Interview: JOSH TAERK (June 2015)

Josh Taerk releases his new album ‘Here’s To Change’ in July and has just completed a run of UK shows. We catch-up with Josh who tells us more about the album, and how the recent UK dates went. Over to Josh…

What have you got planned for the next few months e.g. recording, touring, etc.

So far June has been a great month. June 9th I graduated from the University of Toronto with an honors degree in English Literature. I’m also playing two shows at the Toronto Wine and Spirit Festival, June 18th & 19th, with my brother Ryan Taerk.

Aside from that, I’m always writing and I’m heading back to Nashville to write with Teddy Morgan, Park Chisolm and a few others in the near future. I am also in talks with people in the US to do some touring more regularly in the states. July, we’re releasing my new record ‘Here’s To Change’ and planning on heading back to the UK in early fall to do some more touring.

Could you please take us through the songs on the excellent new album ‘Here’s To Change’? (e.g. song writing process, stories behind the songs etc.)

Josh Taerk

Absolutely. I want to preface this by saying that one of the things I love about art is that you can’t have art without the artist, but once that art is created it takes on the interpretations of others and in so doing a whole new life of its own.

All of these interpretations are valid and that’s what’s so inspiring about art, it’s all based on perception. So while these are my initial thoughts about my songs, this is in no way the definitive answer as to what they are about because I don’t believe just one definition exists.

The cool thing about this album is that, while all of the songs take on their own individual lives and stories, the songs also all have this underlying theme of change running through them.

Whether it’s sudden change, change that you would have preferred not to have happened, change for the better, change that is thrust upon you, or even change that we actively choose to make; the whole album embraces this idea of change and shows how empowering change can be. If nothing is written in stone in life, you can always change for the better. There is always change and therefore always hope.

Here’s To Change

For me, this song is about embracing the idea that the only constant in life is that everything can, must, and does change but also about opening our eyes to the freeing nature of this cycle.

Nothing is ever unchangeable, unmovable and as forever as it appears to you at that moment. Everything changes, and if that’s the case then it’s never too late to change from the person you are to the person you want to be, to change your path, your dream, even change your mind.

When I had originally written the lyrics for ‘Here’s To Change’ I didn’t have a melody that fit with the lyrics. A little while later I’m in Worthing on tour with The Soldiers in August of 2012 and Nick Van Eede of Cutting Crew was in the audience that night. I had been speaking back and forth with him for a about a year through my producer at the time Terry Brown (Rush, Klaatu, Cutting Crew, amongst others).

Nick and I hung out backstage after the show; he is an amazing singer/songwriter and a terrific guy. Finally before he left he told me that if I ever had any lyrics kicking around to send them to him and see what we could come up with. I get back home from the tour and realize that I have these lyrics but no melody for the song. So, I send the lyrics over to Nick and about a week later Nick sends me the melody for what is now ‘Here’s To Change’ and it felt so good with the lyrics.

When we were recording the song in the studio we were going through it in a very acoustic, bluesy kind of way and I felt like there was this rock anthem waiting to come out of the track. So Teddy Morgan, Park Chisolm, Richard Medek and I sat down and I told them about my idea. The one thing I love about working with Teddy and the guys is that they are always up for trying something different, always willing to listen to new ideas and build off of them. We started again keeping that Rock anthem feel in mind, and that’s the version of the song we have on the record.

The Mirror

The Mirror, for me, is a reminder to honor, respect and listen to the only person that you truly have to answer to, yourself. As many people as there are in the world, that’s how many theories about what the “right” thing to do, say, and be are in existence. If you try and please everyone, you end up loosing sight of who you are and what’s important to you. Stay true to yourself, listen to the person in the mirror and remember they’re called theories because there’s no ultimate truth about how to live your life.

‘Take A Chance With Me’ and ‘After The Fall’ I actually co-wrote with my brother Ryan Taerk and that’s been an amazing experience. I come from a very close and supportive family and all of my siblings are very creative people.

After The Fall

I was sitting at the house working on what would become “After The Fall” and Ryan sat down beside me and started playing his guitar along with me. Ryan said, “try this,” and started playing the chords we ended up using for the bridge. They fit perfectly, felt really good, lifted the song and really added to the overall story.

After The Fall was an incredible experience to write. I had just ended a pretty serious relationship and I wanted to write a song that put it all into perspective. What I ended up writing about was perspective itself.

