It’s hard to believe that it’s been six years since Josh Gracin released a full-length album (2011’s Redemption), but the singer is back, and arguably better than ever, with a new EP and a positive new outlook on life.
In February, Gracin released Nothin’ Like Us, Part 1, an EP supported by a private investor and produced by Brad Hill and Dave Thomson. “It was a lot of fun to make the project, it was a different type of music than I’ve done in the past, which is what I wanted. It challenged me vocally, it was just a lot of fun to make.”
While Gracin was intent on staying true to a familiar sound, he was also aware of the sonic changes in country music since his last release.
I wanted to stay true to what I’ve done, but I know that country music has changed, even in two years. I wanted it to be modern without being something that I’m not. I know that listeners are different and listeners have heard music differently on the radio now for the past two years so they’re kind of conditioned to look or hear for things. It was definitely well thought out.
He admits that it would be impossible for him to pick a favorite on the project, but points to “On Me” and “I’m Still There” as the standouts.
Country music is about is context, it’s always kinda been about the stories, regardless of what it sounds like…It’s always been about the story, so that’s why I’m kind of partial to leaning to those two songs because of the story, because of the visual they create, because of the words and it is country music. Everything about it is country music, with a modern twist.
It’s hard not to notice that the new EP includes “Part 1” in the title, and Gracin promises that part 2 will follow later this year. He says that he’s “excited to stretch it further and go outside the box. We’re looking to put something together that meshes with part one, but is different in its own right.”
To celebrate the release of the EP, Gracin held album releases for his fans, something he’s never really done before.
It was a lot of fun…it was great to see how they react and that they were already mouthing the words to the new stuff, and it’s crazy how quick people get to the music and get attached to it.” He says. “It’s a cool thing that also puts everybody on their toes because people want new music faster. It makes my job a lot of fun because I love going into the studio and making new music. Let them want music as fast as they want it.”
Another cool moment for Gracin came when shooting the video for “I Go Crazy,” a song that wasn’t even on tap to become a single. The video was shot on the set of Django Unchained, Westworld and Deadwood. “We didn’t shoot it like a video, we shot it like a mini movie with the music on top of it so that was the thought process behind it. Right when I heard it, I just had this picture in my head… the good thing about doing your own thing is that when you think of things, you can just kinda do it.”
For Gracin, who finished fourth on the second season of American Idol, the show’s 2016 ending was a bittersweet moment for him.
When I was on the second season, we were literally kids off the couch. I mean, that’s the way it was – the way we dressed, the way we presented ourselves, everything about it – there was nothing polished about us whatsoever, but as the show came a bigger monster, you started seeing people that had record deals before or had been performing for a long time before and been on the circuit, and I think it changed. From seasons 1-4, the fans really took ownership in the people on that show and the reason they took ownership is because they knew it wasn’t contrived and everything about our life was just put out there, good or bad, and people just connected to that. I think as it went on, you got less of that and I think it needed to go away for a little bit to restart and refresh if they ever come back.”
When asked the secret to his career longevity thus far, Gracin points to an ingrained work ethic.
I wish there was some sort of magic bullet. I think you just gotta keep pushing. Everybody’s different. Maybe it was the fact that I was raised with four sisters and I had to keep pushing to make sure I got my time or maybe it’s the military thing, I don’t know, but I think a lot of times, people off talent shows expect things once they get off, and that has a lot to do with what they’re promised. They don’t understand that if stuff slows down, that the way the business works and it’s not a bad thing, it’s just business, but, is that they turn their heads and look for the next thing that costs less money. It really relies on the person you are to keep pushing, to keep finding ways to keep your head above water and that’s what I call Nashville. Keep your head above water and tread water long enough to get your shot again.”
For Gracin, he’s still inspired by an array of Nashville musicians, ranging from Rascal Flatts, whom he credits with bringing him to Nashville and making things happen in the beginning of his career. He loves Carrie Underwood’s powerhouse voice, Miranda Lambert’s honesty and authenticity, and when it comes to country’s newbies, he’s a huge fan of both Maren Morris and Brett Eldredge.
While he’s already achieved so much, Gracin isn’t content to rest on his past achievements.
I want to get music back on the radio, I want to get hits, I want to get out there on tour and make friends with artists that have been in the game a long time and artists that are just starting out. That’s one thing I’ve never done, I’ve never been on a major tour since I’ve been in Nashville and that’s something I want to do. Sell a bunch of records, make a bunch of fans….Do arenas and put my own tour together and give new artists a shot. There’s a lot of goals to still check off the list, and that’s what keeps me pushing.”