done in a week or so. We added a bit of mixing, and a bit of overdubbing, and that was the end of it. It has a sort of spirit, so, A Century Ends, I think is a good place to start.
DG: I really like my very first single, "Birds Without Wings." It's a three track EP, and you can buy this record, which has all my early EPs together on it. These are just record company creations. Once I started selling units, all these strange records began to crop up with like Best Of The Early Years, and all this. It's all just the same stuff, generally, packaged together differently.
MR: Is that any surprise, really?
DG: Nowadays you can buy track by track, and there's a song called "L's Song" on my first single, a b-side. I still hold that song very dear. Moving on, it sort of gets patchy because my career got very patchy. I knew I wanted to steer the ship, but I didn't know quite how to do it, so, I took on a bit of water there for a while. I needed to refine my ideas for each record. There's a slight schizophrenia between aggressive music, and quiet, sort of contemplative stuff. Not that those two things can't co-exist, but it doesn't always segue very smoothly--I'm covering Flesh, and Sell Sell Sell. But I do think there were moments on each of them that were worth something. Then, White Ladder came about, and I think from that point, it's all quite straight forward. I have people coming up to me, and they're not "weird," but they say to me, "Oh, my favorite album is Flesh or Sell Sell Sell." People pick the oddest things, and I'm like, "Yeah?" You never know what people are going to latch onto. There might be something that makes me feel uncomfortable now that they might like. To have a perspective on the early music that was so long ago, I think is up to the people. I think the beauty of the internet is you can go and investigate anything if you want to find out about it enough. It's all there to be listened to. There are songs like "Shine" from my first album, that really stood the test of time. Certain things seem to last.
MR: Well, also in the U.S., as far as popularity, your music was on virtually every television show. When somebody picks up a David Gray album, there are going to be at least two or three titles that people know because you've been on all of these shows.
DG: Okay, well that's good.
MR: Maybe you're not aware of how that's happened.
DG: I'm vividly aware of certain things, like ER used "Slow Motion," and I think somebody used "Nemesis" recently. If it's a good moment, in a good show, it obviously has a big effect. It brings people into your music. "Who is this guy? I like that song." All this stuff is helpful.
MR: Who influenced you, and do you think you're having an influence on some artists that are out there? Have any come to you and said, "Thank you, David for influencing me musically"?
DG: A few, yeah, you do get that sometimes. For me, so many people have been a big influence, but there's none bigger than Bob Dylan. That's really what fired my imagination when I was young. Everything is secondary to that, I would say. I discovered Dylan when I was about thirteen, and I discovered Madness, and The Specials, and all that sort of music when I was about twelve. So, I somewhat pitch between the two, that's my identity--Dylan, in terms of writing, and just the color of his ideas was like discovering a vast continent of imagery. When I found his music, it was so pared down, and I loved that fact that there was nothing between me and what he was saying. It was all about the lyric, and that's an appropriate way to close it because that's pretty much what I ended up with on Foundling. I boiled it down to that again.
MR: I know we're celebrating the new album Foundling, but are you already looking at your next album.
DG: Well, I've got thoughts going through my head and some lines written in my notebook, but I wouldn't say I'm ready to head to the studio just yet. I've got a few songs I've written while I've been on the road for the last year or so, and obviously, there will always be stuff left over. Even with all the extra tracks that we've put out--with the Foundling record there's a bonus CD that has nine or ten things on it-- everybody wants a freebie nowadays. But there's still stuff left over, things that we didn't quite catch or I didn't get the lyrics finished or wasn't happy about, and there are some good ones that didn't get on there. I wouldn't say I'm quite set in my mind on the next album. I need to get the job done first, I need to do this big tour, and then have a few glasses of champagne and chill the f**k out.
MR: What kind of advice do you have for up and coming artists?
DG: I always stumble a bit on this question. I just think, follow your heart, and try to not listen to what the consensus view is. Follow your feelings about music, don't listen to the media. Just play it the way you want to play it, and try to have faith in that. Stay in the game, you never know when something is going to happen for you. It could seem like nothing is ever going to happen, and then next thing you know, you've got a hit on your hands. It's strange, sometimes, how things can work. Don't listen to all the nay-sayers because music will always exist, and people need it and thrive on it. So, if you want to make it, you have to have some faith in what you're making, otherwise you won't be around for long. It's a crushed world, and it's a lacerated industry, but people still have a passion for music, same as ever. You just have to make the music good so that you don't get sick of it, and everything else will work itself out. It's a follow your heart business. Don't try to play what you think someone else wants to hear. That's really about the only advice I can give.
