On the Edge: Josh Doyle

photo courtesy CTK Management

Singer/songwriter Josh Doyle’s pedigree may require color-coded charts to understand. His mother was a guitar-playing hippie from Ohio when she met his father, an Army soldier from Northern Ireland. Josh, who is actually an American citizen, was born in England and now resides in Nashville. 

While his lineage may be confusing, one thing is clear: Josh is proving himself one of the most talented singer/songwriters on the scene with the release of his self-titled debut album, which, while not full of fiddles or steel guitar, contains exactly the kind of personal songwriting that defines country music. The former frontman for British rock outift Dum Dums has even received a nod of approval from Dolly Parton. After hearing Josh’s song “I Want to Break Your Mended Heart,” the country icon advised, “Don’t change any of it, don’t change any of the little riffs, any of it.” That’s high praise coming from one of the most prolific songwriters in music history.  

To go from a rock band to being a solo artist with country leanings seems unconventional, but it turns out that the music of Josh’s youth was laden with folksy songwriters. “My dad used to sing a lot of Irish folk songs. Every New Year’s he’d bring out his guitar and sing things like ‘Patty McGinty’s Goat,’” he says, laughing. “And my mom and dad had records, but it wasn’t cool stuff. My friends grew up with Led Zeppelin, but we had The Carpenters and [Irish singer] Val Doonican.” Cool or not, the sound and lyrics took hold, and after hearing James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” over the end credits of the 1988 film Running on Empty, Josh started writing, which led to Nashville and to the unexpected creation of his solo album.

After winning the grand prize in a 2012 Guitar Center singer/songwriter contest, Josh was afforded the chance to record with Grammy-winning producer John Shanks. “I went in with a book of these songs that I had written throughout the years,” he says. “I opened it up and played a song to John and he said, ‘Let’s cut it.’” In just four days, they cut the entire project.

Like many in Nashville, Josh is an observant songwriter. “I keep close friends with a lot of people and I use them as my muse sometimes.” He laughs, then says, “They’re going through all these different things and it’s stuff I won’t experience because I’m not a girl with a lousy boyfriend.” 

“When Your Heart Can’t Make Up Its Mind” is just such a song, but it was also inspired by the Frank Sinatra classic “Please Be Kind.” Josh smiles. “I was working at Maggiano’s and every time that lyric came on, Because if you leave me, dear, I know that my heart will lose its mind, I thought it was really cool. It gave me the idea.” 

Josh’s British accent contrasts with those heard among his Nashville neighbors, but that hasn’t stopped him from dreaming of American success. “I just want to make a living out of it and I’m doing that now,” he says. “I want to keep writing songs. I’ve got millions more in there.” 

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