|Genres||Alternative rock, folk|
|Occupation(s)||Singer, songwriter, producer|
|Associated acts||Among The Oak & Ash
Josh Joplin Band
Josh Joplin Group
Joplin was born in Washington, D.C., but grew up in Conestoga Valley, in the heart of Lancaster, Pa., until at the age of 12, when his family relocated to Columbia, Md.
Joplin, who was never a great student, began guitar lessons with his math teacher, who promised a to give him the crucial credit he needed to pass the seventh grade if he could learn to play a song proficiently by the end of the year. His interest in guitar and music, especially folk music, outgrew his initial need for a passing grade. Though he made it through to the eighth grade, Joplin dropped out altogether after the ninth grade and began his career as a folk singer.
He spent the next couple of years traveling around the country, busking on the streets, taking odd jobs, and working in restaurants. It was while he was living in Denver for a short stint that he was given his first opportunity to perform in front of an attentive audience, opening for singer-songwriter Bill Staines at the Swallow Hill Folk Music Center.
Later that month he met folk-blues legend Dave Van Ronk who encouraged Joplin to move to New York City, but he left shortly after his arrival upon listening to MacDougal Blues a record released by Atlanta songwriter Kevn Kinney. Joplin relocated to Atlanta.
Still heavily influenced by his heroes Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan, and Woody Guthrie, Josh landed a regular gig at Sylivia’s Atomic Café. Eventually he got some shows opening for singer-songwriters at Trackside Tavern in Decatur, Ga., but when it was learned by the club's manager that he was still underage he was forbidden to play there without a chaperon, so he was often the charge of the performers he was opening for, especially Shawn Mullins and Natalie Farr.
In 1995, wanting to play with other people, Joplin was introduced to Geoff Melkonian, who played bass and viola, and Jason Beucker, who played drums. After playing a few shows together as Josh’s backing band, the three decided to continue to play together simply under the name Josh Joplin Band. They released an album later that year called Projector Head. The notes section on the back of the lyrics booklet inside the Projector Head CD says "recorded August '95 at Furies Studio Atlanta GA". The three toured tirelessly throughout the southern and northeastern U.S., eventually garnering a small but loyal following.
In 1997, they released Boxing Nostalgic and later that same year added Allen Broyles to their lineup on organ and piano. Broyles appears on two tracks of Boxing Nostalgic. Their expanding fan base and record sales increased exponentially, drawing the attention of major labels but never fetching them a deal.
In 1998, Shawn Mullins, still riding high on his success with Lullaby signed the quartet to his own SMG Label. He produced Useful Music and performed on many of the songs. Shortly after its release, Jason Beucker was replaced on drums by Ani Cordero then Eric Taylor. Deb Davis was also added on lead guitar and the band made a slight name change: Josh Joplin Group.
In 2000, Useful Music was picked up by Danny Goldberg and Daniel Glass's new collaborative label Artemis Records. It was repackaged and re-released in 2001. Many songs were totally re-recorded. Producer Peter Collins created a remix to a ballad called I’ve Changed for radio, which ended up as an alternate version on the album, but the bulk of the transformation came from former member of the Talking Heads and producer Jerry Harrison, who re-recorded Matter, I’ve Changed, and an additional track called Camera One. Camera One went on to become the first No. 1 hit on adult album alternative radio by an independent record label ever.
Joplin moved to New York City in 1998 but still toured and played with Josh Joplin Group.
The band followed the success of Useful Music with The Future That Was, which was recorded at Adam Schlesinger and James Iha’s studio Stratosphere and was produced by Rob Gal. Though it received much more critical acclaim, it had very little commercial success. Josh Joplin Group disbanded in December 2003.
In 2004, after being inspired by his then-neighbor Dan Zanes, Joplin began recording a solo record with the friends he grew up with as well as the math teacher who originally taught him guitar. On August 23, 2005, he released "Jaywalker" on Eleven Thirty Records.
Among The Oak & Ash
The seeds of Among The Oak & Ash — the name is borrowed from the title of an old folk song — were planted during Joplin's teen years. It was then, as an itinerant high-school dropout, that he was introduced to Appalachian musical traditions via the repertoire of the unsung Indiana combo Hurricane Sadee, whose performances of folk and bluegrass standards opened Joplin's eyes to a new world of lyrical depth and musical expression. A well-worn Hurricane Sadee cassette became a touchstone for Joplin, and it was from the group that he first learned several of the songs that appear on Among The Oak & Ash. Hurricane Sadee leader Cari Norris is guest banjoist on the album's version of Shady Grove.
As he built his own musical career, Joplin discovered a close friend and kindred musical spirit in fellow singer-songwriter Starr. Starr, like Joplin, had signed to a major label while still in her teens, and had spent much of her adult life performing her compositions for audiences around the world. So when Joplin began to consider making an album of the folk songs that had influenced him so profoundly, it was natural that he would call upon Starr to collaborate on the project.
Joplin and Starr then called upon a pair of highly regarded Nashville-based players, bassist Brian Harrison (Shelby Lynne) and drummer Bryan Owings (Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin), to complete the project's instrumental lineup. Recording in the relaxed atmosphere of Harrison's Nashville home studio, the four musicians approached the sessions with a sense of organic intimacy that's reflected in the album's heartfelt performances.
Working without the funding of a record label, and without any outside influences, they were able to focus entirely on the music.
"It was probably the first time I've ever been in the studio where I wasn't worried about anything," Joplin states. "It was a very relaxed atmosphere, and there was never a sense of being on the clock."
"It was a great creative environment," adds Starr. "We recorded everything in six days. We did most of the record live, without many overdubs and not much production. We just went in there and played the songs, and the whole thing felt completely natural and honest."
Unlike many recent projects that have explored folk and bluegrass material, Joplin and Starr had no interest in creating a self-consciously old-timey sound. "I think that this music has been held onto rather preciously by a lot of the people who've revived it," Joplin observes. "But if you look back on the people who originally created this music, they weren't purists, they were just expressing themselves with the tools that were available to them at the time. That's what we wanted to do: to be faithful to the songs without treating them like museum pieces. One of the things that made me want to work with Garrison was her urgency and irreverence, and I think that those qualities played a big part in how the performances turned out."
"We're definitely looking at this as something that has a future to it," says Starr.
"We're still just starting out, but this has been a lot fun, and it's something that we'd like to keep doing as long as we're having as a good a time as we're having now," adds Joplin. "We definitely won't run out of material."
- A Present For Hitler (1989)
- Facts Of Fortune (1990)
- I Love Janey, But Janey Loves The Grateful Dead (1991)
- Projector Head (1995)
- Boxing Nostalgic (1997)
- Useful Music (1998)
- Camera One (2000)
- The Future That Was (2002)
- The Early Years: Volume One (2004)
- Jaywalker (2005)
- Among The Oak & Ash (2009)
- Devil Ship (2011)
- Earth and Other Things (2013)
- Paste Magazine
- The L Magazine
- Blender Magazine - dead link as of 3/4/2013
- Josh Joplin Official website
- Among The Oak & Ash Official website - dead link as of 3/4/2013
- VH1.com interview with Josh Joplin
- MTV.com profile
- Jaywalker review - The Daily Vault, 8/23/2005.
- Huffington Post Review
- Q&A with Josh Joplin and Garrison Starr