Josh Taerk is sure to be the envy of every indie rocker. His music has touched his fans profoundly, he's played with rock legends and is fortunate to have those legends as mentors and friends. His latest single, “Anywhere Love Took Us” is getting played at retail and doing great on the WISM Top-30 chart!
You connected with John Oates and have been friends for awhile now. How did the two of you meet?
I met John in April of 2011 at the 7908 Aspen Songwriter’s festival. I was invited to play two shows as part of the festival and right off the bat I remember all the performers being treated as equals. It didn’t matter if you were a veteran songwriter with fifty singles under your belt or a young writer looking to cut his teeth; you were given the same access, the same perks, and you were all invited to the after party to celebrate and meet with each other. That’s how I met John.
At the after party I got a chance to talk to John and thank him for inviting me to play. He told me that he was coming to Toronto, my hometown, to play a show a couple months later, gave me a number and told me to get in touch with him so we could meet up again. I thanked him but figured it wasn’t his number, how could it be? After all, he’s John Oates. Well, as the show approached I texted the number he gave me and it turned out to be John’s number. He told me to come backstage before the show, we must have spent about an hour talking, and he’s been a great friend and mentor ever since.
That's one heck of a mentor! How has he helped you grow as a musician?
John was the one who introduced me to Nashville. When I was ready to record my album ‘Here’s To Change’ I had a very specific feel in mind for the record. I was talking to John about all my ideas, what I wanted the album to sound like, and he told me 1) you have to go to Nashville and 2) you have to meet my producer friend Teddy Morgan. From the first day we met, Teddy and I hit it off and have been working together ever since.
When Teddy and I were almost done ‘Here’s To Change’, I was hanging out with John and talking to him about the record. He asked me to send him some tracks, and the next thing I knew he sent me back a message asking if he could sing background vocals on two of my songs. I found myself sitting in the control room, Teddy behind the board and John in the vocal booth singing the words to songs that I wrote. Hands down, one of the coolest moments of my life.
John is an amazing friend and I’ve found I’ve learned a lot about the kind of artist and person I want to be in my career from John.The thing about John is that he’s the most down to earth guy you’ll ever meet and genuinely loves music for the sake of music. Whether it’s his solo career, Hall and Oates, or even someone else’s music; he sincerely loves music and wants to be a part of it in any way he can. He’s sincere when he talks to you, and is so generous with his time, advice and expertise; that’s the kind of person and artist I strive to be every day.
You’ve been asked to play at some very high profiles shows. What live performances have been most memorable and why?
I love playing my music live. There’s no feeling like being on stage and watching your words connect with people, and all of you coming together to share in that experience. It’s awesome. I would have to say that two of my top five most memorable shows were with another great friend and mentor, Max Weinberg (Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band).
I met Max at an event he was hosting in Toronto and found the courage to go up to him, tell him I’m a huge fan and start a conversation. Max is an incredibly humble guy and took the time that night to talk to me about everything and anything. I finally gave him a copy of a demo I made in a friend’s basement and asked him if he would listen to it. He said he would and, sure enough, a couple weeks later I got an email from him and his manager saying how much they liked what they heard, and asking If I’d be willing to come to South Orange New Jersey and open for Max and his Big Band. I was on cloud 9 and the next thing I knew I was backstage at the South Orange Performing Arts Centre getting ready to hit the stage, when someone started knocking on my door. I opened it and Max came in, asked me how sound check was and then told me he would be introducing me to the audience that night. I’ll never forget that.
A few months later I got an email from Max inviting me to come and see a show he was playing at Summerfest in Milwaukee. It sounded like a great time and my family had never been to Chicago so I thought we’d make a weekend trip out of the whole thing; fly in, drive up to see the show in Milwaukee and then spend a couple days in the windy city. So, my family and I fly down, get to the show and Max invites us backstage.
I’m standing there introducing my family to Max when suddenly Max hands me a guitar and tells me I’m coming onstage with him and his band for the encore to pay tribute to the late great Clarence Clemons. It was a complete out of body experience standing backstage with Max, Bill Champlin (Chicago) his son Will Champlin (Top 3 of The Voice season 5) and Mindi Abair (Grammy nominated Saxophone player and vocalist) among others going over the chords for this song, all the while thinking to myself that this was the best day of my life.
The most memorable performance I’ve had so far however, was in 2013 while I was on tour in The UK playing a show in Skegness England. I had played in the same theatre the year before and while I was there met a girl and her younger sister after the show. She told me that she loved the lyrics of my songs and that they were really inspiring. Now, I consider myself a writer before anything else and there’s no bigger compliment you can give me than telling me that my words mean something to you; so that in itself meant the world to me. She then told me that she always wanted to be a singer but was really nervous to take the plunge and do it. I told her that life is too short not to do what you love to do.
Fast forward to 2013, I’m back at the same theatre and this very familiar looking girl is standing at the backstage doors as I walk out after the show. She stops me and says, “You may not remember me, but you talked to my sister about becoming a singer a while back. You really inspired her to follow her dreams. She got home the night she talked to you and applied for a University Degree in vocal performance.” I didn’t know what to say, I was trying to wrap my head around the idea that something I said and something I wrote had that much impact on someone else’s life. All I could do was ask her how her sister was doing now. She told me, “She loves the program and is graduating in a year.” I will never forget that show as long as I live and think about that moment every single day, because moments like that are why I do what I do and love what I do so much.
Your music is reminiscent of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Who are your musical influences?
Thank you so much. That was the music I grew up listening to and love. My musical influences have become very diverse as far as sound and genre go. When I was growing up, my parents were big into Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Neil Young, John Cougar; so I grew up with a very good rock-ucation behind me. As I got older and started to write my own songs, I started listening to everything from Rock to Country; Joni Mitchel, James Taylor, The Eagles, Fall Out Boy, Green Day, Tim McGraw, Eric Church, Florida Georgia Line, Nirvana and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers. As long as there’s a story in the song, and as long as a band or artist is saying something I can relate to in a song, it’ll be in my playlist.
Tell us about your new single, “Anywhere Love Took Us," which is gaining lots of traction at retail.
“Anywhere Love Took Us,” was a really fun song to write. It was the first song I wrote with Teddy Morgan and our mutual friend Jack Williams. It actually started out as a guitar exercise. Teddy and I had just finished writing together and were waiting for Jack to arrive so we could start a new song. I was sitting there with my guitar and started playing what would become the main guitar riff. Teddy suddenly stopped me and said, “that was cool! Play that thing again,” so I did. Teddy then looked at me and said, “yeah, you’ve got to play that for Jack.” So, Jack came in a couple minutes later and I played it for him. He loved it too and the three of us started writing the song around that guitar part.
The lyrics took shape around the idea of getting back to the roots of love by remembering that in order for a relationship to work you both have to be up for the journey that is being in love.
What’s next for Josh Taerk?
This year the band and I are heading back out on the road for the “Anywhere Love Took Us Tour” and will be stopping in cities and towns all over North America. We’re also going to be heading back over to The UK to tour there as well.
Finally, a shameless plug … what would you like our readers to know about you?
I would like them to know that I really appreciate them taking the time to read this interview. It’s people like your readers, engaging with music, that allow people like me to do what I love to do; write songs, make albums and perform those songs live.
Also, if you like the interview check out “Anywhere Love Took Us” on Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer, Google Play, etc. You can also watch the music video for ALTU on my YouTube channel. Thanks everyone.