The song is about falling in love, falling out of love, falling from grace but also about how wonderful those experiences can truly be. In life, moments like these shape the person you are into the person you’re meant to be. You learn not only about who you are, who you are willing to be, but yet you get a little bit closer to understanding that which is so crucial to life and yet completely defies any solid definition, love.

Take A Chance With Me

‘Take A Chance With Me’ was written the day I got back from being on tour in The UK in the summer of 2014. I got home, had just brought my guitars back into the house when Ryan said, “I’ve got to play you something.” As soon as he started, lyrics just started pouring out of me and before we knew it we had come up with this amazing melody to go along with the lyrics and the chords.

Take A Chance With Me is a fun track! It’s about being in love, ceasing the moment and not letting fear get in the way. As NHL legend Wayne Gretzky said, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

How did you get to record the new album in Nashville? Also John Oates guests on two songs on the album, how did he become involved?

This record would not have been possible without all of the amazing people that worked on it with me, and I’m so grateful for all of their contributions because this record exceeded all of my wildest dreams. However, the one person without whom none of this would have been possible, was John Oates (Rock‘n’Roll Hall of Fame and founding member of Hall and Oates).

In April of 2011, I was selected to play a songwriters festival in Colorado produced by John. From the start, John treated everyone that came to play the festival so well, invited all the performers backstage and to the after parties every night. That’s where I first met John, at the festival closing party. John and I talked about the festival, about songwriting and my hometown, Toronto Canada.

It turned out that Hall and Oates were coming to Toronto that summer, so he told me to get in touch with him and we would meet up. At first I thought John was just being polite, but after getting to know him a little bit I realized that he is the most honest and genuine guy you will ever meet.

The day of the show I got in touch with John, we hung out backstage and talked more about songwriting and touring, it was great to be able to have that time speaking to him and getting his insights. Since then, we’ve kept in touch, and have met up in Toronto and Nashville many times.

I’m very grateful to be able to call John Oates a friend and mentor. He’s a fantastic musician/singer/songwriter and an outstanding person. John has been so supportive since 2011 to the point where, when I was looking to produce the new record, I asked him if he knew anyone that could fit the feel and sound that I wanted to achieve. That’s when John introduced me to his friend Teddy Morgan.

I went down to Nashville early August of 2014 to meet with Teddy and we started talking about the recording process and feel I was going for on this new album. From the start I wanted to record live off the floor, with everyone playing together, in the same room, feeding off of each other; I wanted to make a band record.

Teddy knew exactly what I meant, introduced me to Park Chisolm who played bass, Richard Medek who played drums, Teddy even had the perfect studio to record the album in. Teddy Works out of two studios in Nashville, Barrio East and The Creative Workshop, which features a 24-track analog tape desk that we used to make this record.

Josh Taerk

After Teddy, Park, Rich and I had laid down the base tracks for this new album; I was hanging out with John in Nashville, talking about the sessions and he asked if he could listen to the songs, and potentially sing on one or two of them. I was so excited that he wanted to be on the album especially considering how key he was to making this record possible.

So, I sent him a couple songs to choose from and he picked ‘Here’s To Change’ and ‘Wise Man’. Teddy, John and I hit the studio a little while later and the parts that John laid down were amazing. After hearing them on the tracks, we could instantly tell that they were meant to be there. Getting to watch John work in the studio was like taking a master class. He put so much thought into the parts he was singing and they fit the tracks so well. What was also great to see was that he truly loves making music, and it really came across in the harmonies he sang.

A couple of your songs on the new album, ‘Me Myself & I’ and ‘The Flood’, feature various Biblical references in the lyrics. Was this a conscious decision or more that the phrases fitted the song’s lyrics?

This was a very conscious decision when I was writing these songs. With ‘Me, Myself & I’ I wanted to convey a sense of desperation in the choruses when the main character says “God almighty anybody please give me a sign.”

A lot of people in their time of need will turn to God for answers (God meaning whatever higher power you believe in personally) and I wanted to push that a little further and take the main character to the point in which he feels so lost, so out of place that he isn’t just looking to God for the answers but anyone who could offer him some kind of guidance.

“Waiting For The Flood” as a whole was a very conscious reference to The Book of Genesis, the story of Noah’s Ark and The Flood. I wanted to write a song that was a call to action for my generation to take a good look at the world we are living in, the fear, the chaos, the daily destruction happening all over, and ask ourselves if this is the legacy and the world we want to leave to the next generation. If we keep going down this path, we know how the story’s going to end.

