Interview: Josh Shilling

Hello Josh, it is a great privilege to meet someone that has your passion, talents, and vision in music.

It has been mentioned that you started playing the piano at the age of 7.  Were you required to take piano lessons like many kids or was this a passion  of yours?

I was always intrigued by the piano when I was a kid. My aunt had a piano that I loved when I was six or so. I think she started giving me my first few lessons and eventually she gave me that old upright when she had to move into a smaller home. I remember my mom started me with an actual piano teacher shortly thereafter. Even though I learned to read music at a young age, I was always able to play along with recordings by ear. As far back as I can remember, I could pick out chords and melodies this way. I was never pushed to pursue music at all. It was simply something that set me on fire as kid and I think I've still got that same passion. Musicians were all around me also. My dad, aunt, brother, grandfather, and uncle were all musicians and singers so it seemed natural for me to learn from them and start playing.

  How many years have you been involved in the musical world professionally and how did you get your foot into the proverbial door?

I started playing weddings and clubs when I was in middle school. After fielding several offers to tour as a keyboard player with various acts in Virginia, I decided to graduate high school a year early to pursue music full-time. It was a scary decision and looking back, it could've totally been the wrong thing to do. Not going to college has always been something I regret a little but I wouldn't change a thing at this point. I started touring and opened my own business in music at age 18 and I've toured the world, played with my heroes, and made a living this way every since! As far as getting my foot in the door, I played constantly. I performed in every little club there was around the SW Virginia area and I think that allowed people to see and hear me quickly leading to gigs touring with acts like Billy "Crash" Craddock, The Embers, The Kings, and country group Cimmaron to name a few. I learned from everyone I toured with and tried to save every dime I could along the way because it was and still can be extremely hard to survive off the music business.
 As an established artist and song writer, which was more of a challenge for you personally to start in your career?

I guess it was tougher for me to break through and have a voice as an artist and not just a sideman or back up musician. When you sing lead and harmonies well, play guitar, piano, Hammond organ, Clavinet, and various other instruments, and you've spent several years as a part of a band playing mostly cover songs or backing up country singers, it's hard to stand up and say "I'm a lead singer...I'm a songwriter and entertainer!" People got to know me as a strong member of their bands but not as their front guy. As far as songwriting is concerned, I've always written songs. I think I probably started writing chord and melody ideas the second I started fooling with the piano. Songwriting is definitely a craft that you nurture and get better at over time. I started writing southern rock-feeling tunes, gospel tunes, and eventually got into writing beach and R&B songs for some of the east coast dance bands. After that, I began working with Mountain Heart and all of a sudden I started writing bluegrass material for other acts. I took all of that experience and went to work at some publishing houses here in Nashville where I honed in on the more commercial side of songwriting.

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