Thursday, July 23, 2009

Josh Dion: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

A heart beat. Sometimes pulsing rapidly, nearly taking your breath away with it’s hurried thumping against your chest. Other times its steady. Rhythmic. Softly telling the story of the emotions flooding your mind, overflowing your conscience and into this essential organ. Every now and then it stops for a moment. The stillness robs your natural airflow, lingers for a brief second, and then resumes a steady pace. A Josh Dion drum beat. It mimics the heart beat so perfectly, your body vibrates at the pace of the music, moving, feeling, exalting energy that eagerly attempts to match the spirit and soul Josh Dion brings to the stage.


A lifelong drummer whose upbeat, funky, and earthy music sets him worlds apart from the standard NYC singer-songwriter, Dion’s musical travels have encountered both speed bumps and express lanes, providing learning opportunities and carving invaluable life lessons along the way. From the drum kit received for his first birthday to the first song he wrote at age 24, the once-aspiring jazz drummer performed everything from wedding gigs to blues gigs to children’s music to make his way to the top. Understanding the importance of networking, Dion claims, “You never say no to anything. Before you know it, you have a pretty good living going.”


Good living it's been for Josh, who formed the Josh Dion Band four years ago after a brief touring stint with the band ulu, an opportunity he shared with fellow JD band member and bass player Brian Killeen. It was during these travels that Josh started writing lyrics and keeping a journal of life experiences, a creative outlet that opened many doors in his future. After the tour he spent a short period playing with Chuck Loeb, honing and exploring his vocal capabilities, put together the Josh Dion Band, and engaged in four years worth of performances, time on the road, and invaluable adventures that shaped where he is today. The band parted ways this past January, and since then Josh has been focused on writing and building the next chapter of his career.


An artist who “cut his teeth” at venues like The Bitter End and the Bleecker Street scene, Dion is currently building an expanded fan base and exposing his music to different locations in NY’s Lower East Side. “I’m trying to find what my true personality is,” Josh explains, pausing for a moment to collect his thoughts. “I think we become more complex, especially in this day and age… there’s just so much. I’m coming from so many different types of music it’s really hard to narrow down [my sound]. Everything is a mixture of everything else now… Eventually you get into a groove of what works for your performing style and sound, how you want people to respond to it, and how you want to be perceived.”


The one-time “old soul” is moving forward and living in the now, setting no boundaries and staying focused on what goals lie ahead. Influenced in phases over the course of time, classic rock, blues, Dixie ragtime, old jazz, big band, soul, funk, and gospel are some of the many sounds that musically permeate through his listeners. Often feeling isolated as a drummer who didn’t follow the traditional singer-songwriter path, Dion struggles to find his place in the music scene, opting to march to his own beat more often than not. Finding new homes in places like Sullivan Hall and Rockwood Music Hall helped quench some of the thirst for new. “I really like Rockwood,” Dion exclaims. “I feel like people are going there, there’s something exciting happening. I’m interested in that.” With such an eclectic personal style, a place like Rockwood has exposed Josh to a continuous flow of people open to a variety of sounds, garnering that universal appeal he strives for with his music.


A creature of natural progression, Dion takes a moment to ruminate about his travels to Spain with the Josh Dion Band for the WOMAD Festival, an experience that reminded him of the power and pleasure of life as a musician. Painting a picturesque background of looming Medieval castles and gently rolling hills, Josh describes the moment he understood exactly what his music could accomplish: “We played a show to about 1,000 people… [The show] was explosive... we connected- it was a beautiful thing. The next day I had a ‘drum clinic’ to teach… people found out and thought it was another show but it wasn’t, it was just me and my drum set.” Not wanting to disappoint the confused audience, Dion called bassist Brian Killeen on stage, and the two had a blast putting on an impromptu show at three in the afternoon. “I remember realizing ‘I could do that!’” he recalls, understanding finally, “Don’t show any fear. Don’t allow yourself to go there. Just make music… When you’re giving your all and you feel a huge pull from the audience, you have to give more.”


Audience response is crucial to Josh Dion, who loves nothing more than to see people grooving and dancing as he rocks out onstage. “People take so many different things away from lyrics and songs, it’s whatever you’re feeling really,” Josh offers. “I get it from people and I want to give it to people. I want them to feel that energy.” Approaching songwriting from a drummer’s perspective is slightly different, and sometimes Dion has found the strongest songs actually happen sans instruments- “The best hook comes when there isn’t anything there.”


Falling somewhere in the middle of R&B and singer-songwriter roots rock, Josh tunes into the heart of the song, taking into account strong lyrics and how the audience will react. “A song is like that one emotion that makes you feel a lyric,” Dion reveals thoughtfully. “You get a part of a song and it’ll have a hook to it, that one lyric, and you’ll just know. It will be a life force, and you just have to protect it. Build around it. That’s the essence of the song.”


From the eight-year-old rock drummer with a mullet to the powerful adult presence that commands every stage and drum set with life and energy, Josh Dion is musical force to be reckoned with. This approachable, genuine, and engaging entertainer humbly understands the struggle, the learning curve, and the risk that comes with the musician’s life, and eagerly looks to share the knowledge life has bestowed, living by the priceless lesson a drum teacher once taught him, “What’s mine is yours.”


Pass it on.


Be sure to catch Josh this Friday, July 24, 9:00 pm at Rockwood Music Hall, and on September 5 at the Mercury Lounge!


For more info on Josh Dion, including music and tour dates, please visit www.joshdion.com or find Josh on Facebook- www.facebook.com.

3 comments:

  1. Thank you for profiling Josh Dion. He is my favorite live music act! I most recently enjoyed his music on Saturday, October 17 at The Bitter End. Read about my experience here: http://collology.blogspot.com/

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  2. Attilio the LightninguyFebruary 28, 2010 at 4:39 PM

    A powerful drumber who stole the show at Campjam and even old timers like cammander cody stood in total amazement and we have on DVD.

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  3. Saw and met Josh Dion on Friday, March 16th at 12 Grapes in performance with Gil Parris . His presence, his vocals, his drumming...spunky, sexy, soulful. Lead me to MORE.

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