Monday, July 22, 2013

9 Questions to Newport: with Joshua Black Wilkins

I first came across JBW when looking into how to put an acoustic pickup into an archtop (it already had a P90 as the main pickup). I stumbled across a video of him demo-ing his real pretty looking arch top and the dual pickup system he installed. He seemed like a pretty cool guy, played a killer guitar, so I checked out some of his tunes and was immediately hooked. With a whiskey tinged, gravely voice that projects with a certain conviction that so many other songwriters try and try to obtain...also the songs are fantastic. You really listen to what this man has to say. He is truly one of Nashville's treasures and luckily enough, he is traveling with the 'Nashville to Newport' crew for this year's festival. Joshua took a few minutes to answer some questions and send them our way.

1)      What projects are you currently working on or have you recently released?

 JBW: Musically, my newest record, Fair Weather, came out in January.  I've been touring extensively in the US since April on that record.  

2)      Newport Folk is celebrated for its collaborations, community and bringing folks together for a weekend where they may not see each other otherwise. How do you feel about that preservation of unity and family sentiment in the folk music community?  

JBW: Just the opportunity to perform at Newport is amazing. And the show I am doing there is certainly very special too. "Nashville To Newport" is a 3.5 hour performance of Nashville based singer-songwriters. We are all collectively friends, neighbors, collaborators, drinking buddies, and touring partners.  Unity is a very big part of the Nashville music scene anyway, so I can only imagine that I will feel very much at home this year at NFF.   

3)      Favorite OR least favorite/most embarrassing moment on stage from your career? 

  JBW: 10-14 years ago I was mostly just doing a rock-a-billy band, originally from Huntsville Alabama. I used to do this high kick during the last song of my set, and one night (while doing my "kick") I tripped on a guitar cable and fell right over. I was playing a brand new Archtop guitar that night and broke the input jack right off.   There is a VHS video of this very comical "act" that my brother still has.  
  I have also gotten the hickups before during a solo show. It was funny the first song, but didn't quit for at least 10 minutes.  

4)      If you could collaborate with anyone  musically, who would it be? 

  JBW: There are a few fair names for this list. Dolly Parton, Nora Jones, Willie Nelson, Eddie Vedder, and Tom Waits are high on that list.  

5)      1 record that shaped you when you first started playing and 1 record that best represent who you are now/are listening to now? 

   JBW: At 15, I was listening to a lot of Pearl Jam and Ben Harper. Those early 90's records certainly made me WANT to write and perform music, and Pearl Jam's "TEN" is one of the most emotionally inspiring records I have ever owned. Their MTV UNPLUGGED performance was absolutely one of my favorite VHS tapes, and still is to this day.  
   Today, I try to absorb myself with great songwriters. Nashville's Andrew Combs newest record has been in heavy play since I got a copy in Oct 2012, and I can never get enough Ray LaMontagneSlaid Cleaves, Ryan Adams, Jason Isbell and Justin Townes Earle.  
   Whiskeytown's STRANGERS ALMANAC is certain one of the best records ever made and is the basic inspiration for any "country" song I write.  

6)      So, why is creating music important to you? Why do you hit the stage night after night, pull out the old song notebook every day, or whatever else you do to let loose your creativity? 

JBW: Like most anyone will say, creating and performing music is a release. It has always been the best way for me to express myself and deliver my feelings. Though many of my songs now have fictional characters or events stitched with my real life, it is something that I MUST do.   
 Playing live is the result/reward of those songs. whether there are 12 people or 600 in the crowd, performing on stage is a huge part of that release.  

7)      Do you have any "guilty pleasure" music? Something the world may be surprised to hear you listen to or draw inspiration from? 

JBW: I probably don't have any guilty pleasure that wouldn't be pretty believable if you knew me and my background.  I turned 13 in 1991 and it was before the internet, so the music that MTV handed me during puberty has had a huge impact on my tastes. I can still listen to any early 90's "grunge" band and feel as at home as listening to the newest Black Keys recording.  

8)      Aside from music, do you have any other pastimes? What would you want people to know about you aside from your musical endeavors? 

JBW: Other than photography, which a lot of people also know me for, I collect old US coins, indian artifacts, and LOVE my two black cats. 

9)      Anything else you want to plug or we should know?   
JBW:  Buy my records. Vote. Think twice. Smile more. and when someone sneezes...

Be sure to check Joshua out online at

He has all sorts of stuff up there ranging from music, to videos to his truly original and kickass photography. And most importantly, be sure to swing by the Museum stage on Saturday from 1:30-5 to check out JBW and the other fine musicians playing in "Nashville to Newport".

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