This fall is shaping up to be one full of big releases, and one of the ones we are anticipating the most here at the Armadillo comes from Jacksonville, Florida’s Josh Card. His album “With A Heavy Heart” comes our way November 9th, and friends, I encourage you to put this one on your calendar now, it’s going to be one of the essential albums put out this year.
The album features 10 tracks, 9 of which Card wrote himself or co-wrote. The lone track he didn’t write, “Unknown Legend”, is a Neil Young song that Card is bringing his honky tonk spin to. Producing the album with Card was Dean Miller, the son of country music Hall of Famer and icon Roger Miller, and the pair have crafted what can only best be described as a damn fine country record.
And now, we here at the Country Music Armadillo, with Josh’s full blessing, are honored to give you the first listen to the second single from the album, “Devil’s Blood”!
“This album is the most honest, genuine thing I’ve ever made,” said Card of the experience. “I wrote authentic songs, influenced by life, from the deepest depths of my heart and soul. I just wanted to make an album that is ‘me’ without trying to use any formula or mold. From the producer, to the studio, to the players, I wanted to give my very best, and not cut any corners. It’s a self-made project that I feel truly displays who I am.”
It’s the cap to a career year for Card who began 2018 playing acoustic guitar on the road with Whitey Morgan and the 78’s, but soon shifted his focus to his own solo career. As we started to really dig in and talk about the album he started off by telling the story of how he ended up with Whitey to begin with. “A lot of people don’t know that I was out on the road by myself before I ever played with Whitey. I was on the road playing, and I had met [78’s Steel Guitarist] Brett Robinson and Brett and I became good friends. Brett was actually sitting in and playing steel with me and (my band) the Restless Souls when he was available before I ever played with Whitey.”
“I actually ended up renting a room with Brett in Nashville. We were living together and when Whitey and the guys would come to town before runs I would just be hanging around with everyone, and that’s how I ended up getting the call and the chance to play with Whitey and those guys.”
With the way things turned out I asked Josh if that had been the plan, to only be a temporary member of the 78’s, or if his plans changed along the way, encouraging him to go out on his own. “It wasn’t supposed to be temporary. Not at all,” Josh told me. “I loved playing with Whitey and those guys. I still love it. I’ll always love it. Those are some of my best friends in the world. I absolutely had a great time. Anyone who has seen a Whitey Morgan show knows how good a time it really is. I went into that wanting to do it for as absolutely long as I could.
But there was just something in his Restless Soul that he couldn’t shake. Something else was calling out to him from deep inside. “I was writing my own songs and playing my own shows at home more and more and I couldn’t escape the magnetism of wanting to sing my own songs. Even though I love all of those guys and everything they’re doing I just couldn’t escape the need to sing my own songs. I wanted to be able to put my focus and energy into that without being sidetracked and taking away from what I needed to do to be the best for Whitey that I could be. Whitey is such a great artist that he deserves full attention from his guys, and I didn’t want it to be an issue that I couldn’t do that. I finally sat down with him and I said ‘Listen, I love you brother, but I’ve got my own songs burning up my soul and I need to sing them.’”
Even though his time as a member of the 78’s ended up being shorter than planned, Josh stressed to me that it provided a timeless multitude of knowledge for him as he headed out on his own. “Being with Whitey really showed me a lot about professionalism in this specific genre,” said Josh. “I had been on the road for years playing in bands, like actual bands doing punk rock and that sort of thing, but being on the road with him taught me so much about how to please and really catch the interest of the fans who are a part of this movement. Whitey and those guys are just so professional, and so good and being able to be a part of that, even for a short time, showed me so much about how to handle myself and my band now that I’m heading back out on my own. It made me better as a musician, and it taught me to appreciate the aspect of what a band can do when they work hard, and I apply all those values with the band I have today.”
While Josh has put out an album before this, he expressed to me that he believes this one is his true debut solo album. I asked about the differences between the two, and Josh expressed that this album was done correctly where the first one is a little less cut and dried. “Oh man, it was night and day different between the two. When I did my first album the goal was to get something made so I could start playing shows. I had transitioned from Florida, where I had lived all my life, to Kentucky for work. In Florida I had all my friends and all the people I knew and I could start any kind of band at any time, but when I got to Kentucky I knew no one. That’s when it really went from going out and starting, and playing in bands to singing my own songs. I was playing open mic nights and pick-up shows with my songs. The first album was done on a shoestring budget, it was done quickly, and I think it was done immaturely, all just so I could start playing shows,” he reflected with wisdom.
