Josh Doyle Is Figuring The World Out

Josh Doyle talks with Pollstar about his craft, influences and how he went from being a British rocker to a rising and insightful singer/songwriter in Nashville.

You owe it to yourself to check out Doyle’s debut, self-titled album.  With songs like “Everyone’s Alone,” “Solarstorms,” “This Transcendent Ache” and “I Figured The World Out,” Doyle’s album sounds as if it’s his third or fourth studio effort.

But it wasn’t Doyle’s first time in the studio.  As the leader of the late ’90s British guitar-pop band the Dum Dums, Doyle recorded one album, one EP and four singles.  Plus, the Dum Dums played plenty of dates, appearing on the same bill as Bon Jovi at Wembley Stadium and in front of 400,000 people at Hyde Park when the band was featured on the lineup with Destiny’s Child, Christina Aguilera and Elton John.

The Dum Dums called it quits in 2001, which eventually led to Doyle moving from the U.K. to Nashville.  Working as a waiter while developing his music, Doyle was one of the 17,000 aspiring artists who entered the Guitar Center’s first singer/songwriter competition.  Guess what?  He won.

The victory suddenly accelerated his career, resulting in an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and landing him a spot on Nashville Lifestyle’s “Top 20 Musicians To Watch”

Winning the Guitar Center’s contest also got him his debut album, helmed by John Shanks who has worked with several tier-A acts, including Bon Jovi and Van Halen.  The Grammy-winning producer assembled a studio band featuring legendary session players such as bassist Leland Sklar, drummer Matt Chamberlain, guitarist Dean Parks and keyboardist Patrick Warren.

Doyle also has a few pros in his corner when it comes to handling his career. He’s managed by CTK Management, which counts Dolly Parton and Don McLean among its clients.  As to his concert dates, Doyle is repped by The Agency Group, Neil Warnock’s international agency whose high-powered artist roster includes The Black Keys, Dream Theater, Cake, Dar Williams and Ray Davies.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.  Best to click here to preview his album while the man who’s about to become your new favorite singer/songwriter tells you about the world of Josh Doyle.


How does a British rocker end up becoming a singer/songwriter in Nashville?

First of all, it was economic reasons … I came from having a band with all my buddies.  We were in it together; I didn’t need to pay people. When I got out of my band in England and moved over here, all the money started disappearing, and I didn’t [do] any music.  I needed to scale down, so I ended up scaling down to just myself.  I was playing stuff that was still energetic and had the punk spirit in there too, somewhere. I don’t know, it kind of started with that and naturally became my thing.  Now, I have a full band behind me.  I’m putting in a bit of heavier stuff but it’s mainly chilled-out, [an] acoustic passionate thing.

Do you feel that with the debut solo album we’re just getting a taste of what you have to offer?

Oh, yeah.  Big time.  The process of recording this album, it all came for me [by] winning a contest. We were supposed to do, like, three songs.  But the band was amazing and the producer, John Shanks, convinced us to record like, ’60s style, just a whole bunch of tracks.  I went through the book of songs that I had, just picking out stuff and playing everything.

We just wanted to do a good introduction solo album kind of thing.  To get a feel for what I do.  I’ve been writing for a while.  I’ve got another album already written. I’m definitely in this for the long haul.

Didn’t you have a non-music job when you entered the Guitar Center singer/songwriting contest?

Yeah.  I was working as a waiter when I entered this thing.  I was even working as a waiter while I was recording the album.  I think I was done with that job in July and I was on Jimmy Kimmel the next month.  It was cool.  They were all rooting for me.

Probably the reason why was that I’m married and my wife isn’t swept over by the show business of it all.  She just wants me to pay the bills.  Even when I was recording with Leland Sklar and (John) Shanks and all that in L.A., I would fly back on weekends for the lucrative weekend shifts.

Business wise, what did you learn during your days with the Dum Dums that you bring to the table today?

I tried to pay attention to everything when I was going around.  But in the beginning you don’t see what’s going on and who’s doing what.  I think I [learned] the most … business acumen or whatever during the second year I was in America, when I went out and toured with Steve Winwood for like seven nights.  At that point I got to see why people are there for a concert. I’d see him night after night after night. I’d stand at the back, watching. I’d see the set list he’d do and how he put everything together, what people responded to, what people didn’t respond to. I think that was, probably, the most invaluable experience, music wise.

Now that I have a second chance at it, I don’t want to squander it.  When you’re a kid you’re just running around thinking you’re the greatest thing, but this time it’s about being a bit smarter.

Winwood is one of many British musicians living in Nashville.  What does Nashville offer British artists that might not be found in England?

It’s got the best musicians and songwriters in the world. Not that I really got into the songwriting community because I pretty much write my own stuff.  But that was kind of my plan when I moved over here and eventually get into the songwriting thing and write for other people.  It’s opened my eyes [and] horizons a bit … kind of just being in the community and listening to all the different styles.  I even have a bit of country on my record that would have been unthinkable when I was a little punk kid.

It’s [Nashville] cheaper than L.A. or New York and it’s still a music scene.  There are a lot of great places to play.  Obviously, there are restaurants I can work in when I’m not doing music.

Is Nashville a town where every waitress is an aspiring singer, where every waiter wants to lead a band?

