Words/Interview by Emily Hollitt
With emotional lyrics, ‘80’s inspired production and layers upon layers of hooky, ambient guitar lines, Gold Coast newcomer Josh King wows with his debut single 116. Echoing the sounds of artists such as Maggie Rogers, Lauv and The 1975, Josh’s blend of different Pop styles and genres gives him an unmistakable sound right from the get-go of his career. His narrative-style song follows the story of falling in love from start to finish and how quickly something that seemed so solid quickly fell apart. Using colours and times and other specifics to set the scene for his music, I just had to pick his brain to see how this track came about and what the exciting emerging artists had in store next!
What’s the story behind ‘116’?
‘116’ deals with first love, from the first time that you realise you like each other, to the moment that the relationship ends. It’s based on my own experiences, but I think that anyone who’s been in a relationship that didn’t work out will be able to relate.
Some of the synths and drum tones in the production remind me a lot of Pop in the ‘80s which is making a huge comeback right now. Was this an intentional thing? And if so, what aspect of or artists from this era inspire you the most?
A lot of my influences at the moment are really a part of that 80s comeback, and I think I’ve been somewhat secondhand influenced by artists like Taylor Swift and LANY. Looking back, ‘1989’ was such an iconic – and for me – influential album.
During the recording process of 116 though, I was picking out Juno patches (THE 80s synth), and asking for us to put a chorus on literally every guitar, so it definitely was intentional even if I wasn’t explicitly relating it to the 80s and moreso just artists I like, if that makes sense?
Since then I’ve listened to so much 80s stuff – Tears For Fears, The Police, Bryan Adams and Don Henley are some of my faves for sure.
How was the writing process for this track? Lyrics first, idea, instrumental?
I started the song back in 2018 whilst I was in somewhat of a songwriting rut. I think I came up with the first verse and pre-chorus in terms of melodies and lyrics, plus a basic chord structure on guitar and left it at that for a while. The lyrics and melody didn’t change from then to now. As my relationship changed and eventually ended, I wrote the second verse and pre-chorus. The chorus was actually an entirely separate voice memo that I had that ended up getting deleted by accident, but stuck around in my head (thankfully). I managed to get the two parts to work together, and then the bridge felt like it wrote itself.
I love how you combine lush guitar tones and playing with sophisticated modern Pop production. Which guitarist inspires you the most?
Thank you! John Mayer is undoubtedly my guitar hero. That probably sounds strange because his sort of guitar parts don’t really fit into pop (at the moment), but I think it’s the understanding I got from his music that informs a lot of the decisions I’ve made guitar wise. I mean obviously my music doesn’t sound like Mayer anymore, but guitar is such a prominent part of my musical history that there’s no way I could do without it.
You say “I love songs that kinda want to make you cry, but want to make you dance at the same time.” Which ‘116’ absolutely does. What songs inspired you replicate this type of song?
There are a couple, but LANY’s If You See Her comes to mind. That one is a bit more upbeat than 116, but it’s definitely in the same vein I think. A lot of Maggie Rogers’ catalogue as well!
You say you’ve spent the last 5 years trying to find your sound. What did that look like?
There was a lot of collaboration and mainly discovering new music whilst studying at Uni. I didn’t really have a diverse music taste back then, and it was my peers that introduced me to my now favourites such as John Mayer, Maggie Rogers, Catfish and The Bottlemen, among others. I honestly just had a lot of trial and error. I would find someone’s sound that I liked and then try to replicate it in my own way, and throughout all that, I think I’ve ended up where I am now. In saying that though, I think that this is an ever-evolving facet of being an artist. Who knows what sort of music I’ll be making 5 years from now – I just hope it’s honest.
What advice can you give to other newcomers who might be looking to release their first track?
I think it’s important to set realistic targets, have a detailed plan for before and perhaps more importantly after the release, and don’t expect your first track to be your be all and end all. I’ve tried to look at it as moreso a stepping stone to bigger things.
How are you coping creatively with the current state of the world?
Well it’s definitely a strange time, especially considering that I try to write about things that happen to me/ in my life – something that feels like it’s on hold at the moment. I’ve taken the time to work on producing my own songs because a lot of the artists I’m inspired by – Lauv, Charlie Puth, and Maggie Rogers to name a few – produce their own stuff, and I think that having the ability to do so at a basic level might help me to better communicate the vision I have in my head for future songs.
What local artists are you the most excited about right now?
I absolutely love what Alexander William is doing. He’s such a cool dude, and such a great writer – I’m a huge fan.
Also really dig Phoebe Sinclair’s single, OMG that she released in the last few months of 2019. It’s just such a bop.
What can we expect next from Josh King?
I have so much music to release this year so you can expect lots of bops! Hopefully some live shows at the end of the year too – coronavirus permitting.
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