Without hesitation he further compared this album to the last, saying “I couldn’t do that this time around, though. There was too much on the line. Too much at risk. With this album I took my time. It was planned, but not forced. I just made sure to take my time so I could do what I wanted to do this time around.”
He once again looked back on his time with Whitey and how it affected the process of making this album, telling me that under Whitey he learned more about recording, and leading a band than he knew previously. “Recording with Whitey taught me a lot all in it’s own. For him to bring an idea and say ‘Here’s my idea for the song, lets build upon it’ that really set a good example for me because there was nothing like that when I recorded my first album. My first album was me going ‘Ok guys, here’s my song, here’s what I want you to play, play this.’ Being with such a great group of musicians under Whitey was an incredible awakening for me because it really demonstrated to me that these guys have great ideas and it helps make for a much more natural progression for a song when you are perfecting it.”
But it wasn’t just the teaching presence of Whitey Morgan in Josh’s corner helping him to his ultimate goal of making a badass record. Josh was lucky enough to find the right producer for the project, someone who perfectly understood what Josh wanted, and helped him bring it all to life in Dean Miller, son of the iconic Roger Miller. I asked Josh what it was like working with Dean on the project. “Incredible,” he began excitedly. “Anyone who knows the name Miller in country music knows Roger Miller was one of the most creative minds, and inspiring songwriters in the history of music. Working with someone who was attached and associated with that the way Dean is was an easy decision for me. I knew plenty of his work from before and it was really great getting the chance to have him onboard for this album. He worked with my good friend Dallas Moore on his record “Mr. Honky Tonk” and I felt that what they had done together with that record is the best work Dallas has ever done. I talked to Dallas and he told me that Dean had helped capture the best of himself. I wanted that for myself. ”
Dean had a deep, and immediate understanding of the project and what Josh wanted it to be. Further elaborating on the working relationship Josh told me “I was inspired by Dean. He grew up with Waylon Jennings in his living room. He grew up with his dad and Ray Price writing songs in the next room. The music was instilled in him. He grew up with music embedded in his soul that was some of the most genuine and innovative that’s ever been written. So I was definitely excited to work with someone with that kind of lineage. When we started talking we saw eye-to-eye right away. Dean has a very deep, honest, and passionate adoration for country music. What it is, the stories it tells… So when Dean and I sat down and started talking about my record and what I wanted it to be he was instantly as sold on me as I was on him. He loved my ideas, and the kind of record I wanted to make. We just wanted to make a damn good country record.”
And make a damn good country record is exactly what they did. As Josh and I spoke about it, his satisfaction with it was apparent. I asked Josh how he felt now that it was done, and just waiting to be unleashed on the world. With a laugh he answered “I’m still in the stages of stress and anxiety. Not because of any doubt about the record I’ve made, but because I’m anxious to get it to the world, and get into the world myself. When I say that I put everything I have into this record I don’t just mean that in a cute way like some might say ‘I gave it all I got.’ I mean it in a very literal way. Emotionally, mentally, physically, financially. Everything I have is a part of this record. It’s the most personally pivotal thing I’ve ever done both as a human and a musician. I’m so excited for it to get out into the world.”
In the interest of full disclosure (Though not to brag… Ok maybe to brag just a little) I have heard the full record. And friends, believe me when I say it is fantastic. I can’t wait for you all to hear it. I can’t wait for you all to hear it and experience the pure passion in these songs. I can’t wait for you all to hear it and marvel at it’s technical excellence. I can’t wait for you all to hear the soul and fire Josh belts out his songs with. I can’t wait for the world to get the full, proper Josh Card experience as it’s meant to be.
More than that, I can’t wait for you all to get to know the badass that is Josh Card. The friendly guy who is always glad to see you. I can’t wait for you all to stand in the crowd and be bowled over by what he does up on that stage. I can’t wait for you to see his passion for what he does, for what he’s been a part of. Hearing him talk about Whitey Morgan and the effect he has had on him was wonderful. It was entirely genuine. There was no doubt that every word Josh told me was true, and looking in his eyes you can tell that it all truly means something to him.
But it doesn’t just end there for Josh Card, oh no. Josh wants to repay that same feeling to others.
“For me the reason I play music is the fact that growing up throughout my life, and even now I can hear a song and I can think ‘Holy shit, that song was written for me. All those words were sang for me and what I’m going through and living right now.’ I just want to be able to have that same effect, to give that same gift to someone else. That someone could hear the songs that I’ve written and play and say ‘Holy shit that song was written for me.’”
Josh Card’s “With A Heavy Heart” releases November 9th. CLICK HERE to head on over to his website and order your copy now.