Full Circle with Joshua James
I met Joshua James on a Zoom call with a dozen questions to ask about his music and headlining the 14th Annual Craft Lake City DIY Festival. The questions were ordered and organized on a freshly printed piece of paper and meant to elicit enough responses for a solid 800-word feature. It would be easy enough. I planned for 30 minutes tops, a cordial thank you and goodbye, hang up and start to string the whole thing together. Simple.
Within two minutes of the interview I realized I didn’t need the planned questions, and in fact they got in the way. When the Zoom call ended I knew I had something altogether different. I had a story about family, a bicycle and a cosmic circle spun by Karen Carpenter.
Joshua James has a touch of magic and warmth about him. Talking with him is like hanging out in stardust or a late evening summer sun. He immediately puts you at ease and makes you feel that, in this moment, you are an essential part of his orbit. He lights up the most when he talks about his family. The James gang roots are planted in American Fork, Utah: “We live in a town my lady was raised in,” he says. “Her family lives here. We have a village to raise children.” James has four to keep him and that village busy. “I have plenty of purpose,” James says with a twinkle in his eyes, “I’m a dad—my cup overfloweth with purpose.”
“What I am so attracted to with the bicycle—it’s a return to youth for me. A return to simplicity. A clearing of my mind,”
Part of the purpose is hanging out with his kids, and teaching them the cycle of life with tomato plants. “I do a lot of gardening,” he says. “I love to show my children the process of putting a seed in a pod, it sprouts, it grows, it blossoms, it dies. It goes back in the ground and it will be the next generation. The beauty is in the cycle. The whole cycle of it all.” The family is the soil, the foundation from which all else springs. “I don’t go to shopping centers. I don’t go into public very often. I don’t go to shows very often. I don’t socialize all that much,” James says. “My world, the way we’ve created it, me and my lady, our home is the sanctuary in which all things are possible.”
While speaking with James I was reminded of a Queen song: “You say black, I say white / You say bark, I say bite / You say shark, I say hey man / Jaws was never my scene / And I don’t like Star Wars.” Like Freddie Mercury and Queen, Joshua James has no time for trivial things. “You say Rolls, I say Royce / You say god give me a choice / You say Lord, I say Christ / I don’t believe in Peter Pan / Frankenstein or Superman / All I want to do is Bicycle, bicycle, bicycle.”
“I dig fanatics.” James says, leaning into the Zoom camera. “I love fanatics.” What Joshua James is clearly fanatic about himself is bikes.. “I would give up music before I would give up my bicycle,” he says, stopping for a brief moment, thinking then nodding his head. “What I am so attracted to with the bicycle—it’s a return to youth for me. A return to simplicity. A clearing of my mind,” he muses. “It’s a perfect pre-show for me. I’m happy.” James sits back, confident with his confession. “I find it to be a really good way to connect with myself, connect to the world and my inner child.”
Karen Anne Carpenter died on February 4, 1983. Her iconic voice still echoes through time and space. especially for James. The Carpenters were the only pop group played in his home growing up. “[They] have a nostalgic specific place in my heart,” he says. “I felt this connection with Karen Carpenter for certain, but I also had this connection with my mother. [She] went through a very intense depression when she died.” On September 22, 2020, still in the middle of lockdown Covid, James released the album Dreams Of Karen, which he worked on with his mother Reese James.
“My world, the way we’ve created it, me and my lady, our home is the sanctuary in which all things are possible.”
“Dreams Of Karen is a record capturing a moment in time … one day that moment will be revisited by myself, and I will be able to remember what was happening in my life at that time.” The shaky technology of Zoom froze. I could not see James’ expression, but I could feel his emotion. “One day I will be able to revisit those recordings and be able to not only revisit Karen and Richard Carpenter‘s amazing work as songwriters, performers and singers, but [it’s] also wrapped up in the memory with my mother.” This completed three poetic circles in my conversation with James: the cycle of seed to rebirth in a tomato plant, the cycling back through time to recapture youth on a bicycle and the reconnection with a mother using the power of song.
The 14th Annual DIY Fest will be the biggest yet, with over 350 local artisans, vintage venders, foodies, youth entrepreneurs, performers and STEM exhibitors over three days from Friday, August 12 to Sunday, August 14 at the Utah State Fairpark. Joshua James will be playing 9–10 p.m. on Friday, headlining the SLUG Mag stage. Joshua James’ self sufficient soul makes him the perfect person to headlining DIY Fest. “When I feel a need to do a thing, I do it,” he says, adding, “If this is what I feel like I want to do right now, this is what I’m going to do.” DIY Fest is lucky to have Joshua James.
Read more interviews with national artists:
BANKS is In the Pocket of Life
MJ Noble on Finding Her Sound In Her New Album, Kind Blade