MR: Well, thank you, David, for coming by. I really appreciate it.
DG: Thank you.
1. Only The Wine
4. Gossamer Thread
5. The Old Chair
6. In God's Name
7. We Could Fall In Love Again Tonight
8. Holding On
9. When I Was In Your Heart
10. A New Day At Midnight
11. Davey Jones' Locker
(transcribed by Ryan Gaffney)
A Conversation with Josiah Leming
Mike Ragogna: You have a new debut album, Come On Kid. But first, apparently, because of the circumstances by which you left American Idol, they invented this wild card thing, right?
Josiah Leming: Yeah, I think so. It's just kind of like a fail safe, you know?
MR: I can't imagine being on American Idol, and having all the pressure that comes with it. How did you get discovered for the show?
JL: Well, I went to Atlanta and auditioned. So, you sit in a stadium with thousands of other people and wait until you get your chance to sing, and you give it all you've got. There were three or four other processes, but it was all just about going and doing it.
MR: You were just seventeen when you left Tennessee to audition?
JL: I was seventeen when I left home, and then I spent those ten months traveling around, just drifting. Then, at the end of those ten months, I decided to go and give it a shot.
MR: Now, you're originally from Tennessee, right?
JL: Yes sir, East Tennessee. It's important to notate the "East" because Tennessee has three specific parts. It's more like the "Kentucky" Tennessee.
MR: Now, people assume that because an artist is from Tennessee--and where, of course, Nashville is--he or she must be country, but that's not true with you, is it?
JL: I've cleansed myself of that action.
MR: I see. Well, this album, to me, is a really nice pop record. I was really surprised by its high quality because most albums by young artists show the work in progress though this one is pretty solid top to bottom.
JL: I think the whole key to that was that I'm kind of a religious writer, in the respect that I love to write. Also, we really took our time developing it and making the sound. We had EPs come out where we were trying to nail down the sound we were getting, and we were close, but kind of wandering around it. When we got the final tracks on this album, it all came together, and I'm really proud of it. I think we finally nailed down the sound, and I can honestly say I'm proud of every song on the album.
MR: Now, you've had some hardships in your life, especially with the passing of your mother.
JL: Yeah, it was about a year ago. I've got to say, that has been the whole turning point for everything that is happening now. That happened and I knew I was either going to implode or really get it together. I had trouble writing until finally I wrote "Come On Kid" and the last song on the album, which are two kind of different feelings, but a lot more pure than what my writing was before. I finally kind of figured it out and got on it, and since then there's been no looking back. Once I wrote "Come On Kid," I knew that was going to be the title of the album, and I knew that everything was going to fall into place. It's really almost a self-help song, you know?
MR: Does your writing come from life experience?
JL: That's the only thing I can write about. I'm a strong believer that if I don't have something to say, there's no reason for me to write a song. In order to be completely honest in your songwriting, and I think you have to be, you have to have experienced something. Songs are my way of getting past hard things, and they're my way of jumping hurdles. Songs are kind of like my coming of age and growing up, and writing is like my vow for all that stuff.
MR: I've got to ask you about "Arctic Outcry Wind." What was the concept of that one?
JL: I was at a mall when I started that song, and sometimes, I just get these really uncomfortable kinds of feelings that come from a million places. Songs like that are like my coming of age things, where I really don't know how to deal with what I'm going through mentally and internally, you know? So, it's one of those moments that I didn't really know how to describe, so, I just gave it my best shot.
MR: Okay, now try to explain "Silly Fly."
JL: (laughs) "Silly Fly" is probably my favorite one to play and perform. It was supposed to be a throwaway song, and I played it for Warren Huart, who also produced "Song Without A Reason," and it was just like a complete refreshment song. I think I tell a different story every time I play that song. There are about a million ways to get around describing it.
MR: Is "Come On Kid" your single?
