What happens when you combine the powerful songwriting & stage presence of Rock ’N’ Roll legends Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Tom Petty & Bob Dylan? You get up-and-coming Canadian artist, Josh Taerk!
We had the opportunity to chat about his new single, what inspires his music and some more fun questions…check them out here:
On his latest single “Anywhere Love Took Us” and writing his own music:
All of my songs, I’ve either written myself or co-written. I consider myself a writer before anything else and love taking my thoughts and feelings and turning them into something concrete and constructive
“Anywhere Love Took Us,” was actually the first song I wrote with my friend and producer Teddy Morgan and our mutual friend Jack Williams. It started out as a guitar exercise I would play to warm up. Teddy and I had just finished writing together and were waiting for Jack to arrive so we could start a new song with him. I was sitting there with my guitar and started playing what would become the main guitar riff of ALTU. Teddy suddenly stopped me and said, “that was cool! Play that thing again,” so I did. Teddy then looked at me and said, “yeah, you’ve got to play that for Jack.” So, Jack came in a couple minutes later and I played it for him. He loved it too and the three of us started writing the song around that guitar part.
The lyrics took shape around the idea of getting back to the roots of love by remembering that in order for a relationship to work you both have to be up for the journey that is being in love.
On his musical success in Canada and the UK…and what he hopes to bring American fans:
I feel like everywhere I’ve toured and released music has shaped the kind of artist and writer I am. Music is universal, it’s something that no matter where you’re from you can feel. However, everyone interacts with music and takes music into their lives differently. I’ve found certain stories resonate more with people in The UK than they will with people in Canada, and vice versa. Also, the way people respond to what you do onstage is different everywhere you go.
I’ve been very lucky to be able to experience different musical environments, both Canada and The UK, and I feel I’ve been able to broaden my definition of music because of it. The stories I tell in my music have been inspired by experiences I’ve had, and I’ve learned so much from my live shows because of the different places I’ve been able to play my music. That’s what I’m bringing to the US, a musical style and performance style that is unique to who I am and the experiences I’ve had so far.
As a Canadian, The US has always been my goal as far as “making it” in the industry. You dream about having your music played on US radio and being able to tour in places like Nashville, New York, Chicago, etc. So, to be able to do that and to see people responding to my music in such a positive way has been a dream come true.
On his comparison to music’s biggest rock n’ roll legends & how they’ve influenced his music:
That is a massive compliment. Both my writing and my performances are very important to me.
My musical influences are very diverse as far as sound and genre go. When I was growing up, my parents were big into Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Neil Young, John Cougar; so I grew up with a very good rock-ucation behind me. I remember my Dad taking me to see Springsteen live at The Air Canada Centre in Toronto in 2000 and being mesmerized by his stage presence. I had never seen anyone command an audience like that and with that much energy behind him in his performance. Everything he did onstage felt authentic because all his energy was rooted in the emotions of each of the stories he was telling. You could feel the emotional landscape of each story being expressed through his actions, movements, even the different ways he made his voice sound onstage; because those stories meant something to him personally. That concert had a huge impact on the kind of performer and writer I strive to be every day.
As I got older and ever since I started writing my own songs, I’ve listened to everything from Rock to Country; Joni Mitchel, James Taylor, The Eagles, Fall Out Boy, Green Day, Tim McGraw, Eric Church, Florida Georgia Line, Nirvana and Blink 182. When I was 17 I saw my first Fall Out Boy concert at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto. I was blown away with their live show too. It felt like the no holds barred youthful angst and abandon in their music was being played out and expressed through their chaotic movements and acrobatics onstage. The show matched their songs beautifully as if one was the extension of the other. That connection between the songs and the show was really inspiring to see. I also loved that Fall Out Boy’s songs were catchy but also had very intelligent lines and turn of phrase mixed in with that youthful abandon. It showed me that you can still write popular music but do it on your own terms with your own voice.
On receiving accolades from those he looks up to:
I’m really fortunate to have two amazing mentors and friends who, in their own right, are legends and vets of the industry. When you get guys like that talking about your music and your work ethic, it means a lot to say the least.
I opened for Max Weinberg (Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame Drummer for Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band) in Max’s hometown of South Orange New Jersey in 2010. After the concert Max was asked by press covering the show how he felt about my performance. He said “Josh Taerk is the most exciting new talent I have come across in years. He blew me away with his presentation and song writing abilities. I’ve known, and played with, a few singer/songwriters in my time, and I can tell you-Josh Taerk has what it takes.” I was speechless and still am every time I read it.
