Drawing inspiration from influences as eclectic as traditional Irish folk music to Nick Cave, the singer-songwriter produces deeply emotive tracks that exude the poetic facets of more legendary contemporaries. Having grown up listening to artists such as Johnny Cash, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, McGovern was drawn to writing deeply moving and easily connectable songs, and by studying the melodic attributes of these luminaries, developed his beautiful style of song writing.
This perpetual creative flow was initiated when his parents bought him his first guitar at the age of 12, after which he immediately started writing songs. “I loved the idea of music and poetry coming together to form a song, particularly folk ballads”, he states. His affinity towards the dark romance of artists such as Leonard Cohen has also been a notable influence on his writing. “I always felt connected to Leonard Cohen as an artist. I love his lyrics and his view of the world. His dark edge is what I aspire to.” It was this that drew him towards the moving lyricism and atmospheric instrumentation that has become so deeply ingrained into his music.
Growing up in Brighton and spending time at his family’s shop on the seafront has meant the sea has been a constant in McGovern’s life. “I’m a bit obsessed with being near the edge, something about being able to swim away if I need to”, he says. Its mysterious and powerful nature was also an early influence on his writing, when he would watch it from his bedroom. “I used to stay up until four in the morning trying to write songs that matched those scenes, when the winds were up and the sea would smash against the cliffs. Sometimes I’d stay up all night watching storms.”
After these formative influences, he found that “song ideas were all I really cared about, and not much has changed.” Inspired, McGovern decided to pursue his passion for music fully. He abandoned his academic education to attend music college, a decision he states was “the best thing I ever did. It taught me how to gig, and gave me a start towards being the musician I am today.” Following this, he spent his teens busking and playing small venues, honing his performance and learning how to captivate his audience enough to make a room full of people stop and listen.
Having built up experience and support, he recently recorded his singles ‘Love Left Lost’ and ‘The Devil Below Me’ with Ben Thackeray, who has worked with the likes of Nick Cave and Patti Smith. Along with his band, McGovern recorded the tracks at Retreat Studios, where Nick Cave recorded the majority of his album Skeleton Tree, which he describes as “one of my favourite albums.”
Regarding the singles, he said “I was first inspired to write ‘The Devil Below Me’ as a response to change in my life. The song itself is a tale of past conflicts and a study of myself. It is very personal to me, it reflects on my family tree and past mistakes. I wanted to create something that represented the contrast in people’s lives, something people could relate to on a deeper level. The recording process was very special for me.”
He continues, “I wrote ‘Love Left Lost’ after falling off the rails and spending a few months in my own head. It was in the dead of winter and I had felt inadequate in the wake of some rough times, so I locked myself away in my old friend Jim’s house whilst he was away and wrote the song. It may sound clichéd but I’ve always found writing music helps me get through those phases we all experience from time to time, and ‘Love Left Lost’ was about me expressing that and getting back up again.”
Josh McGovern has received early strong support from BBC Introducing and critical acclaim from the likes of The Independent, who described him as “An accomplished, intriguing new talent”. He has sold out headline shows across London and his Brighton hometown, carving out a dedicated following of fans and critics alike, and he looks set to make even more of a statement throughout 2018.