Josh Wilson’s latest album, That Was Then, This Is Now(Sparrow Records), earned the singer/songwriter the best street week of his nine-year career. While fans may recognize him for his radio hits like “I Refuse,” “Fall Apart,” “Before The Morning” and his current single (the title track from That Was Then, This Is Now), they may not know Wilson is actually quite the musical virtuoso. While his primary instruments are guitar and piano, he frequently experiments with a host of others. In this exclusive interview, the multi-talented singer takes us inside his home studio to tell us about his most treasured instruments and his songwriting influences.
Who inspired you to want to learn to play guitar? I wanted to learn guitar because my dad played. He had an old Glen Campbell Ovation guitar, and I learned to play the 12 Bar Blues on it. After that, I was hooked and I wanted a guitar of my own. My dad bought me my first guitar that Christmas. It was a “Viking” brand pawn shop guitar. I loved it.
Who inspired you to want to write songs? Jon Foreman of Switchfoot was, and is, one of my biggest inspirations in songwriting. I was blown away by the fact that some of his songs had not only encouraged and challenged me, but also changed the direction of my life a few times. If music could do that for me, I wanted to share that with others.
How old were you when you first started playing? I was in 4th grade when I started piano, 6th grade when I started guitar, and 7th grade when I started the drums.
What’s one song (in any genre) you wish you’d written? I wish I’d written “Dare You To Move” by Switchfoot and “That Guy” by Andy Gullahorn.
What is your favorite instrument, outside the guitar, to play? I really enjoy playing the piano. It was my first instrument, and I enjoy writing on a piano. It brings about very different ideas than a guitar, which is a lot of fun.
What’s the weirdest instrument you’ve ever played? Definitely a nose flute. Don’t ask. I also enjoy the bouzouki, banjo and marimba.
What’s your favorite guitar (that you own), and why? Definitely my Taylor 314 KCE. It was purchased in 2000. It’s incredibly special to me. I was in 11th grade, and I was saving up for the guitar. I would go in the music store every day and play it. I begged the store owner not to sell it before I could afford it. I had about three months of saving to go, and I walked in the store one day, and the guitar was gone. I was crushed. Fast forward to Christmas morning that year, and it was sitting under the tree. My dad had bought it for me and surprised me with it. It’s been at every single concert I’ve ever played.
What instrument do you wish you could play? I wish I could play the violin or cello, but I haven’t mastered anything without frets yet. Maybe someday I’ll give it a try!
What advice do you have for a beginner guitarist? Practice, practice, practice! If you ever hear something and say, “I wish I could do that,” then learn how! I encourage taking lessons, but if you can’t afford those, there are thousands of tutorial videos on YouTube that teach you to play just about anything. Play for whoever will listen…your family, your youth group, your friends. The more you play alone and in front of others, the better you’ll get.
What’s your No. 1 piece of gear that you can’t live without on the road? Probably my loop pedal. It’s a way to quickly record a guitar riff and then play other music on top of it. It makes it easy to play without a band, because you can build your own rhythm section and then play over it. I’ve used many different kinds of loopers, but my go-to right now is the Boss RC30.
What type of guitar strings do you use? I use D’ Addario medium phosphor bronze, and I love them. I have an endorsement deal with D’Addario, but I used them years before that happened. They sound great and are very affordable.
What do you normally write first—music or lyrics? I usually write music ideas first. Then I decide what the music sounds like and write lyrics from there. Occasionally, I’ll have a lyric idea first, but for the most part, music comes first.
What’s on your gear “wish list”? I would love a Kemper guitar amp. They’re pricey, but I hear they’re incredible. I would also like to have a Martin acoustic and a Gibson Les Paul someday.