I met John Oates (Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame Hall & Oates) in the spring of 2011. Since that day he continues to be an incredible friend and mentor. He introduced me to Teddy Morgan, and encouraged me to go to Nashville to work on my 2nd album “Here’s To Change.” As Teddy and I were finishing work on HTC I met up with John and started talking to him about how amazing the recording process was going. He asked if he could listen to a couple tracks so I sent him a bunch, and he sent me back a message asking if he could sing on a couple. That meant the world to me, and was a complete out of body experience watching John Oates sing words that I wrote to my songs.
The biggest accolades, however, come from my fans. I remember growing up listening to my favorite artists and finding those songs that resonated with me, got me through things I was going through and made me feel like someone else understood where I was coming from. That’s the kind of artist I want to be and the kind of music I want to write.
I was playing a show in Skegness England in 2012 and, while I was there, met a girl and her younger sister after the show. She told me that she loved the lyrics of my songs and that they really inspiring to her. Now, I consider myself a writer before anything else and there’s no bigger compliment you can give me than telling me that my words mean something to you; so that in itself meant the world to me. She then told me that she always wanted to be a singer but was really nervous to take the plunge and do it. I told her that life is too short not to do what you love to do.
Fast forward to 2013, I’m back at the same theatre and this very familiar looking girl is standing at the backstage doors as I walk out after the show. She stops me and says, “You may not remember me, but you talked to my sister about becoming a singer a while back. You really inspired her to follow her dreams. She got home the night she talked to you and applied for a University Degree in vocal performance.” I didn’t know what to say, I was trying to wrap my head around the idea that something I said and something I wrote had that much impact on someone else’s life. All I could do was ask her how her sister was doing now. She told me, “She loves the program and is graduating in a year.” That was the most humbling moment of my career so far, and I think about it every day.
On the “dues” he’s had to pay & advice for “paying your dues” to fellow up and comers:
There are always dues you have to pay in anything you choose to do in life. That’s how you know you’re onto something. Nothing ever comes easy, if it did, it wouldn’t be worth doing.
When I was just starting out, I had a manager that I signed up with for a year. At the beginning things were great and he booked me a couple shows in my hometown and promised a cross Canada tour come the summer after we signed him onto the team. Things seemed to be moving in the right direction until they weren’t.
All of a sudden the gigs stopped coming, I couldn’t get this guy on the phone anymore, I got locked out of my YouTube account that he helped me set up, and when we started calling all the venues he told us he booked for the Canada Tour, none of them had me on their calendar or received a booking request for me to play. I had no tour, no manager and no visible way to move forward; and I thought my career was over even before it had really started. I felt like the ground had been pulled from under me; but I never gave up on my dream because those are the moments where life is testing you the most to see how much you really want what you say you want. As a young artist you will encounter people telling you, “this is your one shot” or “you’ll never get a chance like this again.” The truth of the matter is, you make your own chances and destiny. As an artist starting out, it’s harder not believing those words, but trust me that the only person who gets to decide your future is you.
My great grandmother had this poem beside her bed that our family found the day she passed away. Anytime I’m going through a rough patch, anytime I feel lost or caught between a rock and a hard place; I think about her and read this poem:
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit-
Rest if you will, BUT DO NOT QUIT!
Life is strange with it’s twists and turns,
As everyone of us sometimes learns,
And many a person turns about,
When they might have won had they stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems low
You may succeed with another blow!
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor’s cup:
And he learned too late when the night came down.
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is Faliure turned inside out-
So Stick to the Fight when you’re hardest hit-
It’s when things seem worst that YOU MUST NOT QUIT
On what fans can expect from Josh Taerk in the future:
This year, I’m going back on the road with my band, hitting cities and towns all over North America on the “Anywhere Love Took Us” Tour. I’m also going to be heading back to The UK this year to tour there as well, and maybe even release a new EP later on in 2017. So, keep checking my social media pages for constant updates.
Some fun facts about Josh Taerk that his fans may not know about him:
I love it, and I’ll give you two! I am the biggest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan ever and I cannot deal with possessed marionettes or dolls in horror movies. WAY too creepy for me.