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BGS 5+5: Joshua Ray Walker

Jun 23, 2020

BGS 5+5: Joshua Ray Walker

Artist: Joshua Ray Walker
Hometown: Dallas, Texas
Latest album: Glad You Made It (July 10, 2020)
Personal nickname: High Wide and Handsome

What was the first moment that you knew you wanted to be a musician?

I started playing tenor banjo when I was three years old, and guitar when I was five. My grandfather brought a large record collection with him to Texas from Union County, Tennessee, decades before I was born. Every day after school I used to listen to those records in his workshop and try to play along on yard sale instruments he’d find. The first time it really clicked and I could keep up with one of those bluegrass records, I was obviously too young to know then, but I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since.

How often do you hide behind a character in a song or use “you” when it’s actually “me”?

Often. I build characters based on people I know, have met, or parts of my own personality and experiences. It took me a long time to realize that last part, but now that I know, I use it as a way to explore parts of myself I otherwise wouldn’t be brave enough to write about.

What other art forms — literature, film, dance, painting, etc — inform your music?

I would say film has the largest impact on my music. I think of my songs kind of like short stories and they play out in my head like movie scenes. Certain directors have informed the way some of these scenes play out, and the filters and angles by which I view them. Martin Scorsese, The Coen brothers, Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson to name a few.

Since food and music go so well together, what is your dream pairing of a meal and a musician?

One of my favorite parts of touring is trying the local dishes in all the places I visit. Nashville is a great food town and I have a whole itinerary of favorite spots I try to hit up every time I’m there. Fourteen-year-old me would be disappointed if I didn’t pick Jack White. He lives in Nashville, I hear we agree on where to get hot chicken in the town that invented it, and I’ve had countless near-miss encounters with him. So I pick the hot chicken basket with fries and coleslaw, extra pickles and a lukewarm Sprite with Jack White at Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish!

What’s your favorite memory from being on stage?

It was December 2018 and I had just released “Working Girl” and “Canyon” in anticipation of my debut record, Wish You Were Here. I had played to fairly large crowds as a lead guitarist for other bands, but I had never played my songs live to more than about 150 people at a time and I definitely had never experienced the type of “buzz” surrounding my career prior to that point. I had a string of four preternatural shows booked that, in short, made me believe all the hard work of the previous decade was going to pay off, and instilled a confidence in me that I hadn’t had previously.

The first show was my first time playing a theater at the Kessler Theater in my hometown of Dallas, Texas. The second show was my first time opening for Colter Wall, and my first time playing solo at the Granada Theater. The third show was my first time playing the Tower Theater in OKC, opening for Colter. The last show was my first time opening for American Aquarium, and my first time at Cain’s Ballroom. Each show escalated rapidly in magnitude and capacity, and I’ll never forget how amazing and surreal it all felt.

I’m going to focus on the second show briefly. At that time, I had seen close to 100 shows at the Granada Theater, and it had been a staple in my East Dallas community for years. Spotify had just reminded me that Colter Wall and Paul Cauthen were my most listened to artists of 2018, and when I looked out into the crowd that night it seemed like I saw the face of every person who ever cared about me all in one place, singing along to my songs.

My favorite memory of being on stage actually happened right after I walked off it. I pushed my way through the heavy curtain, and what was in the tunnel waiting for me was truly unbelievable: Colter Wall, Paul Cauthen, Vincent Neil Emerson, Matt Hillyer (Eleven Hundred Springs), Summer Dean, Simon Flory, Jacob Metcalf, and others filled the hallway. They had all been watching me close the set through the curtain, and were there to congratulate me when I was done. That was one of the most heartwarming, and reassuring moments of my career and life.

Photo credit: Chad Windham

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BGS 5+5: Joshua Ray Walker
BGS 5+5: Joshua Ray Walker