After years as a punk rocker and the singer of indie rock band House of Fools, North Carolina native Josh King enters his Americana phase as a solo artist with his new album Into The Blue, out Aug. 17. Like the term Americana itself or a roundup of past tour mate Leon Russell’s best songs, the album is a real hodge-podge of popular and roots music from the South.
For example, his new single “Replace” sounds more akin to American rock ‘n’ roll standards than, say, a Tyler Childers deep cut. It’s a country breakup song at heart, with soaring riffs and flashes of a swirling organ that’s akin to Drivin’ N Cryin’s amped-up, melodic material or even Tom Petty when he didn’t hide his Southern accent. At a time when the best singer-songwriters can actually remember hearing good rock music on the radio, it’s not unusual for someone like King or fellow Carolinian Caleb Caudle to mix such influences with those of their roots-honoring peers in Nashville.
For today’s premiere of “Replace,” Wide Open Country briefly chatted with King about the song’s meaning and the unpredictable nature of his solo material.
What’s the song “Replace” about?
It’s the one song off the album that’s about an ex-girlfriend. I was on the road a lot when we dated. We dated for a long time, actually. When I’d go out, I’d always hear stuff about her not being honest–cheating on me and stuff like that. The song is about avoiding it for so long and not being able to break myself away from it, but finally getting to the point where it had to end. I had to stop it. It’s about hoping things will change when they’ll never change and one day saying ‘Enough’s enough.’
It’s a pretty fast-driving, rocking song. Does that represent the tone of the album?
I don’t think there’s another song on there about a relationship. Musically, there’s a little bit of everything on it. There’s a handful of songs that are driving like that and are more rock ‘n’ roll. There’s some that are a little darker and some that are a little more light-hearted.
Are a lot of the confessionals based on your own experiences?
Most of the songs I write are based on my experiences or the experience of a close friend. I try to write them from my perspective and put myself in their shoes.
You have a story similar to Jason Isbell’s, where you overcame some habits and matured creatively and personally. Except you have more of a punk and D.I.Y. background.
I’ve been playing in bands for about 20 years. I’ve done it all. As I’ve grown and as I’ve changed, and there’s a crazy amount of stages I’ve gone through, you can hear it in the music I wrote. On the album, because it was my first solo, I wanted it to have a little bit of everything in it. I wanted it to have punk rock, country, rock ‘n’ roll, ballads, folk songs and all of that. I tried to pull it off. Hopefully, people think I did!
It’s got to be liberating to sit down to write a Josh King album instead of a punk album or a country album.
For some reason, it seems like when you’re in a band, you have to kind of write to what people think you are. Although I don’t think I really did that. For solo, I said I want this album to be kind of an identity crisis.
Without you trying to be these artists, your album fits with the music of Lukas Nelson and others who, in sharing their honest creative visions, end up cutting some pretty rocking material that’s still called Americana.
I love Lukas Nelson. I love that album a lot. There’s a bunch of other bands out there (like that). It’s easy as far as getting yourself out there to say, ‘Oh, it’s Americana,’ and people listen to it. ‘What kind of music do you play?’ ‘Americana.’ ‘Oh, I love Jason Isbell, I’ll check it out!’