Josh Hyslop: A Cold Wind
Don't let the title fool you. With one of the warmest voices around, Joshua Hyslop will invite you to slow down and listen.
With a voice that invites you into the story of his songs, modern folk singer Joshua Hyslop has cut through the din of hopefuls to capture industry attention and new fans wherever he plays. Though you may call him a youthful newcomer, he’s been performing for years around the lower mainland, from Abbotsford to Vancouver. His EP Cold Wind makes it clear that he is ready to share his natural talent with the rest of the world. While in Kamloops BC for a show, Josh sat down with me for a chat. We talked about everything from an early influence to how he sees music, from stage jitters to Dr. Suess and he shared a bit about the new album he’s working on. Our time ended with a live performance of the title track from Cold Wind.
Here are a just a few of the questions and responses. But you can hear it all, from his live performance, to a Dr. Seuss recital, and some very interesting stories of life and death, in the audio version of this interview, made available on !earshot.
Joshua Hyslop has stuff to say and a lot to sing about.
S: Was being an artist your first choice or is just something you did?
J: Well, it’s always been my passion. It’s something I would have done whether I was signed or not [Nettwerk]. I’d always be writing and doing shows independently. I’ve been really blessed with the people I’ve met. We have a really amazing music scene in Abbotsford, a lot of really gifted people. I’ve been able to record cheap here and there and I would have just kept doing that forever.
I would probably have pursued education more; I dropped out of college to do music. This is a big part of who I am and it works that I get to do it now for my job which is insane.
S: I want to take you back a little bit, do you recall your first musical memory?
J: I definitely can. There was a movie called “The Sandlot” and there‘s a scene where it’s the Fourth of July and the kids go and play in the ball diamond at night. The field is lit up by the fireworks and the song that is playing is “America” by Ray Charles. I must have heard thousands of songs by that time in my life but that song and the way he was singing those words…I want to do that. He just really got through to me. Ray Charles is one of my favorite artists ever.
S: You’re a shy guy yet your songs generate a lot of feeling. I would assume that these are your feelings?
J: Yes. Some are inspired by other people’s relationships or stories, but most of them come from my heart and my own walk.
S: Let’s talk a bit about your EP Cold Wind. One thing that really impressed me about the album was the instrumentation. It’s very gentle but not boring. You have the violin and the cello on it. Do you play these instruments at all? Did you envision those songs with those instruments in mind?
J: Yeah, when I write a song I start with the lyrics and the melody. Then I structure chords around that. So usually it’s guitar and vocals for me. I do write all the string lines for the violin and cello and everything. Sometimes it’s really quick like on the song “Who am I” the string lines took about half an hour. I thought well that’s what they should do, it fits the song perfectly. Whereas songs like “Nowhere Left to Go” or “Cold Wind” those were more like a couple of hours where I just sit back and think. I was talking to John the cellist who played with me at CBC in Toronto and he said he appreciated the cello because it’s featured in the songs and I thought that the cello is one of my favorite instruments. I don’t play it at all. I just think that it’s a beautiful instrument and it’s limitless in what it can do. It has such a beautiful voice and I want the instruments that are featured to really be heard. When I write a song I almost always have a violin or cello component. Whatever instruments I use for the songs, I never want to be like ‘We’re using this, this, and this and that’s it, I start and say okay I have the guitar and the melody, what does the song need?
S: What instruments do you play anyway?
J: I do play play guitar, banjo, mandolin, and piano.
S: Did you take lessons?
J: No, I took piano lessons when I was about nine for a year. I couldn’t read music and my teacher was frustrated with me. So it didn’t end well. I’ve just kind of done it by ear.
S: What about vocal lessons?
J: No. I don’t know what it was called but I was reading an interview with John Mayer, I don’t necessarily like his music, but I think he’s a brilliant guitarist and he was talking about seeing music in colours. I do that. That’s part of how I learned those instruments by ear. It’s like what you see like in the album cover on Cold Wind, it’s nice greens with the trees and everything. Each song on the album to me is a different shade of green, or teal or kind of a crisp white. They each have these really neat colours to them and it makes up a painting which is the album art.
Right now I’m just recording a full length album, its twelve songs. Cold wind was kind of the blues and greens, this one more a reddish, purple. There’s more passion. Some of the songs are a bit louder, some have more instrumentation and even depth in the lyrics. I’m really excited for it. It’ll be coming out in May.
That concludes our companion piece to the audio verson.If you’re going to listen to Cold Wind, Josh says to just give it some time. Take the time to listen to the lyrics and let it grow. In this day of constant bombardment on our senses, wouldn’t it be nice to just slow things down a bit and listen quietly?
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To hear Joshua’s performance on CBC the link is below.
For more information on Joshua Hyslop