Born and raised in Westland, Mich., about 30 minutes west of Detroit, Josh Gracin grew up listening to his parents’ favorites –Elvis, the Beatles and the vintage rock and pop on a favorite local station. Then, when he was 11, the station’s format changed to country, and he started getting into artists such as Garth Brooks, Joe Diffie, George Strait and Randy Travis. His first public appearance was at an eighth grade talent competition where he sang Brooks’ 1993 hit “Standing Outside the Fire” and managed to win over an audience full of dance music-loving peers.
Growing up as the only boy among four sisters, Gracin found his parents unwilling to sign a release for him to play sports, so he took up saxophone instead. He also had experience singing everything from opera (as a member of his school choir) to Motown (as the only male singer in a review called the Fairlane Youth Pop Orchestra). While still in school, he was part of a talent competition that took him to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry.
After high school, he enlisted in the Marines and a few years later got married. About two years into his four-year term of the Marines, he saw the first American Idol show. Though he hadn’t sung in a couple of years, he auditioned and was chosen as a finalist in the second year of the series, ultimately placing fourth.
Well after he became part of the show, the U.S. invaded Iraq and the military’s world changed. Although he had no control over his deployment or that of his unit in Camp Pendleton, he did some soul-searching nonetheless. “The toughest moment through all of this was when we were doing the show, and I was staying up until four or five in the morning just watching the news and trying to keep track of how the Marines were doing over there. I felt guilty because I was singing on this show, and there were fellow Marines over there in foxholes.“
Gracin’s transition from reality show contestant to recording star began when he sang Rascal Flatts’ “I’m Movin’ On” on one episode. The guys in Rascal Flatts happened to be watching the show on their tour bus that night. Bass player Jay DeMarcus, impressed with Gracin’s talent, called and put him in touch with Marty Williams, who had co-produced both the band’s breakthrough album and its successful follow-up. That set in motion a series of events that led to a record deal with Lyric Street, the same label that signed Rascal Flatts.
Gracin’s self-titled debut album, featuring the first single “I Want to Live,” was released in 2004. Its second single, “Nothin’ to Lose,” reached No. 1 at country radio. Since, hits like “Stay With Me (Brass Bed),” “Unbelievable,” and “We Weren’t Crazy” have catapulted the star to mainstream country celebrity status. Gracin has since joined Average Joe’s Entertainment, home to country entertainer Colt Ford, and is planning to release a new single to country radio in March 2010 and a new album to follow shortly.
I had the chance to speak with Josh about things like the Crazy White Boys Tour he’s been co-headling, what inspires him, and the feelings he hope his fans will take away after listening to his upcoming album. You can read about that below.
You’ve been co-headlining the ‘Crazy White Boys Tour’ with Mark Willis. What’s it been like to work with him? Any fun behind the scenes stories you can share?
It’s been great getting to tour with him. I haven’t had much chance to really get out and do too much since I’ve been in Nashville recently but it’s been a fun experience and a learning experience. I’ve been having so much fun with him and Mark has so many friends across the country that at every stop we have there are already 5 or 6 different people he knows on the tour bus. It’s been a blast being on the road and doing something I’ve never done before.
I have heard that your music is inspired by some extraordinary stories. Could you share one of those stories and which song it inspired?
I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately about experiences I’ve been going through and watching the situations that others go through around me. The new record is 100% about me and I’m really excited about it. The songs are about a lot of things that have happened over the last 6 years. Like the first single ‘Covergirl’ is about a conversation I had with my wife about a sundress that I had bought her and wanted her to wear but she said no because you could see right through it which is what the entire first verse is about. Its 100% about that situation and conversation.
If you had the chance to tour or record with any singer and band, who would you chose and why?
John Mayer and Eminem. I love all sorts of music and Eminems’ new album “Recovery” has been on repeat in my CD player. Well, no one says CD player anymore so its on my iPod. (laughs)
What drives you the most to do what you love? What inspires you?
What inspires me is knowing that I have a lot to offer in music in general. I haven’t even begun to do and to accomplish as much as I want to. Its the driving force for me. Its where I belong, on stage and performing. It just feels natural to me.
You shared with your facebook fans the side project you been working on outside back at home. So what is it that keeps you grounded?
I think that fact of the family I grew up in and have a family of my own and married my highschool sweetheart is huge. I’ve been kept on the ground by my family and that is something that will never change.
Besides family and friends, what do you miss the most when you are out on the road traveling and touring?
I miss the sense of home, where you know and relax and that is mine. It’s a place to live and to grow.
What is one accomplishment you hope to make above all others in your life and career?
I think the biggest achievement that I can make is being able to never change who I am. Raising my kids the way I was raised and watching them grow and achieve their dreams and see them with the same drive as I have. I think the best mark of success is to better yourself and those around you.
What is your favorite song on your upcoming album and why?
It’s hard to choose my favorite song off the new album. But one that strikes me more is ‘Enough.” It was a turning point in my writing, a benchmark that things were getting better for me. It opened doors and my mind to write much better than I had 3 years ago.
Have you ever written or created a song that didn’t make the album cut that you wished would have?
Well, I won’t know until I go in and cut the album (laughs.) My first album I didn’t write any songs and my second album I wrote 3 of the songs that made an album cut. This is my 3rd album and I haven’t ran across that problem yet.
What are some of your short term and long term goals that you have lined out for yourself at the moment?
Short term is to get this single off the ground, get it up in the charts and to make is successful. Long term would be to form a network of friends and fans who enjoy the music. It’s important to have music that helps people through life. It’s an amazing thing to have a long term goal to make music that helps people through things.
What sort of feelings do you hope your fans will have from listening to your upcoming album?
To hear the fact that it is me. I have been involved with this project from the ground up. It was acoustics and vocals when I wrote the album and we started listening to the songs. This is my third album and I co-produced it with my drummer Kevin Murphy. I just hope they can hear that I had lots of fun with it and I’m finally comfortable now doing what I love to do.
[Keep Clicking Thumbnails for a Larger Image]