Cornish singer-songwriter Josh Curnow is a gravel-voiced acoustic troubadour, singing an intensely personal blend of impassioned pop, rock and folk. We caught up with the songwriter to chat about the story behind his songs.
Growing up on the North Cornish coast, Josh found village life and school in particular a struggle. “I always found myself taken out of lessons,” he explains, “even if I hadn’t done anything wrong, it was like the teachers just assumed everything was my fault.” It was through playing and singing that he began to find “something I was actually good at!” As a teenager he played and sang with the entertainingly-named ‘Nefarious 19’, performing rock and metal tracks in the local area, and from this platform he found himself beginning to write more and more personal material: This eventually led him to start writing as a solo acoustic musician.
The first song he saw through to completion as a solo singer was a track called Notes of my Life. Recorded in an abandoned cottage, the song is an acoustic-led tale of lost teenage love. Much of Josh’s songwriting is inspired by his struggles during this period of his life. Constantly battling at school with his dyslexia and unsympathetic teachers, things came to a head when he split with his long-term girlfriend: “All of a sudden,” he sighs, “things took a turn for the worst.” Undoubtedly many listeners will relate to the story spun through Josh’s music, of a relationship turned sour and the difficulties moving forward from it.
Following the split, Josh found himself the subject of “vicious” rumours in a local village: “It seemed like the village had nothing to do but chitchat and make stuff up.” Unable to escape the small-town gossip and becoming increasingly isolated, the young Josh desperately searched for a way to channel these experiences. “When you’re a teenager,” he explains, “you feel you’ve got no way of offloading that despair. What I wanted was a way of telling people how I felt – without having to sit down and talk about it!” Indeed, listening to tracks like Heart’s Ruin and Short Story there’s an honesty to his delivery, and you really can tell he’s been there.
Apart from his music, what brought Josh through these troubles? He has some great friends who have stuck by him. He also defers tremendous respect to the landlord of a nearby pub, Gary: In spite of the persisting rumours, Gary decided to give the 18-year-old Josh a job, and it was this show of trust that began to set Josh back on the right road again. “Of course, when you work behind a bar you get to know a lot of people,” he explains, and it was there that he made friends with local musicians and music fans. Gary gave Josh his first solo gig there, and word quickly began to spread of the budding musical talent. From this point, his sights were set on performing professionally.
The EP Me v You was recorded alongside Sound Consultancy, the team behind successful young acoustic acts the Daughters of Davis and Jacob Lloyd, following a chance encounter in 2009. Nearby Wadebridge is the home of the long-running Christian Music festival, Creation Fest. Josh’s father Richard, a pastor in the town, was tasked with arranging accommodation for visiting musicians. As a result, the Curnow household played host to Gospel starlet Philippa Hanna and producer Andy Baker. Whilst they were there, Josh joined Philippa for some ‘jam sessions’ (to the envy of a few fans!) and found himself inspired by the vision and ambition of the Yorkshire singer. “I’d never heard of her at the time,” he tells us, “but looked her up later and couldn’t believe it! I loved her music and bought all her albums.”
Fast-forward three years, and Josh once again had found himself down on his luck, his musical ambitions running dry. “I’d given myself a year,” he explains. “If nothing happened to take my music forward, then that would be it. I’d put down the guitar, and give up on music completely - look for a place in an office somewhere” All this changed one night at his brother’s house, when out of the blue he received an email from Andy. Now spearheading Sound Consultancy, the producer offered Josh a chance to work with his team to record and promote a new EP – a chance that the singer jumped at. That summer he made the journey to their Sheffield offices to record Me v You. This debut is a six track collection of deeply personal acoustic rock tunes.
Throughout our conversation, Josh takes great pains to emphasise how much his family have supported him. “I’m very blessed in the family I was brought up in,” we are told. “My mum and dad are the best and my brothers and sister are fantastic too. My entire family have been behind me 100% in producing the EP”
As we speak, copies of Me v You are being pressed. So what next for Josh Curnow? “Well, for one, when I get the EP in my hands I’ll be the happiest man in the world!” he beams. Certainly the pride the young songwriter takes in his recent achievements is clear, and his ambitions extend further. As well as returning to his local music circuit, he has his sights set on the South of France, where he is forging links through touring musician friends. Other plans involve writing an autobiography to share his story – though a serious ambition, it’s not one he intends to rush into: “At the minute, I’m on maybe chapter 6 of my life: I want to get to at least chapter 30 before I start writing!” he laughs.
Me v You is a record to seek out if you’re a fan of music driven by emotion, openness, and more than anything, defiance. “My music is a statement to all the people who ever doubted me,” says Josh. “All the teachers that told me I would be “nothing” will be proven wrong!”