If there is one piece of his life that Josh Kelley is more than comfortable displaying, it’s how he feels about his family. The central line running through the 11 songs on My Baby and the Band is the contentment he’s found in his life with his wife and three kids. He paints a picture of a man who has found his place nestled deep into the small mountain town they call home, along with everything that entails: the simple, extraordinary moments, the disagreements, the makeups, and a deep love for one another. It’s wrapped in sonic packaging that’s true to who Josh is, clear in its reverence for a great voice and song but unafraid to experiment with new textures surrounding it.
Growing up in Augusta, Georgia, Josh absorbed R&B, soul, and vintage country, while also developing an affinity for classic rock. His musical family would often sit around their piano, creating songs. When his older brother accidentally left his guitar at home when he headed back to college, the rest was history. These varied influences sometimes sneak into Josh’s music, in a phrase or a chord progression, but other times they’re fully on display. “Hold Me My Lord” was a somewhat surprising addition to My Baby and The Band, a gospel-soaked tune complete with a 30-member choir.
“The kids and I flew to see my wife, and there was a cool, old piano, and it was almost like it was what the piano needed to say. I asked Katie to film the chords, and when I got home, the melody came out—it’s unlike anything I’ve ever played but sounded exactly like what I heard as a kid walking by gospel churches in Augusta.”
“It feels like people, the earth, the world, needs some healing,” he says. “The older I get, and the more I learn about science, the closer I get to religion; the more it all seems to make sense to me. Having my beliefs to fall back on has gotten me through tough times, and sinking into the nostalgia and the comfort they’ve provided me, and reminding myself not to stray too far from my core beliefs, was what I needed to say at that moment.”
The song is just one in the journey presented on My Baby and the Band, the first album of original material that Josh has released in five years. The album traces his and his family’s story, a scenic walk through the evolution of a relationship, family, and growth.
Writing the new album began with “Love Her Boy,” a smooth and soulful number that finds Josh delving into different uses for the phrase. “I was trying to write a totally different song on a plane back home from a Colorado festival,” he says, explaining that he wrote the title down and filed it away for a writing session he had the next day. “I brought the idea of ‘love her boy’ to the session. The different uses within the song create an oronym, two phrases that sound the same but mean different things. I think it’s a clever angle, and we had so much fun bringing it to life.”
“We Don’t Need The Money” finds Josh and co-writer Erik Kertes reversing their usual roles to create a funky groove. When Josh and his wife lived in Los Angeles, while riding his bike around town one day—he’s really into vintage bicycles—the idea popped into his head. He pulled into co-writer Kertes’s driveway, and a few hours later, the song had come to fruition.
“Back To You” begs for a sing-along, and “If That’s Alright” continues the theme. They were all written back in 2017 and recorded with Josh’s band. “It’s different recording with the band than it is at my studio,” Josh says. “There’s a different energy, everyone’s individual inputs—it’s not always perfect, but that’s what makes it so great.”
“You Can Count On Me,” with background vocals from his kids, takes its sonic inspiration from Bill Withers and Shuggie Otis, written with Alen Chang. “I was only a melody man and co-lyricist—we talked about people in our lives that needed our support and what we would say to them if we were brave enough to say it,” Josh says. “I showed up to Alen’s house, and after describing the concept, he had the idea in his head within minutes. On this rare occasion, I was only a melody man and co-lyricist. The song was done by dinner time.”
“You And I,” written with Nashville songwriter Dustin Christensen, slows things down with an ode to an all-consuming kind of love. “I canʼt imagine my life without my person because we have created this safe place that is sometimes almost unbearable to leave,” Josh says.
Josh also wrote “My Baby and The Band” with Christensen. “It’s about sitting back with the one you love and listening to timeless music, in this case, specifically The Band. Dustin walked in one day with the title, and in Levon Helm fashion, we grooved it on home.”
“I Want You Tonight” originated from a vibe; Josh created the track itself first and simply wanted something that sounded nice. He didn’t have any real idea what the lyrics would be, so he retreated to a tried-and-true format for writing songs: starting by saying random words and seeing what comes of it. “As I’ve gotten older, I don’t use that procedure as much—now I write with an idea or purpose, but sometimes it’s nice to get back to the old me, that writes for the feeling and vibe. It’s more just a mood.”
I also just felt like writing something sexy that day,” he adds.
Along with “Loves You Like Me,” he describes both as straight-up love songs. “Iʼm a sucker for these, and Iʼll keep writing them till the day I float away.”
“Busy Making Memories” wraps up the album with a deeply personal excerpt. “I wrote ‘Busy Making Memories’ on January 1, sitting in my morning coffee chair watching my kids bounce, spin and play around me, and the music just happened. It was as if someone else was writing it through me,” he says. “I have voice notes on my phone as proof of the creative process, but still it felt like I wasnʼt in control. It was truly a wild experience that, to this day, I have a hard time wrapping my head around. I went to the studio and started producing, and it was an effortless process. I wish all of them could be that way.”
On My Baby and The Band, Josh solidifies himself as a talented vocalist and lyricist while tapping into the details of an everyday family. He’s watching his kids develop their own personalities and continuing to find new reasons to love his wife after 15 years together. He’s missing it all when he’s away from them.
Outside of his family, the other constant in his daily life is making music, which he does in a barn on their property that he’s converted into a studio. He produced and engineered most of his new project himself and has been self-producing music since he was 15-years-old. He also plays 15 different instruments.
“My recording process has changed over the years,” he says. “I used to start a song and then begin the production process before the song was even finished. Now that I’m older, I’ve changed my ways, and I make sure all of the structure, tempo, and lyrics are perfect. Then I drive over to my studio and try to wrap my head around how the song should live in people’s
ears. It’s better for me to finish the song musically and lyrically before ever turning anything else on.”
Josh released his solo debut, Changing Faces, while attending the University of Mississippi, and actually got his first record deal thanks to Napster. “I just started sending private messages to people being like, ‘You should check this guy out,’ and it was me, and they did.’”
He signed a record deal with Hollywood Records, which released his 2003 mainstream debut For the Ride Home. He found a Top Five single with “Amazing,” and his second album Almost Honest, included the Top Ten single “Only You.”
Josh later released four independent albums—Just Say the Word, Special Company, Backwoods and To Remember—between 2006 and 2008. He released Georgia Clay in 2011 with MCA Nashville, and 2015’s New Lane Road with Sugar Hill Records. In 2017 he independently released an album of covers, titled Under the Covers, Vol. 1, and a holiday album, Christmas Traditions.
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