Ulsterman Joshua Burnside has been on our musical radar for a few years now, since the release of his acclaimed debut album Ephrata back in 2017. Joshua eased back into the limelight back in April when he shared, Far O’er the Sounding Main, a collection of traditional folk songs he recorded at home during lockdown. Joshua’s bigger project for 2020 is the release of his second album, planned to arrive later this year, which he has recently previewed with the excellent AA-single, Whiskey Whiskey / The Only Thing I Fear.
While whiskey and folk-music have a long and we presume messy history, Joshua’s take is actually a little more modern than you might imagine. Inspired by a fear of flying, panic attacks and the short term medicinal qualities of brown-liquor, Joshua ultimately concludes, “well if lightings gonna strike me twice, this time I’m gonna do it right. Whiskey, whiskey, no ice in my whiskey please”. The whole track blends catastrophe and humour, into a beautifully boozy, godless whole, as he muses on plane crashes and his own irrational mind. Deliberate, or otherwise, The Only Thing I Fear, also seems to mark a path through our darker, more catastrophic thoughts, as Joshua explains, “as we get older we realise that the really scary things in life are not external to us, but come from within”. Musically, these tracks pick up where Joshua left-off, with rich, caramel-hewn vocals and a fluttering array of acoustic guitars and banjo, yet shift his outlook slightly, with both the disorienting layered vocals that start Whiskey Whiskey and the Bon Iver-like combination of campfire sing-along and warm vocal distortion on The Only Thing I Fear pushing Joshua into new musical territories. These are two sparkling jet-black gems to re-awaken the attentions of those who already know Joshua Burnside, and entice a whole new audience into his fascinating musical mind, a bold new chapter for Joshua Burnside that might just be his most exciting venture yet.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is Joshua Burnside?
I am a folk singer, a songwriter, producer and general noise maker based in the glorious east of Belfast, the capital city of an unusual and often troubled corner of Ireland called Ulster (the north, norn iron, the six counties etc)
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
I’ve been playing live since I could string a few chords together, so my first gig would have been when I was about 12. I was in a grunge band with two other mates from school. We were fairly awful.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
I think I wanted to be an artist first, drawing and painting, but when I started playing music that kind of just took over. I remember learning Greensleeves on a little Yamaha keyboard when I was about 9, and then after I got bored of playing that a thousand times I was given a guitar and started writing songs. I still love to doodle and paint but I find music to be an almost magical power, the power to connect with people, move people, be moved and to feel part of something bigger than yourself. It’s like a religion in many ways, but one in which you are encouraged to break the rules.
FTR: What can people expect from the Joshua Burnside live show?
Sometimes I perform with a 6 piece band, with brass, strings and electric guitars, and it can get pretty raucous. I like to flail myself around the stage like a lunatic (can’t get rid of the grunge in me). But sometimes it’s just myself and a couple others doing a stripped back thing, acoustic guitar, cello etc. I love doing both types of shows and both have a time and a place. With the first type of show, I sort of become someone else, and aim to create a sort of spectacle of myself, so that the audience feels like they’re watching someone having a bit of a melt down. Songs like Tunnels pt.2 and Black Dog Sin are great for that.
FTR: What’s next for Joshua Burnside?
The future is somewhat uncertain due to this covid carry on, but I am releasing new music this year.
I’ve also started playing the fiddle so I’d like to record some scratchy lo-fi instrumental stuff on that at some point.
They Listen To…
Lankum – Bear Creek
This song has been lifting my spirits through the lockdown. Beautifully arranged and performed by Lankum. It makes me want to run across hills and over mountains.
Junior Brother – The Back Of Her
A great song from a brilliant album called Pull the right rope. Lo-fi Irish acoustic, but better than that sounds. I love everything about this track, the bird noises, the unassuming guitar part, the range of intensitiy of the vocal performance and the ominous cello lines.
Anna Mieke – Idle Mind
Another great Irish artist. The production of this one is so tasty, every decision was the right one to my ears. Anna Mieke has a knack with melody that I aspire to, and the voice to deliver them.
Julia Jacklin – Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You
This is one of the those songs that I think every songwriter hears and thinks, I wish I had written this. Simple, universal and beautifully crafted.
Sam Amidon – Sugar Baby
Sam Amidon does a trick where he makes something extraordinarily complex, sound extraordinary simple. The way this song builds, repeating those same lyrics over and over, it is mesmerising.
The Only Thing I Fear / Whiskey Whiskey is out now. Click HERE for more information on Joshua Burnside.