Singer-songwriter Josh Taerk has been playing venues all over his native Canada, the US and the UK for years, building a fan base as well as impressing industry peers such as Max Weinberg, who had him play support for his show in New Jersey, and John Oates , who introduced Taerk to Teddy Morgan, his now producer. Recently Taerk released his new single, "Anywhere Love Took Us" and graciously called to talk about the song, his roots, and more.
Your latest album, Here's To Change, was released in 2015. Was music something you always wanted to pursue professionally?
For as long as I can remember, there was always music playing in the house. For us, family time was spent singing along to old records, which was my introduction to music and a really great experience for me. When I was young, I was a big boy band guy and a buddy of mine was into rock music, so we’d joke that his rock music was terrible and my boy band music terrible. But one night, he invited me to watch his friend’s band perform. When they hit the stage playing AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” I fell in love the sound, the energy coming from the stage and how they would feed off of one another. I went home that night thinking I was going to be the next Slash - I had the super curly hair so I figured I was halfway there (laughing).
My guitar teacher at the time taught me chords more than scales, so I learned more of the rhythm part rather than the lead. When friends asked me to play, I quickly realized I’d have to sing for them to know the song I was playing, so I started to do that. At the same time, I was working as a camp counselor and developed a tight-knit friendship with a group of guys who were all into the same kind of music. At the end of the summer, one friend set up the end-of-year staff banquet and got permission to do a talent show....and without me knowing, signed me up. The day of the show he says to me that he’ll see me in a couple of hours and 'by the way you're playing in the talent show and closing it out as well, have a good time.' I was petrified because I only ever sang in front of 5-10 people, but to quote Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” so I figured I would do it and see how it went. I sang “Hey There Delilah” and I remember finishing the song and the place, which was about 500-600 people, went nuts. Feeling and seeing their reaction to my performance, I was hooked and knew that I needed to do that again.
Sounds like it went over more than well! What about songwriting, when did you begin to do that?
Songwriting came about around the ages of sixteen or seventeen. I started to get into my parent's old records – Petty, Springsteen, Neil Young - and began to appreciate more what you could do with words and the different ways to tell stories. In general, the artists and songs I gravitate to don’t fall into a specific category of music; it’s more if I can relate to the story they’re telling. For me, music is a conversation between the writer and the audience and it’s a beautiful thing when, as a writer, you can create, tell a story and express emotions, but as soon as you put it out there, others start to take it on and bring it into their lives - and that creates a whole other narrative to the song. It’s a cool process to see the way other people interpret what you’re doing and how they connect with it.
I can believe that. As a listener, I know I’ve interpreted songs differently from the way they were originally written. You had the opportunity to work with Max Weinberg and John Oates. Would you say connecting with the two of them was a major turning point for you?
Those were huge turning points for me because they are both heroes of mine. I always tell people that the most important roles in any kind of band are the drummer and the bass player. A lot of people presume it would be the lead singer or the guitarist, but the drummer and the bass player are probably the most important because they’re the rhythm, they’re the backbone locked with each other and keeping the flow of the song. You can put whatever you want on top of that and it will sound amazing because everyone has that place to lock into. Max is one of those phenomenal drummers who is like that and such a big influence on me. To meet Max was incredible because he’s my hero, but at the same time he’s such a down to earth guy who genuinely loves playing music. And I found the same with John. The guy has written more #1s than I have songs, but you’d never tell by talking with him. With the last record of mine, he asked to hear a couple songs and sing background on them. That blew my mind – here’s the guy from Hall and Oates connecting with my lyrics and music and wanting to be a part of it; it was incredibly inspiring. Both of them shaped the way I want people to see me both as a musician and as a person in the industry as well.
It's wonderful to have them as friends and mentors.
Your current single is “Anywhere Love Took Us.” Can you talk about the story behind the song?
I wrote the song in Nashville with Teddy Morgan, and Jack Williams. It’s one of those stories you hear about where a song comes out of thin air. Teddy and I finished writing one song and were waiting for Jack to start new one; I have this riff/exercise that I do on the guitar to keep my fingers loose, so I started playing that and Teddy says “Stop, play that again” and asks me if I had written anything to it. After I told him I hadn't, he said I had to play it for Jack because he thinks it’s really cool. Jack came in, I played the lick and he loved it -- so we started the song based on something I do just to keep my fingers loose and mind occupied between sessions. The riff has a very cool forward momentum, with a bouncy, fun feel, but at the same time it has a kind of retrospective element as well - like you have to look back to move forward. The lyrics came out of that feel and the song is about remembering where the roots of love lie and allowing those feelings and emotions to move you forward through the adventure that is life and love.
When you write do you draw from personal experience, others' experiences, stories or a combination?
All of my songs are based on things I am feeling or have experienced or things people close to me are feeling and experiencing. I feel it’s important as a writer and performer to root yourself in something tangible and real that you can relate through a song, making it that much more believable; especially when you perform it, because you can go back to that place and those feelings, creating more emotion in your performance that allows the audience to get something more from it.
The music really could fall into multiple genres as you have some rockier songs, some pop-leaning ones and even some rootsier tunes . Where do you think you fall best or does it even matter these days?
I leave that up to the listener which might sound really weird for an artist to say, but I am inspired by all kinds of genres and artists. The music all bases around the story I’m trying to tell at the time, so whatever is the best approach production, sound-wise and instrumentally to bring out the emotional light of that story is where that song is going to lie. I’ve got songs that fall under pop-rock, bluesier rock, country-rock and almost everything in between. For me when someone tells me that I’m the rock and roll guy or the modern country guy I love it because it means they’re taking those stories in, relating to, and enjoying them. It’s always cool to hear what other people get out of the music – that’s probably the most gratifying part of what I do.
Since "Anywhere Love Took Us" is a single, will there be a new LP or EP on the horizon?
We’re planning on releasing an EP close to the spring or summer of 2017. Above all else, I consider myself a writer. I love getting up on stage and performing - it’s a fun and energetic experience, but it all starts with songs for me. No matter where I am or what I’m doing I’m constantly writing, coming up with new ideas. I have a lot of material that we definitely plan on releasing soon. It’s going to be fantastic.
You’ve toured nationally and internationally. Will there be plans to do that next year as well?
We’ve done a couple writer’s rounds in Nashville, and I love being able to do that, as well as full band shows, because whenever you change the setup, it changes the show slightly which allows me to almost relive these songs in a complexly new way. That said, we are going on the road in November opening for Jon McGlaughlin, then we’re headed to the UK to release the single and tour there.
Seems like you'll be busy!
Finally, I always like to know if there is one recent release that you cannot stop listening to and would recommend people check out?
I listen to a lot of classic stuff, but as far as recent…I’m a big Eric Church fan. I love Mr. Misunderstood and can relate to that song on a personal level because while everybody in high school was listening to Eminem and 50 Cent I was listening to Green Day, Fallout Boy and other underground bands. So him telling the story of being an outsider and developing his own identity as a person and musician was really inspiring.
For more information visit his official website
Find him on Facebook, Twitter and Spotify
Purchase "Anywhere Love Took Us" here and Here's To Change here