People like to think that, like in L.A. everybody is an actor.  It’s not really.  There are definitely a few, more than anywhere else, I would imagine.  I think more people are trying to get into Internet stuff than music nowadays.

Music is an actual talent and skill you have to train for.  It’s not an easy ride to success.

Did you receive any training?

My mum likes to take credit for teaching me, but she didn’t.  She sat with me for an hour, [showing] me three chords on a guitar when I was 13.  Then, for the next three months, I practiced in my room by myself.

My parents took away the TV when I was a kid.  I was a massive fanatic watching TV all the time and I had nothing to do. That’s when I picked up my mum’s guitar.  I got into that and football, soccer football.  That was pretty good, actually.  It’s good for people to take away their TV for a bit, their Internet, give kids a little hobby or something.

Photo: Robbie Quinn
“I think I was done with that job in July and I was on Jimmy Kimmel the next month.“

At that time could you play a song simply by hearing it on the radio or on a record?

Yeah.  It’s funny.  I would just walk around making up tunes in my head.  It’s not even a thing I did on purpose.  I’d run around and make up my own songs.  That’s how it started.

How does the songwriting process start for you?  Do you begin with melody or lyrics?

I was actually thinking about this today.  I have this garage band app for my phone.  It’s brilliant.  I can do all my writing on it.  I bought it just so I could harmonize with myself.  I have Pro Tools at home but it’s just a hassle.  I came to the conclusion that melody and music comes first.  I take all that stuff – I have books and books of lyrics that I’ve written over the years – and I sit down and listen to snippets of melodies I’ve recorded.  Then I’ll go through my books until I find something interesting.

There is a song on the album called “I Figured The World Out.”  It starts with talking about snipers and pointing guns at my head, blah, blah, blah.  But it started out as something a lot less interesting. I recorded five or six different lyrics for that.  Then I [took] the sniper lyric that [was already] in the book.  When I listened to that I was like, “That was way better than the ones I was trying out.”  So it works out pretty cool.  It’s like a random lyrics generator.

Before you could record lyrics and melodies on your phone, did you always carry notebooks for whenever an inspiration might strike you?

I did used to carry big, big books around.  I’ve got 25 big books filled with, I don’t know, thoughts, some lyrics and copied articles from magazines about favorite musicians and stuff.

I get a lot of inspiration while watching films and listening to music. Every now and then a little thing will hit me.

Have you ever been so inspired while watching a movie that you end up ignoring the rest of the movie in order to concentrate on the idea?

Yeah.  That’s how I work, kind of on purpose.  I’ll pause the movie and come back to it.  I do that all the time.

How old are your children?

I have a 9-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy.

Are they showing any musical inclinations?

Oh, yeah.  I would push them away from it because it’s such an addiction.  It’s in your blood, if you get into it, and you just have to keep making music.

My little girl makes up songs all the time … We were at a McDonald’s play place this week and my daughter stood there in front of everyone and sang a [Jennifer Lopez] song.  It was really bizarre, … Kind of embarrassing.

So it really is in the blood.

I don’t know, man.  I want her to get interested in being a lawyer or something.  We’ll just watch “Law & Order” on TV every night until they get excited about it.

Are you more in charge of your career than when you were in the Dum Dums?

Yes.  It’s not that they guided us wrong. The reason we didn’t get going is because … Our management was great it’s just that the label saw what was successful and tried to push us, mold us into something else.  We were just a rock band and when they pushed us in a direction, we rebelled against it.

But this time I don’t have that happening.  I’ve got this corporation and they see that I’ve got good intuition for what people like.  So they let me go with it and I really appreciate it.

Which artists have inspired you?

On that album, I was listening to a lot of Bruce Springsteen.  Cat Stevens is a big influence as well.  James Taylor was that kind of epiphany where I went from being a listener to a music fanatic. And Pearl Jam as well.  [Listening] to those artists was when music started meaning something to me.  Bob Dylan … I was listening to a lot of him over the years.  Warren Zevon, I like him.  John Prine is a really good one.

Are there any songs by other people that you wished you had written?

One is Warren Zevon’s “Mr. Bad Example.”  It just goes from one thing to another.  John Prine’s “Mexican Home” is a really, really cool song.  When I heard the lyrics, it just floored me.

The first song that really connected with me was “Fire And Rain” by James Taylor.  I was 15 or 16. It says so much about life.

What plans do you have for 2013?

We’re going to England in March to do a little tour and a bunch of press. We’re trying to get on the back of a decent size tour.  We’ve submitted to a bunch of tours in the states as support.  I think we’ll get one of those as well. But England is first … the kick off point, really.

What do you play to amuse yourself when you’re alone and it’s just you and your guitar?

Last night I did that. I was trying to teach myself some Jeff Buckley.  When I do that, my mind is on doing it as a cover. It’s still kind of work. … But I enjoy it.

“It’s in your blood, if you get into it, and you just have to keep making music.”

Although Josh Doyle’s 2013 touring plans are still in the planning stage, he does have a couple of TV appearances this month, performing on “CBS This Morning” Jan. 26 and “Fox & Friends” Jan. 27.  Doyle also has a live gig scheduled for Nashville’s 3rd & Lindsley Feb. 16 and a show in London, England, March 25 (Venue TBA).  For more information, be sure to visit his website as well as his Facebook page, Twitter feed and YouTube channel.