Josh Thompson Goes To Work: The 9513′s Exclusive Interview
Blue collar country music comes natural to Josh Thompson. He makes no apologies for songwriting that reflects a hard day’s work and the celebration of a week’s end that follows. He writes about it because he’s lived it.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Thompson began pouring concrete at the tender age of 12 in his home state of Wisconsin. The skill helped him make ends meet when he arrived in Nashville.
“I was still pouring concrete three days a week,” he says. “A lot of times I’d start at 7, then wash off with a garden hose and head to a writing appointment. Some nights I’d write songs until 2:30, get up at 6, splash some water on my face and do it again.”
In 2005, after just a few month in Nashville, Thompson secured a publishing deal with Ash Street Music. It took three years for his first big songwriting break, the title track on Jason Michael Carroll’s album Growing Up Is Getting Old.
Thompson no longer needs that second job. His Columbia Nashville debut, Way Out Here, hit store shelves this month and his first single, “Beer On The Table,” has become a bonafide hit on radio and on the country music television channels.
The album is representative of the man–proud of being from the country, but prouder yet of being from the working class. The 9513 had an opportunity to sit down with the singer/songwriter and talk about his new found success.
JOSH THOMPSON: (Laughing) I guess I would be. I guess I am. That’s funny, I’ve never heard it put that way before.
KMJ: Let’s talk about the new album. I’ve had a chance to listen to it and it has a lot of blue-collar themes running through it. I would imagine that a lot of that came from working, at an early age, in your father’s business.
JT: Yes, definitely. That’s where it started. Then I jumped on a bigger [construction] crew and did that full time for about three years. I picked up a guitar at the age of 21 and eventually moved to Nashville where I poured concrete again. The last time I poured concrete was about November of 2008.
KMJ: You could be called a late-bloomer, not learning guitar until the age of 21.
JT: I’m definitely a late-bloomer. I tried to play earlier than that, but I guess I didn’t have the patience for it. I got to the point where I fell in love so much with music that I just had to play. At that point, I never really thought of it as a means of writing or expressing myself.
KMJ: Was it country music that you were a big fan of even as a child?
JT: Right. There was always music on in my house and I was singing everywhere I went. I loved music, but I never really had the desire to play myself until later in life.
KMJ: What were some of the musical influences that eventually pushed you into choosing to writing and performing as a career?
JT: There’s a bunch of them. Patsy Cline. Randy Travis was big. Everly Brothers. Haggard was a big influence. Bobby Bare. Tom T. Hall. All those guys. Once I was old enough to search for music on my own, that’s totally what I was digging. I just dug and dug and finally it got to the point where my parents were always saying, “where the hell did you get that?”
KMJ: Fast forward a few years. You got your first big songwriting break with a cut on Jason Michael Carroll, a song called “Growing Up Is Getting Old.”
JT: That was my first big cut and it also kind of got my foot in the door over at Sony. It kind of led to my first appointment over there as an artist.
KMJ: And after you were signed, you were on a serious writing mission, weren’t you?
JT: Between the time that the deal was offered and the time we started recording the songs, I wrote 70 songs in a three-month period. But that’s all I was doing was write, write, write. But I’ve always been that way. I’ve averaged about 130 a year since I got here. And I’ve been in Nashville for about five years. Out of that 70 that I wrote in that three-month period, I think we cut four. The others I had already.
KMJ: With all that song availability, they wouldn’t let you release a box set on the first one out?
JT: (Laughing) That’d be awesome. I wish. When you write songs, you love all your songs. But some of them are just not quite right for you. At least right then. For me, every time I write, it’s about something I love. The process is really all about finding the material that you love.
KMJ: Besides the obvious fact that it’s a song on the album, is there a relevance to the title of the album, Way Out Here?
JT: I felt like it explained the album and the theme that I was going for which was my way of life. It’s not necessarily where you live or how far out in the country you live, but a set of beliefs. Some people still believe in the bible. Some people still believe in their second amendment right. Some people won’t wait for a hand-out. They’ll just get to work. That’s basically just the theme of it all.
KMJ: Do you think “Beer On The Table” is a good snapshot of what the rest of the album is like?
JT: I think so. Definitely. “Beer On The Table” is fun and up-tempo a little country, but it points to a very real thing and that’s working your ass off. And enjoying what you can out of life.
KMJ: There’s a song on there called “Blame It On Waylon.” Did you draw inspiration from your adolescent music searching on that one?
JT: For sure. Really, if it hadn’t been for those guys, I would have never had an interest in picking up a guitar and eventually writing. That song pretty much sums up everything I can blame all of this on. Because I can’t blame myself. Waylon and that era of music had a huge influence on me getting into music in the first place.
KMJ: How has it been touring with Jamey Johnson and Eric Church?
JT: I love that. I love their crowds. I feel that their demographics match mine. They have a real strong foundation of a fan base. And that’s not something you find a lot in other country artists.
KMJ: Have you had a chance to hang out with those guys much or do any songwriting with them at all?
JT: Not so much with Eric. I’ve only met him briefly thus far. Hopefully on this second tour I’ll get to hang with him a bit. With Jamey, definitely. I’ve got a chance to hang with him and he’s such a great guy. And we’ve wrote a little bit. I respect his music and really respect what he’s done.
KMJ: What’s country music to Josh Thompson?
JT: Reality. Good or bad. Life. Life for the people I grew up around wasn’t like Bubba Gump all the time. Country music says that. I think people can get power from a bad situation when they hear about somebody else. I think it’s just reality.
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