How did the recent UK shows go? Have you seen more interest in your music this time back in the UK?

The recent shows were amazing! I love performing, I love the one on one connection that it offers me with the audience watching, and when I’m onstage there is nowhere I’d rather be. These recent shows though stood out because of a lot of factors. This was the first time Teddy and Rich had ever played in The UK and getting up onstage every night, playing the songs we all took part in making what they are was so fulfilling.

The crowds were also unreal every night. We had amazing response to the live show and so many people saying how much the new material was resonating with them, as a writer there is no better feeling then knowing your words are connecting with people. We had a terrific crowd to our show at The O2 Academy2 in Islington.

We’ve also had some pretty significant radio play; over 18 regional stations have play listed the track along with over 40 specialist stations. I also had the privilege to do an interview and live acoustic performance of ‘Here’s To Change’ on BBC Manchester with Becky Want. I’m very touched and very grateful for how my new album is being embraced in The UK.

Josh Taerk

In your native Canada is there much opportunity to play live and get your music heard on the radio?

Canada is a great country for music, and there are a lot of really talented artists coming out of Canada. While there is a lot of support and interest in music, the country’s population is so small, less than the population of the state of California, and living in such a vast landmass; it can be difficult touring through Canada simply because of the transit time you’re looking at. The radio here in Canada does a lot to promote local talent as well and there are Canadian content rules that help enhance the awareness toward local talent. This allows Canadian artists a chance to be seen and get heard across their home country.

What has been your favourite live show to date and why?

Getting to play shows in Canada, the US, and tour through the UK over the past three years has been amazing. I’ve seen places and met people that I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to otherwise. I’m very grateful. My favorite live show to date was when I opened for Max Weinberg (Rock‘n’Roll Hall Of Fame, drummer for Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band) at the South Orange Performing Arts Centre (SOPAC).

First, let me just say that I am a huge Bruce Springsteen fan and so is my Dad. My Dad was a drummer in a Springsteen cover band all through high school and into University. He also played periodically when I was really young. He was the one that turned me onto Springsteen from a very early age and we’ve shared that love of his music ever since. I got to meet Max in my hometown, Toronto, at a charity event he was playing and built up the courage to go over and talk to him.

We talked about music, he asked me what I was taking in university and I asked him if he wouldn’t mind taking a listen to a demo I had made in a friend’s basement. He took the demo and I didn’t expect it to go past that, I was just really happy he took it. About a week later I got an email from him and his manager saying that they really liked what they heard and that they wanted to talk to me about opening up for Max in his hometown, South Orange, New Jersey.

Next thing I know I’m in a dressing room in South Orange with my Dad, both of us having a complete out of body experience, and we hear a knock on the door. Max then walks into the room and tells us he’s going to introduce me to the audience tonight, himself. It was one of the coolest moments of my entire life, and the fact that I got to share it with my dad made it that much more special. It’s easy to say that I will remember that night for the rest of my life.

Outside of music what do you enjoy doing?

I really love the outdoors, and living in Canada there are a lot of opportunities to explore some beautiful terrain. I really enjoy hiking, biking, kayaking and canoeing in the summer months and skiing in the winter months. I’ve been skiing since I was about two and a half years old and I hit the slopes whenever I can.

Aside from that, I’ve been working on an Honors Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature at the University of Toronto and am very happy to say that I just recently graduated on June 9th. With that in mind, it’s safe to say that I really enjoy reading as well. I love the imaginative space and the inspiration  that reading provides me.

Message for you fans…

Thank you! Without you listening to my songs, watching the videos I post on YouTube and coming out / streaming the live shows; I wouldn’t be able to do what I love to do. I really appreciate all of your support and all of you reaching out, posting on Facebook, commenting on Instagram and sending me Tweets. Keep sending me stuff and I’ll keep writing back.

Gig review (June 2015)
Album review

The latest Josh Taerk live session was streamed on Sunday 12 December. The session above was a Halloween Special streamed on 31 October 2021. Josh’s next session is Sunday 30 January 2022.

Check out previous videos here:

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 GMT, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 19 December 2021 and celebrates The Best of 2021 based on the GRTR! reviewer selections and popular poll results.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020 and 2021 Finalist) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 GMT as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 26 December 2021 and features show highlights from the year (Part 1).

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