Like many songwriters, Josh Wilson draws inspiration from the life he sees taking place all around him.
“I know that seems broad, but I try to just sort of pay attention to things that are happening,” said Wilson, who will perform on the main stage Wednesday night, Aug. 1, at the Washington Town & Country Fair.
The show is set to begin at 8:30 p.m.
Wilson’s latest hit, “Dream Small,” the first single released from an album he has coming out this fall, will, no doubt, be among the set list. The upbeat song, which has been popular with fans, steadily climbing the charts, is particularly autobiographical, said Wilson.
“The first verse is about my wife, and the second verse (about) the pastor at a tiny little church is my granddad, actually,” he said. “He was at a church in Arkansas for close to 40 years.
“The third verse, ‘visiting the widow down the street,’ . . . we have a lot of folks in our neighborhood we try to get to know. And ‘dancing on Friday with your friend with special needs,’ that’s about a ministry we volunteer with called Capernaum. It’s Young Life Club for kids with special needs, and we do a lot of dancing.
“That song is just kind of notes on my own life.”
In other songs, Wilson draws inspiration from autobiographical events or things his friends have gone through, and used his faith as a filtering lens to create a sort of commentary.
“Some songs are more encouraging, others are a little more challening, but I always find there is inspiration to be found if we kind of slow down and pay attention,” said Wilson.
“So I try to do that in life, and anytime I find a thing that I want to write about, I sort of jot it down until I can get back to it and spend some time thinking about it. I take those ideas and keep them in a journal and on a day like today, a writing day, I’ll go through those ideas and decide which one I want to work on.”
‘Writing Is Hard Work’
Wilson grew up in Lubbock, Texas, but moved to Nashville, Tenn., in 2002 to attend Belmont University. He graduated there in 2006 and hit the ground running, signing his first record deal the very day he graduated.
He put out six records with Capitol over the course of 10 years. He’s just recently signed with Black River Christian and is getting ready to put out his first album with them in November.
Writing songs is creative work, but Wilson doesn’t just sit around and wait for lightning to strike. He goes after it, turning to his journal of ideas to get him started.
“I treat writing like a workday,” he said. “I’ll say, ‘Today I’m going to write from 9 to 5.’ I’ll take a lunch break. I’ll sit with those (journal) ideas and see if I can get back into that inspired state of mind.
“A lot of times though it really is hard work. I do believe in that creative wave, creative muse, but for me that doesn’t happen very often, so I have to sit down and think about how I felt in that inspired moment and go from there,” said Wilson. “And then it’s like writing anything . . . once you get into it, you start to feel inspired.”
When he is at home in Nashville, Wilson’s workspace is a basement studio.
It’s about 800 square feet, with a control room, sound board and computer on one side, and a space for band rehearsal on the other.
“I’ll sit on the control room side, and I have a few different instruments, a piano and guitars. It’s my quiet place to sit and work and write and think and reflect,” said Wilson.
“When I’m home, that’s where I prefer to work. My commute is about 12 steps. I like that. I have a 2-year-old son, so I can pop up for lunch with them, but it is nice to have a separate space downstairs.
“A lot of my songs, once I start them and get them going, I’ll pull up a lyric just about anywhere and work on it. So I’ll be sitting on an airplane or on a tour bus, in a van, riding in a rental car, and I’ll pull up a lyric to work on,” he said.
An Introvert by Nature
Wilson describes himself as an introvert with an aversion to the spotlight. But God had other plans for him, he realized.
Time and experience has made going out on stage easier for him, but in his heart, he’ll always be an introvert.
“I recharge my batteries quietly and alone, in my own mind,” said Wilson. “I do love people, it’s just the way I kind of reboot and recharge is by myself.
“And I have never been one who enjoys the spotlight. When I was in school, I can remember, I would always dread public speaking classes and having to get up and talk in front of people. That is not my natural environment. I like to take things in and soak them in and listen.
“A lot of times I don’t necessarily want to contribute to a conversation, but I do feel like these songs and sort of the message that I put into my music, I do feel strongly enough about it that I do want to get out there and sing it and talk about it, and over the years have heard stories from people of, ‘This song meant this to me,’ and I was able to take this course in my life differently because of your music, and that’s encouraging,” said Wilson.
“That gives me affirmation that even though it can make me uncomfortable and make me a little anxious, it is worth doing, and I do feel called to do it.
“It is a daily struggle for me to put myself out there like that, but time and time again I’ve learned for whatever reason these songs are encouraging to people and I’m thankful for the opportunity to provide that for folks.”
A few records ago, Wilson recorded a song that speaks to his experience: “I don’t have what it takes, but here I am anyway.”
Live Show Includes Variety
Wilson has been said to put on an impressive live show.
His show here will include him with two band members playing as a trio. The songs will sound a lot like they do on the radio and the records, but Wilson said in live shows he likes to do some live looping, which is recording his guitar in front of the audience and then playing it back and adding second and third layers.
“It’s kind of like bringing the recording process to the stage and letting the audience in on that,” said Wilson.
The show will include a lot of variety too, he said, from big, full band type stuff to stripped-down acoustics.
“And I’ll tell stories, talk about why I wrote the songs, tell about my family and my upbringing and things like that,” said Wilson.
That kind of variety ensures something for everyone in the crowd, he said.
“So if you want the big band thing, you’ll get that. If you want the more introspective acoustic-sounding things, there’ll be some of that. They’ll be even some instrumental music where I’m just playing guitar pieces, so for the musicians there, there’ll be something for them to soak up and enjoy as well.
“It really is fun for all ages, and I think whatever kind of music you like, there’ll be something for you there.”
Wilson’s music is considered Christian rock, and for people who have never thought that was the kind of music they would enjoy, they just might be surprised.
For starters, what’s great about Christian rock is there is never anything in the lyrics that you have to worry about your kids singing along to.
But also, the lyrics are meaningful.
“There might be some things about it that surprise you,” said Wilson. “I find there’s a lot of Christian music that is just pretty honest about the way the world is. I don’t presume to have more answers than the next person or have it all together. That’s what my faith is all about.
“I find the Christian tradition is a beautiful story, and one we all have a part to play in. So I just say come in to it with an open mind.
“Christian music is a broad term. Mine is more singer/songwriter, more pop, but in terms of the content it’s just me hashing out what it means to follow Jesus. I ask a lot of questions. I don’t presume to have the answers, but I’m just kind of sharing where I am in my own journey.”