Josh Ross started his career in music in 2012, playing at dueling piano bars in Michigan. This was a fun opportunity to learn to play popular songs, interact with a captive audience, and integrate humor and fun into his music. In 2013, he left dueling pianos to pursue a solo career.
He soon released his debut album, produced by himself, “All There Is” in 2014. In addition to leading a solo music career, Josh runs a music school from home, teaching piano, guitar, voice, and drum lessons. He has a passion for creating classic love songs that can be enjoyed by people of every age.
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Learn more about Josh Ross in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! Now that we are well into the fall of 2016, what are some words you would use to describe this year?
(Laughter) That’s a great question. In some ways it has been a difficult year for America and politics. I pray for our country. For me personally, it has been a year of self-discovery, gaining clarity, experimentation, and continual learning.
What have been some of the highlights for you and your music?
Some major highlights for me this year were performing in Italy and Poland in May, playing for 400 people at a summer concert this year, writing new songs that were completely out of my comfort zone, making a music video with my wife, and creating an album full of songs that could be played during a wedding ceremony, cocktail hour, and during dancing at the reception.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician?
No. I had no idea that this was what I wanted to do until 8th grade. In fact, I couldn’t stand the idea of singing when I was younger. But after watching a production of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat at Troy High School, I knew that I wanted to perform on stage.
Can you recall your earliest musical memory?
When I was about 3 or 4, my sister was taking piano lessons. I would always come into the room during her lessons and try to play something on the piano. Soon afterward, my parents asked the teacher to give me a few piano lessons. At the time I didn’t stick lessons for long, but I believe that this experience set the foundation for a lifelong love of music that would grow over time.
I’ve always been a big fan of dueling piano bars so I’d love to know more about that time in your time. What was it like playing in them in Michigan?
I really enjoyed playing dueling pianos. One day I was walking through the music school at the University of Michigan and I found a flyer that was looking for someone who could perform and interact with an audience. I called the number on the flyer, and before long, I was being trained to put on a humorous, musical show at bars across the state.
What ultimately got you to quit that life and pursue a solo career?
Great question. There were two main factors. First, I did not like the tendency for certain dueling piano performers to become increasingly vulgar as the night went on. I loved most of the humor, but there is a fine line between suggestive humor and disrespect. There are plenty of respectful, clean dueling pianists who excel. But they are more rare and in demand. Secondly, I was working several other music related jobs at the time and was spread so thin that I couldn’t fully invest in any one thing. So I decided to drop everything I was doing and create my own solo music career.
This gave me more creative control, the flexibility to learn a variety of songs, the ability to perform some of my own music, and the freedom to work with or without a band when I wanted to. I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to bring joy to people’s lives through music almost every day.
Let’s talk about your upcoming album, “Love Never Fails.” What was the inspiration for this collection?
As I started to develop my solo career, more and more people began asking me to play at their wedding. I began playing for people’s wedding ceremony, during their cocktail hour, and then DJing during the dance portion of the reception. I loved seeing people’s reactions to certain songs during the wedding and seeing what an impact a great first dance song made to the bride and groom.
I was inspired to write an album full of songs for a wedding. I wanted to record an instrumental processional song for the bride, a few low-key songs to be played during dinner, and several upbeat songs that could get people moving on the dance floor.
More importantly, my dream was to create an album that authentically portrayed love and relationships. There are many songs that make love appear to be either a fairytale or a tragedy. Instead, I wanted to offer an honest look at the joys and struggles of pursuing, marrying, and living with your best friend.
This song is quite different than most of the other songs I have written. I sat down at my piano and started jamming and came up with this chord progression and beat. Then I wrote the lyrics for the chorus. I really struggled with the verses because every time I would begin to write lyrics, I would immediately dismiss them for being too cheesy.
Then, while playing the song for my wife and mother-in-law one day, they suggested that I not use lyrics for the verses, just a couple oos and aahs. This seemed ridiculous. But I tried playing the song on my guitar with a few periodic oos and aahs and the chorus. They loved it. So I was relieved that I didn’t need to write lyrics for the verse. But I was also excited to write a song with a fun, latin rhythm. My wife and mother-in-law said it passed the dancibility test (they can easily dance to the song). But you would have to judge that for yourself.
How do you think this upcoming new album shows the growth that you have gone through as a musician?
Much of the music is different than my usual style. I used instruments and styles that I had never even considered before. I also felt very strong about the instrumentals on each track. I feel that this album challenged me to explore my sound and experiment while also keeping a consistent vibe and theme throughout each of the tracks.
How is it different or similar to anything else that you have released?
Most of my music has reflected Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz. There are quite a few songs on “Love Never Fails” that also reflect that, however, there are also a couple electronic (EDM) tracks, latin tracks, and even a Polish song on the album that led to an evolution of my sound. What I love about this album is that although it showcases the variety of music I write and play, it flows cohesively from song to song.
What if anything has surprised you about the music industry?
Being successful as a musician is not about being the most talented musician. I have found that it’s essential to clearly identify your audience, find where your audience hangs out, and communicate what you stand for.
It’s amazing how much you need to understand about people. I have learned that my main job is to serve, inspire, and bring joy to people. I am not selling my music. I am selling an experience, a relationship, and an idea.
What do you think has been your biggest challenge? And what do you think has come really naturally to you?
My biggest challenge has been knowing what steps to take in what order at what time. There are so many methods you can use to build your music career that it can be overwhelming to get clear about which activities to prioritize. I have been learning to be present and to grow one step at a time.
Writing and recording come naturally to me. I love to write songs and to record. That’s the fun part. (Laughter)
I understand that you also run a music school from home, teaching piano, guitar, voice and drum lessons. What’s that been like for you?
Yes. I love to teach. It has been an incredible journey working with students, seeing them grow, and watching them fall in love with music. I learned a lot not just from teaching, but also from creating my website (http://jropro.com/), managing schedules, hiring other assistant instructors, and running a business.
Who are some of your favorite artists and what bands continue to inspire you and your music?
Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson, Ed Sheeran, Josh Groban, and Michael Buble are among my favorites. They have inspired me, and you can hear elements of their sounds in my music. I am classically trained as a singer and am compared to Josh Groban (who also shares my first name) when I sing classical songs. However, this album is mostly pop and pop jazz, so it has more of a Jason Mraz/Michael Buble feel throughout.
Who would you still love to work with in the future?
I would love to sing with any of my inspirations listed above. I would also love to sing with Adele and/or the Piano Guys. They are awesome and tend to sing in the classiest venues.
When you aren’t performing, working in the studio, what do you like to do for fun? How do you unwind from it all?
(Laughter) I admit, I am slightly obsessed with recording and music in general. It’s hard to get away from that. Though I also like to read a lot. On the weekends I enjoy going out with my wife, especially when we go dancing. We both love to ballroom dance. We are also pretty involved at our church, St. Anastasia, and we like to help out there whenever possible.
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope listeners take away from your songs?
At the end of the day, I hope people who listen to my music experience and share joy. I believe that life is ultimately about three things: loving more deeply, becoming the best version of yourself, and experiencing joy. If my music leads people to be happier and more loving, than I have succeeded.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
Thank you for taking the time to interview me. If you want to find out more about “Love Never Fails”, and receive a preview of the album before anyone else sign up for my monthly email list by following the link: http://eepurl.com/ci0NkL. you can also like and follow my social media pages!