JL: I think it is, yes sir.
MR: Then, the next couple of songs, "Maybe" and "To Run" both sound like equally powerful, I guess in the old days you'd say "follow up singles."
JL: Yeah, "Maybe" was a song that I really had to tell myself, "This is going to be a hopeful song." I wrote about twenty pages of words for it. Some were happy, some were sad, some left it hopeful, some left it bad, and I worked on that song for a really long time. I felt that this album needed a happy song or a hopeful song. So, that one and "To Run" are about the same girl, and I feel like they transition nicely.
MR: So, you've had some interesting relationships?
JL: Yeah, I've had a few, man (laughs).
MR: Nice. And you've recently started a new relationship, one with Reprise records.
JL: Yeah, Reprise.
MR: How did you get signed?
JL: Well, after I left the show, the fan response was amazing. So, we were originally going to make the album by ourselves, without a label, and we sent out a feeler for producers. A guy named Perry Watts-Russell happened to stumble across a video I'd done. What struck me was that he was passionate about the songs and about me as a writer. Obviously, there was some advantage from coming off the show, but I think they really honed-in on developing me, and not trying to wring me out for a few quick bucks.
MR: Yeah, it's refreshing to hear stories like that because you always hear about the nightmares.
JL: You know, it seems that they're making that switch, and that's the only way to do it. It's hard both ways, but that is the way that's really going to pay off eventually--really developing the artist. I like it better this way, and I feel like I'm building things that aren't going to go away overnight and that aren't all based on one song being on the charts because when that song is off the charts, you're left with nothing, kind of running in place. We're on the road nonstop, and we're out nurturing my fan base. I'm writing because that's important...to keep writing. We're learning how to do things smart, and for me, music is where it's at. So, my ultimate goal is to set up something that I can do for the rest of my life, and I don't think that comes from just throwing me in the studio with a bunch of writers and hit producers and trying to make that one hit song that's going to make a quick buck.
MR: That's pretty wise. What do you feel is your biggest personal or creative leap between your appearance on American Idol and now?
JL: You know, every ounce and every step of these last few years has been retardedly frustrating because it's been a real battle of mental and emotional preparedness and really getting that maturity. So, honestly, the biggest things that happened were the family matters. It was just like three shots of reality, and there was really no way to prepare myself for that. And that's what it came down to, you know. I'd been in L.A. for a year and a half, and I was signed with a label that still believed, but there was absolutely nothing going on. So, for me, I'd almost lost touch with myself, and it came down to a point where I had to say, "This is what I love, this is what I want to do, and I just have to get it. No one's going to hand it to me on a silver platter." I think it took all that wandering around and then that hard dose of reality to just completely put me in my place. Once I realized my place, it was just like I shot forward.
MR: Right. And when did you live in your car?
JL: Well, that was before the Idol thing. For me, that was kind of like a dream come true; nobody telling me what to do or who to be, and if I wanted to go to the gas station and buy a bunch of Doritos, Red Bull, and Cigarettes, I could. So, for me, that was just being a kid.
MR: What's coming up on your agenda?
JL: Well, right now I'm in L.A., where we're doing some of this pre-stuff. The album comes out (soon), which is just huge. Then, I set off on October 1st, and we're doing a two-month Fall tour with Tyler Hilton. We're actually playing high schools during the daytime, and at night, we're doing all ages venues. So, I'm just getting out and working it. Like I said, I really believe in this album, and anything we can do for it, we're going out and kind of nailing it.
MR: And we believe in it here at solar-powered KRUU-FM. What do you think of that?
JL: It sounds awesome. I imagine people running around in silver astronaut uniforms, like you're in a really hot climate, for some reason. I get a really good mental picture from that name.
MR: (laughs) That's great. Josiah, thank you for coming by again.
JL: Thank you for having me man.
1. Come On Kid
3. To Run
4. Arctic Outcry Wind
5. Day and Night
6. Body and Mind
7. Silly fly
8. Joy And Happiness
9. Song Without a Reason
(transcribed by Ryan Gaffney)
HuffPost Entertainment is your one-stop shop for celebrity news, hilarious late-night bits, industry and awards coverage and more — sent right to your inbox six days a week. Learn more