Josh Woodward is an Ohio native who plays alternative music. I was able to interview him about his music and how he got his start. The conversation follows:
How did you get your start?
I've been making music since I was tiny, but my first real experience came in high school, with a punk/funk band. I just played guitar at first, but I got roped into singing because we couldn't find a singer in time for our first gig. I was terrible, but it was so much fun that I committed myself to getting less terrible.
Who are your influences? Have you been able to contact or play with those artists?
I have a lot of varied influences - I started as a metalhead in the 80s, then morphed into a folk-rock phase in the 90s, and the past decade I've been into a lot of indie rock. Some of my biggest influences, in roughly chronological order, are They Might Be Giants, Barenaked Ladies, Moxy Fruvous, Peter Mulvey, Nick Drake, Grandaddy, Elliott Smith, Death Cab For Cutie and The Decemberists. I don't really gig anymore, so I haven't been able to play with any of them, sadly.
How did you know what type of music you wanted to play? Have you played other music genres?
I don't worry too much about genre, honestly. That can get me into trouble, when someone stumbles across, say, my very light and funny Sunny Side of the Street CD and then downloads my darker, harder rock from Dirty Wings. But one of the biggest benefits of being indie is that I don't have to worry about molding my music into a narrow genre.
What was the most interesting experience you have had on the road? Has that affected your music at all?
I like my own bed too much to go out on the road. YouTube smells a lot better than a bar bathroom at 2am.
What are your future plans?
I've been starting to put more focus on the video side of things lately. I recently reorganized my studio to streamline the process of making videosongs, which are music videos documenting the recording process of a song. I'm hoping to make videosongs for all of my next album.
I'm also planning on releasing a CD of classical piano pieces, as well as an instrumental post-rock CD. But those keep hitting the back burner when I go on a songwriting streak.
How many albums do you have out?
Depends how you count, but I'd say 9. I've been putting out one or two CDs per year since 2004. It's a hectic pace, but I worry that if I take a break, I'll never get started again. Plus, another advantage of being a non-touring solo indie musician is that the music creation and releasing process is very streamlined, so a CD a year is entirely practical.
How do you come up with the songs you write?
My songs almost always start with a guitar hook. I hit record when I'm noodling and find something cool, and I try to make up nonsense words to find a melody and a song structure. From there, I usually pick out a few of the random mumbled words that sound cool, and figure out what the song wants to be about, and I plug lyrics into the structure I've formed. In other words, they come out of thin air. Every song I write feels like the last one I have left inside of me, but 170 songs later, I haven't been right about that yet.
What made you choose to put your CDs online for free? And how do you make a living through this?
I'd been writing songs in my bedroom and doing nothing with them for the better part of a decade when I came across a website called SongFight, which is a weekly online songwriting and recording competition. That inspired me to share my music with those people. I started winning many of the fights I entered, so I decided to start sharing my music with people. When it was time for my first CD, most of the songs on it were already released for free on SongFight, and I didn't think anyone would want to pay for them anyway, so I gave it away for free. This decision led to a lot more listeners than I'd normally have had, along with a lot of people who were willing to support my music financially. By my second or third CD, rather than doing it because I didn't think anyone would pay, it was because it was getting more people to pay - it was exposing my music to a wider audience of potential buyers.
As for making a living through this, I'm to the point where I could eke out a basic existence, but I'm still keeping my day job because I'm not a huge fan of Ramen noodles. That said, I'm putting more effort into licensing deals recently, which has been a good way of earning money without feeling like one of those chumps who sends spam to their fans every hour, trying to sell them this or that. I've never been comfortable with self-promotion.