I know what you’re thinking… Oh, Jesus, not another lovesick troubadour with a guitar and delusions that he’s actually doing anything original. I’m not gonna bullshit you. I know you read tons of these lame bios and I know they all sing the same song: You should listen to [fill in the blank with whatever lo-fi, sob-story, hipster band/artist that this blog or that website is crazy about these days], because they’re the future of music.
Josh Damigo knows he’s not that. More importantly, he knows you’re not a fool.
Still, what you have before you is a hard working singer/songwriter releasing a brand new album, 17 songs in all, with a theme of a man breaking. Breaking his own rules. Breaking down, breaking promises and, yes, breaking hearts, however accidentally. A man breaking out of his comfort zone. Don’t be scared. You’ll think you’ve heard it all before and, admittedly, the sentiments are as old as time itself, but Josh would like to think you haven’t heard it quite like this before. And if you have, he’s the type of guy who’d probably write a song about it.
So this is the point where I tell you about Josh’s humble beginnings growing up in between Maine and San Jose with his grandmother playing Elvis records on a loop (the King, not that bespectacled Costello fella) and trips with his dad in a beat-up Chevy Corsica listening to James Taylor and Jim Croce. That his first musical “gig” was playing baby Jesus in a small Maine church which led to the church choir and, eventually, the not-so-coveted part of “Shephard #1” in first grade. That he was that kid, having strict Baptist parents after his mother remarried, who had to quickly change the radio station from “Light my Fire” back to the Christian station lest his parents find out that the Lizard King really did know everything. The devil is, indeed, in the details and it seems superfluous to even mention that Josh got in trouble a lot for playing his acoustic guitar too loudly.
Having landed in S.D. on a soccer scholarship, it took an ACL injury for him to completely refine and redefine his focus squarely onto music. Never a braggart, Josh will happily admit that he averaged about three people a show when he first began playing San Diego coffee houses and small clubs. He garnered some diehard fans in the process, sold about a thousand copies of his debut EP, Pocket Change, and even won four San Diego H.A.T. (Honoring Acoustic Talent) Awards. But it took a traumatic incident involving Josh’s brother, an Iraq war vet suffering from PTSD in which he was arrested and ultimately convicted of the armed robbery of a taxi driver, that Josh retreated into himself and slowly began writing what would ultimately become his breakout debut, Raw.
Needless to say, the album lived up to its name and people noticed. Raw landed Josh two San Diego Music Awards for “Best Acoustic” and “Best Local Recording,” as well as gigs opening for the likes of Zac Brown and Jason Mraz, plus enough money and momentum to tour regularly.
Now’s the part of the story where our hero falls in love with a no-good girl and moves to one of those musical meccas (in this case, Los Angeles) in hopes of making it big. But instead of making it big, he gets his heart broken and has one of those rare cathartic moments that even some of the biggest musicians still haven’t had: That out of all the chaos that comes with love and loss, the deepest successes that we have when the dust settles are those that we channel into art.
And here we are. Almost four years after his debut, there is Hope. Whereas Raw was a mostly acoustic, vulnerable affair, Hope is a celebratory call to arms. Pleading and poignant, heartfelt and heavyhearted, it segues effortlessly from orchestral arias (“Portland,” “L.A. is Not My Home”) to alt-country ditties (‘Every Night,” “So Far, So Good”) to downright sexy white-boy soul (“I Can’t Be Your Man,” “Just Let Me Love You”)
One listen to the pure pop singalongability (yeah, sure, that’s a word) of the anthemic “Don’t Lose Hope” and it’s clear the song would be a number one hit in the hands of Taylor Swift or Bruno Mars. “If I Had a Dollar” could very well be the stripped-down cousin of Aloe Blacc’s “I Need a Dollar”, but in this one, our protagonist realizes he’d spend those four quarters on a pretty girl rather than himself. And if the climax of “Slow Goin” doesn’t evoke images of a wailing Jeff Buckley, then you might want to get your ears checked.
Look, Josh isn’t the next John Mayer or the next James Taylor or the next Ray Lamontagne or the next Bon Iver, but you might like Josh’s music if you like those guys and (bonus!) you wouldn’t need some algorithmically-challenged internet radio station like Pandora to tell you that. You just need a good pair of headphones and an open mind. He doesn’t want to be those guys. He just wants to keep playing music for people who want to hear it. And considering Hope was entirely fan-financed via Kickstarter, there seems to be plenty who do want to hear it.
17 tunes. Over one hour of music. As he sings so matter-of-factly on the album opener, “Someday I will write the perfect song…Someday I will make you see… Someday I will do something to make you fall in love with me.” Perhaps he hasn’t written that song yet, but until that day, there’s nothing wrong with falling in love with him right now. Your move. Press play.