Singer-songwriter Josh Doyle knows firsthand how fickle fame can be. He went from saving his lunch money for studio time as a teenager to performing at the legendary Wembley Stadium in the U.K., but as quickly as the young man ascended to the top of the music charts, he was abruptly brought back down to earth, waiting tables in Nashville.
And he couldn't be more thankful for it.
“Back then, I was just a kid, writing from my experiences, and now I've had this whole thing of working a normal job and doing music,” he says from his home in Nashville. “I don't think a lot of musicians get to live that because they're doing music the whole time. I got to go through that, and it inspires what I write about now – which is good, because it's real life.”
Coming off a successful tour across the U.K. with his mix of folk-rock music inspired by Nashville's penchant for bluegrass and country, Doyle is kicking off a string of U.S. gigs today in Auburn at Cupbearer Cafe. The U.K. native was once the 19-year-old former front man of angsty, pop-rock band the Dum Dums, whose 2000 debut album, “It Goes Without Saying,” garnered four top-30 hits in the U.K. The band shared stages with Robbie Williams and Bon Jovi.
But the band's success was short-lived. The Dum Dums broke up after one album.
“The record company wanted us to write songs that were more pop and more commercial to sell more records, but we didn't want to be that kind of band. We wanted to be a rocking kind of band. We sort of rebelled against that and the company was like, if you're not going to play ball, then you might as well break up,” he says.
Moving to Nashville in 2004, Doyle became an indie musician, living off money made from the Dum Dums until he had to get a job a few years later.
But his luck took a turn when he won Guitar Center's “Top Undiscovered Singer-Songwriter” national contest in 2012. The contest earned him the opportunity to produce the “Josh Doyle “ LP with John Shanks, Grammy-award winning “Producer of the Year” who has worked with Sheryl Crow, Keith Urban, Melissa Etheridge, Bon Jovi and Kelly Clarkson. Although the deal was for Shanks to produce only four tracks, Doyle's talent convinced the producer to actually commit to producing 10 tracks in four days.
“He had so much belief in me, and when a major player in the industry like that puts his rep on the line for you and you have studio musicians who would come off a session with Bruce Springsteen, and then have a session with me, it validated what I did, and it made me confident that I could hang with that level of talent,” he says. The album has gained Doyle some new momentum in the music industry; he's had TV appearances on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and “CBS This Morning.”
But this time around, Josh Doyle has defined fame in his own terms.
“I think of it as a comeback thing too, but I've always been writing stuff. It's like when you have that itch, you have to keep writing and writing and writing. This whole period has been about me learning and getting better as a songwriter, and my craft,” he says.
“The whole thing for me is just to keep doing it, and even 10, 20 years time, as long as I'm still writing and getting better, I will feel like I achieved something,” he says.
This won't be Doyle's first trip to Indiana. Growing up with his parents as missionaries, he says he actually wrote one of the the Dum Dums eventual hits, “Can't Get You Out of My Thoughts,” at 18 years old while spending a year stateside in Auburn. “Before the music thing took off, I lived in Auburn and the pastor there for Calvary Chapel (now known as Heritage Community Church), he used to let me play on Sunday night,” he says.
“So I would write a song that day, and play it in the church service that night. It was actually a really good way for me to start developing as a songwriter,” he adds. Doyle says his recent works reflect his maturity he has earned in life and in the music world.
“The lyrics are little more flushed out and little more grown up. As the years go by, you learn a little more about life,” he says.
He's also learned that you can't hold grudges when it comes to the music industry. As an independent artist, Doyle says he now has more of an understanding of the financial pressures when it comes to developing artists.
In fact, he's meeting with record companies for a new electronic-music project inspired by the rise of what he describes as '80s-inspired, Peter Gabriel-esque electronic hits on the radio. Although, he says he still feels that companies relying strictly on what's marketable has left behind many talented, undiscovered bands. “If that was always the case, you wouldn't have bands like the Beatles, who never would have gotten through – they would have been instantly cut,” he says.
While he travels across the U.S. in the coming months, he's working on both his electronic-music project and a new acoustic project as a follow-up to his “Josh Doyle” LP. He plans to have new music available by next year, so he again will tour both the U.K. and the U.S. Whether Doyle is on stage with a full band and light show or stripped down to just his guitar, what's more important than the unsteady concept of fame is the far more lasting connection he makes with fans.“I want them to go away, thinking about their life and what they have been through. I really want to connect with people, and I think music can really do that, it disarms you a little bit and you can say things in music that you can't say in just normal life, talking to people,” he says.
“Wherever I play, I hope people pick out something that makes them think.”