As far as authentic, old-time country music goes, American virtuoso Joshua Hedley is the 100% real-deal. He’s a disciple of the scene’s pioneering forefathers, and while in thrall and respectful of country music’s original sound and spirit, his unique outlook and talents deliver a fresh and vibrant take on the genre.
He’s renowned for his velvety vocal tones, impeccable phrasing and ability to craft gorgeously authentic country that ranges from weepy ballads to honky-tonk hoedowns wrapped in sweeping, emotively charged string arrangements.
Also known for his encyclopaedic knowledge of the genres heritage, he’s held up as a scene flagbearer within his musical stomping ground, the famed country music mecca of Nashville, Tennessee, where he’s known by various reverential monikers, such as ‘the mayor of Lower Broadway’ and ‘Mr Jukebox’ – which just happens to be the title of his recently released debut album, on Jack White’s uber-cool Third Man Records.
Prior to branching out on his current musical journey, Joshua made a name for himself as an in-demand musical ‘gun for hire’ on his home turf. A prodigiously talented fiddle player, he’s performed with such scene legends as Justin Townes Earle, Robert Ellis and Jonny Fritz.
And in a great musical coup, the Groundwater Country Music Festival in Broadbeach (previously known as the Broadbeach Country Music Festival) have managed to secure Joshua as part of their upcoming bill, where he’ll be he’ll be regaling fans and newcomers alike across the three days of the festival, taking place from 27 – 29 July.
We managed to get the man himself to answer a few questions for us in the lead in..
You’re renowned for being highly respectful and knowledgeable when it comes to the country music scene’s heritage and history. Did you grow up with exposure to and a love of all things country from a very young age, or did you grow into it in later life?
You could say I grew up with it because I started playing country music at such a young age, but in my earliest years I grew up with mostly 60’s pop and soul music. That’s what my parents listened to. But I got a fiddle when I was eight and started teaching myself about country music. Once I started playing in bands at ten I really started digging into the meat of classic country; Merle, Waylon, Ray Price, etc.
You’ve performed in Australia a few times now, since you first came out here as part of the ‘Out On The Weekend’ festival back in 2014. Do you feel like your Australian following is growing exponentially since that time? And despite the distance, is it fair to say that you’ve built an affinity with our country and its musical audiences?
I love Australia and the Australian people. I feel like you guys really have an appreciation for music and more so the roots of country and Americana music. I feel lucky to be able to share my music in other countries and Australia is by far my favourite place to do so. You guys have been very good to me in the years I’ve been playing there.
You’ve been hailed by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the most anticipated touring artists of this year. What sort of performance can we expect from you on outdoor stages, as part of the three-day Groundwater Festival, compared to the usual ‘juke joint’ type shows you’re typically renowned for?
I’m bringing a band for the first time ever this year. And you’re gonna get the same experience you’d get if you came to see me in the honky tonk. Only it’ll be my songs and not covers.
Are you a big fan of any particular Aussie bands or musicians?
AC/DC, AC/DC, and AC/DC.
Do you listen to much ‘non-country’ music at all? And if so, is there something in your musical universe that would maybe surprise fans of your work?
Well, I listen to a lot of hip hop.
Your debut album, ‘Mr Jukebox’ has recently come out on Jack White’s Third Man Records. How did it come about that you ended up on that label – were they big fans of your music to begin with?
Jack and I have known each other and worked together for a number of years. I’ve worked with him as a fiddle player on a couple projects (Lanie Lane, First Aid Kit, and Margo Price), but it was the Don’t Waste Your Tears EP that I released in Australia that caught his attention as a front man. I guess I have you guys to thank for all this, haha!
Joshua Hedley (USA) will perform at the FREE 2018 Groundwater Country Music Festival 2018, which will run from 27-29 July this year. For more information, go to groundwatercmf.com
IMAGES (c) Jamie Goodsell