Featured Artist of the Month
April - Josh Rose
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Birthplace: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
Hometown: Pickford in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
Current Home: Alto, MI
First Gig: Open mic at the University Cup on Franklin St in Mount Pleasant
Day Job : Lowell High School, English and chemistry teacher
Albums: Firework Letdown 2004, Slow Bloom 2008, and Old Laminate 2014
About Josh Rose
By Roger MacNaughton
Let’s take the name first, shall we? JOSH ROSE. Could there be any more perfect musical artist name for a singer/songwriter poet-supreme, with a glorious voice who views his world with intelligence, understanding, and empathy? The answer is: No.
I mean, he could have been born ‘Renny Oglesworth’ or ‘Crandon Bratsdart.’ Other people have names like that. Some do, anyway. And other people who have a musical gift would probably change theirs to a more suitable stage name. I’m convinced that Josh Rose wouldn’t be one of them. If he’d have been born ‘Klagston Uldenhash,’ that’s who I’d be writing about today. He’s just that kind of guy.
The man has principles. And a voice. A singing voice finely seasoned by the life of a troubadour. He has style. The kind of style that lets you know right off that he is a man of great seriousness and substance. The way he takes command of the stage in front of an audience. Not haughty, not swaggering, but making you feel at home and comfortable…and “Oh, here’s another one I wrote last year about”… And you’re thinking, Where in the world did he come up with THAT one? And then he knocks you out with yet another totally different song. And another. And no two songs sound alike.
Not only style, but the man has the LOOK of a great entertainer. Movie star good looks. The kind of looks that make you say, “Oh well, HE’S a major dude, obviously.” Well, he is, but he doesn’t act like it. In fact, he acts the opposite of what you THINK a major dude would act like, which makes him, of course, a MAJOR DUDE.
But the number-one quality that Josh Rose has in spades is his uncanny ability to write what’s known as a Great Song. Some of that must have to do with his being an English Major in college, and his reverence for the language. He uses words to form artistic pictures in your brain. He knows how to craft a memorable melody, and how to graft those words onto it. He’s learned how to inject a FEELING into every phrase. Being able to play fluid lines on the guitar goes a long way as well. In short, the man has studied the fine art of songwriting. He has, as they say, his 10,000 hours in. And we are so much the better for it.
Josh Rose lived his formative years in a small town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. A place one typically would not expect to export a deep-thinking musical artist with stellar CHOPS (musician’s term for talent). But that kind of thinking is just plain wrong. True genius can come from anywhere.
He has been teaching high school chemistry and English for several years, most recently becoming a popular mainstay in the Lowell community. But he never strays far from his favorite passion: writing and performing music. Come to think of it, he’s also become quite a fixture in the West Michigan music scene. It’s time to expand that horizon.
I sent Mr. Rose a series of questions and his responses were so eloquent, heartfelt, and honest:
RM: When did you first encounter music? Instruments? First songwriting experiences? Early influences? How did you learn guitar? Any early bands? Later bands?
JR: We had a blue “kiddie” record player that would play these little brightly-colored records that had nursery songs and rhymes on them. I graduated to Disco Duck and Winnie the Pooh records on LP. By the time I got to kindergarten, I had complete access to my parents’ records, and I knew how to spin records without scratching them. I learned a lot from the album covers and lyrics printed on those late 60s and 70s records.
RM: How would you describe YOUR musical style?
JR: I hate this question. I could easily make up some hyphenated “new” category that I promote as part of my “brand.” Not into that. I hope my body of work defies categories and that it comes from many different styles and influences. They are songs… and I hope they are songs that are unlike anything you’ve ever heard. Unique subject matter, rich language, memorable hooks, and universal themes.
RM: How many CDs/Musical Projects have you released? How can we best access your music? What is the best way for us to support your musical career?
JR: I have released three studio albums. Firework Letdown in 2004, Slow Bloom in 2008, and Old Laminate in 2014. I have enough material for a double album currently, but I would have to figure out financing somehow. Music is tough right now.
RM: What are the ways a new song comes to you? A memory? A lyric? Chord progression?
JR: At this point in my life, it is a gift when a song drops out of the air and into my lap. I never want to write the same song or a song that’s been done before. I want every song to be a snowflake... seriously. Unique, fresh, a different take, universal, poignant, and memorable. Sometimes songs come to me when I’m running: the rhythm of my footfalls invoke some sort of music or mood, and then when I’m done running, I have the song written before I’ve even grabbed the guitar. That’s COOL when that happens. The songs used to pour out of me, two per month in my younger years. Most days now… I have to work. I get out the guitar, start to strum the mood of my current day, wonder where the chord changes are, hum along, manage some words, and develop the thing until it’s a song. Each of my songs has to have at least one line that is memorable, sing-able, and unique. My inner critic is so… critical… that I never keep any frivolous or subpar (in my mind) song.
RM: How has the pandemic affected your music making?
JR: It actually has kicked up my output, no doubt. I do have more time at home these days, which allows me to get into the songwriting… especially late at night. My buddy Kyle Rasche started an online songwriter group. I was kicking out two songs per month, just like I was in my 20s. That particular part of the pandemic has felt great. I have two albums worth of material right now.
RM: In your life, what do you hope to accomplish musically? Best-case scenario?
JR: Best case scenario would be to make a living selling or playing music. I am terrible at many things in life. I think I’m pretty darn good at songwriting. There are very few people who will advocate for me in this regard because it’s a competitive business. It’s part of the gig. Songwriting is a skill in which I have been blessed with some gifts. The best-case scenario would be that my songs could find some sort of avenue to the next level besides my friends and family in the West Michigan area.
RM: Readers, you will be better humans if you check out Josh Rose’s music.
Interview with Josh Rose
with Kyle Rasche
Video Credits: Filmed, edited, and produced by Eric Ellis. Audio recorded, mixed, and mastered by Michael Crittenden at Mackinaw Harvest Studios in Grand Rapids, MI.