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After spending the majority of the past decade as a successful pop and adult contemporary artist, Josh Kelley returns to the Southern sound he's loved since childhood with his upcoming MCA Nashville country release. While it may be his official debut into the country genre, Josh's previous hits, have always contained discernible country flair.
"This record is a time capsule. It's by far the best thing I've written and I've never been more proud," revealed Josh, who wrote or co-wrote each of the album's eleven songs.
"I'm finally in a genre where I can write lyrics, tell stories and be a man."
It's evident that this latest project is very much autobiographical, having gotten married, moved and adopted a baby girl all in the past two years. These events created the album and the stories he tells in it.
"My life has completely changed. My wife is a very strong independent woman, she allows me my own independence and from the first time my baby girl brushed her hand against my face, my life was changed. This album reflects those changes."
Josh's MCA Nashville project not only showcases his talents as a singer and songwriter, but reveals him to be the latest definition of a true renaissance man; a man who's confident enough within his own skin to reveal a new take on sentimental themes by employing thoughtful lyrics.
"Georgia Clay", the project's lead single, recalls the carefree summers of Josh's youth, when he and his brothers would hitch up jet skis to their Dad's '77 Chevy Silverado and head down to the lake. The memories made those summers are engrained their lives, as well as the tires of that old truck.
"The whole idea behind "Georgia Clay" is that we could go back to the garage and look at that truck, which hadn't been driven in years, and still find layers of mud stuck to the tires. That is the mud from our childhood, those memories are still there."
With a modern country feel Josh recalls his life experiences with songs like "Great Idea", "Ain't Letting Go", "Two Cups of Coffee" and "Gone Like That". Each of these songs embrace the familiarity of times gone by, not by idealizing the past, but by presenting unique lessons learned from it.
"Gone Like That" isn't the typical she's gone and I don't care take on a one night stand, it explores an unapologetically sensitive man who keeps running into what could be the woman of his dreams.
"This was the song that actually started my journey into country music. I had written and presented it to my music publisher to pitch to other artists, but they liked my demo so much they encouraged me to cut it. It was the first song I wrote that gave me the confidence to pursue a career as a country singer."
The sentimental and emotionally charged "Naleigh Moon", a song written for and about his beloved baby girl, dives deep into the intense connection between a father and his daughter.
"We'd only had Naleigh for a couple of weeks when I wrote this and I think it's the best song I've ever written. The way the chords and the melody intertwine, it really tugs on your heartstrings. When I sang that song in the studio, I really meant it."
Not leaving the drinkin' & carousin' songs entirely to his contemporaries, Josh offers up "Raining Whiskey", a get the party started tune that's destine to be added to every jukebox and honky tonk across the country. Referencing the song's lyrics, It's hard staying dry when it's raining whiskey, Josh laughed, "That's my favorite forecast."
As a kid growing up in Augusta, Georgia, Josh experienced both city life and country living; thanks to his family owning a bit of farmland near their home.
"We grew up half our lives on a farm up in the North Georgia Mountains," said Josh. "Summers were spent bush hoggin' acres of land and life in Augusta was all about golf and music. We had the best of both worlds. There was the fun of city life, plus we got to experience the beauty of the country," Josh continued.
The first record Josh remembers buying was U2's Joshua Tree, but early on he was exposed to a wide range of musical styles.
"It depended on whose car I was in," said Josh. "If it was my Mom's car, it was Doobie Brothers, Luther Vandross, Michael McDonald. If I was with my older brother John, it was Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Supertramp. With Dad it was all country all the time."
During his early teens Josh and younger brother Charles (of Lady Antebellum fame) decided to form the band Inside Blue, with Charles on drums and lead vocals and Josh on electric guitar.
Inside Blue released a maxi cd with five tracks which were played on local radio and eventually caught the attention of The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, and his manager, who wanted to sign them.
"He loved our songs, but they wanted to change everything, so my Dad and brother said 'no deal'. I'm glad they did that because it afforded both me and Charles the opportunity to grow up and see the world and really have things to write about."
Never fully putting his love of music on the back burner, Josh left Georgia to attend the University of Mississippi under a golf scholarship where he studied graphic design. During his junior year, after boosting buzz for himself by way of a self-promoting internet scheme, he eventually landed his first major label deal with Hollywood Records.
2003 saw the release of For The Ride Home and the success of its Top 5 hit single, "Amazing" and in 2005, Josh released his second major label effort Almost Honest and its lead single, "Only You".
Not long after that, Josh opted out of his Hollywood Records deal and started his own record label, DNK Records.
With his career firmly in his own hands, Josh released four independent albums between 2006 and 2008.
"I wanted the sound to be more rootsy and more organic," he said. "That's what I had the power to do releasing my music on my own label."
Since then he has remained in the public eye thanks to numerous television performances, including: Ellen, Good Morning America, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Regis & Kelly, Last Call with Carson Daly and E!.
In addition to television support, People Magazine, Us Weekly, Billboard, Entertainment Weekly, Radar and Paste Magazine are among the popular music and entertainment publications that have spotlighted Josh and his music.
Josh's music has also been incorporated into episodes of several popular TV shows, among them: The CW's Smallville, NBC's Scrubs, ABC's Brothers and Sisters, What About Brian and MTV's The Hills.
After a successful career in pop music and as an indie artist, Josh is back, this time with a country album steeped in tradition and heartfelt truths.
From the memories of "Georgia Clay", the raw emotion of "Naleigh Moon", the humor of "Raining Whiskey" or the lyrical seduction of "Learning You", and every song in between, Josh Kelley simultaneously renews cherished country music traditions while bringing a refreshing energy to his latest release. He is, where he feels he's always belonged, right here in Music City.
"It's funny how if you keep working hard and keep trying, an opportunity comes around, and thank God it did. We're gonna get to move back here to Nashville and this is where I'll be the rest of my life."