Josie Dunne: Cool With It

  Josie Dunne is a stellar example of how the current music industry is on its way up. She’s humble, quirky, multi-talented, and ready to put her passion to the test as she grows her artistry into a full blown career. Both her original songs and her covers (of hit songs like Selena Gomez’s “Hands to Myself,” holiday classics like “Frosty the Snowman,” and Stevie Wonder’s “For Once In My Life”) only hint at the talent she has in store. 

  The singer-songwriter has deep roots in music and has been chasing this dream since middle school: playing in restaurants and bars she wasn’t yet old enough to drink or hang out in, but was surely old enough to perform in weekend after weekend if she asked nicely enough. She did, and that taught her a lot about being a performer and growing in this industry. Now, with an EP out, a handful of memorable music videos, and a soon-to-be Christmas classic under her belt, she’s ready to take 2019 by storm.

You just announced that you are going on tour with Ben Rector in the early spring of next year and you recently toured with Andy Grammer, both of which are so exciting. What are these opening act experiences like? What do you take away from them?

  I feel really lucky because I have immediately gotten to book tours opening for people that I have been a fan of for my whole life, so I am just really, really grateful for the experience. To get to experience my first times on the road with people that I am such a fan of has been super surreal. On top of that, I’m really excited to go out with Ben, because I have heard that his show is just so remarkable and I am excited to watch it every night and learn a lot from it. That’s really what I did with Andy.

  I think the biggest takeaway from being on the road was just watching him and just watching his show and talking to him about what it is like being on the road for weeks and weeks and how to make your show more fun and different, making it stand out from everything else to make it a really personal experience for every single person in the crowd. I think that has just been my takeaway: watching these people that are pros and picking up little tips along the way from each show of how I can make my own show better.

Absolutely! So, you get out on stage and you are doing your thing and having fun, but when you get off stage, what do you think about? Like, what are your favorite parts of your time in front of everyone?

  Aw, when I get off stage I am so hard on myself. I am my own biggest critic, so when I get off stage, I’m like, “Do you believe that I said that? I sounded like such a dork!” or “I looked like a total dweeb when I jumped over here!” But, yeah, being on stage is so much fun. Especially when I get to play with a band, like in these last couple shows that is a trio, that has been so much fun for me because I just get to jump around and exert all of the energy that I have. It’s been really fun. My favorite moments on stage have been like in the times when I sing “Old School,” which is the last song I sing in the set and it’s really cool because people are starting to sing along, which I did not ever expect to happen. That’s been really cool to have people truly singing along to a song I wrote.

That is so phenomenal. Speaking of “Old School,” which is a fantastic song, by the way.

  Aw, thank you!

You’re welcome! I especially love the music video for it, so I have to ask, how did the concept for “Old School” come about? Because that video is so special and has such a unique quality to it. How did you get your parents in on it all? Did you approach them with the idea first? Was it your idea from the get-go?

  Yeah, it was my idea. I kind of was thinking, “What is the best way that I can do my first music video ever?” And, so I was kind of going to the core of how I wrote the song. I wrote it based on, you know, watching my parents set a really, really great example of what love looks like in a relationship, and so, I thought, “What a better what to do my first music video ever than to go home and do it in the house I grew up in?” Which is also the house that my dad grew up in, because my dad bought it from my grandpa, so most places that the video was filmed was in my living room and in my bedroom and whatever, it was really fun.

  You know, to get to do it with my parents and surrounded by family in a really comfortable space was truly the most fun and most comfortable way for me to do my first video. I was super happy with how it turned out. They loved it, too, like they just hammed it up when we were family — both my parents!

That must have been a really great first experience for making a music video and getting yourself out there, as you said.

  Oh, totally! And now what I am most excited about is that we have this video that is like king of the ultimate scrapbook. It documents their story in all the places where these things actually happened, so what has been cool is to have this for my parents and be like, “Here, this is a video of your love story,” which is kind of cool. To get to share that experience with them was amazing and it turned into, like I said, the ultimate scrapbook.

Definitely! How special is it? Like you said, aside from the musical aspect, but on a more personal, familial level.

  Yeah, totally!

That’s awesome! Now, on the topic of a more recent song, your track “Cold in December” dropped a few weeks ago and it has the perfect singer-songwriter vibe, but you’ve also said in the past that you grew up with Motown and soul and pop music. When you’re writing a song like “Cold in December” or even “Cool With It,” where are you drawing influence from?

  Well for “Cold in December” specifically, I was drawing on, weirdly, an experience that I have personally had where I went to a holiday party and I got all dressed up and all excited to go and then I thought that I was going there to see a guy that I thought was into me, but he was not as into me as I thought. It was like we had broken up for good and I didn’t know that until I got there, so the song kind of documents that from a weird perspective.

  In terms of whenever I am writing a song, though, I just kind of sit down and, because I am a very visual person, I like to sit and imagine a scene. That’s exactly what I did with “Cold In December.” What was this scene? How do I paint the picture of it as clearly as possible so that people can hold onto the details and relate them to their life? I kind of think that people respond best to like very specific details about stuff and that is what you want to say, because you also want them to hear exactly what happened. That’s always what I kind of try to do when songwriting, like definitely base it off of things that I have had happen or have seen friends go through like things happen to friends or family, or even in movies or whatever! Just making sure that I spin it so that it feels like my story and can be told as honestly as possible.

Right! You want to have a really honest and open storytelling aspect.

  Yeah, totally!

I think a big part of who you are is your songwriting craft.

  Oh my gosh, thank you so much!

You’re welcome. Yeah, it’s great to see someone young doing that, because you always see these young, modern artists coming up from all these different platforms that there are now, so you don’t see a lot of genuine songwriters, so I really commend you for doing that and doing it so well.

  That’s like the greatest compliment that you could ever, ever give me. Songwriting is literally never ending, like you can always keep working on it and getting better and better and better at it, so that is always where I am trying to grow the most, and so that is like honestly the greatest compliment that you could ever give me. Thank you so much for saying that.

Aw, you are so, so welcome. I mean, you’ve had a good experience with writing. You’ve already written alongside, and for, some really cool and really talented people in the professional industry. What is that like? Writing with or for other people?

  Oh, I love it! Writing for outside people is such a good exercise for me, because you can kind of step back with it. I wrote a song called “Chapstick,” for a young artist, Jacob Sartorius, to cut, and for me, that was so cool. It’s hard for me in normal life to relate to what a young, teenage boy would say — because I am not a young, teenage boy! And so, to get to almost — like acting! — step into the shoes of people that you wouldn’t normally be and write for them. It’s amazing. I love writing for other people.

Oh, I bet! That does sound like a tough, but rewarding exercise, like you said. It’s a teaching moment and you also enjoy it!

  Yeah, absolutely!

Great!So, let’s talk about your stellar first EP, To Be the Little Fish. What was the writing and recording process like? Did you go into the studio with set songs and ideas in your head? Did it take time to grow in the studio over time?

  Thank you! The EP took me like over three years to write and get done officially. It took a really long time. Basically, I moved to Nashville like three years ago and kind of started to just write with everyone I possibly could. I spent time with Warner/Chappell and they set me up to write with as many people I possibly could all the time. I got to write with some really, really A+ writers. The songs just naturally came as I grew up and I learned what I wanted to say and exactly how I wanted to say it through like hundreds and hundreds of sessions. I got to write some songs that I was really proud of and I felt like I kind of found and learned so much from all these different people, as well as myself, with just what my voice was.

  This EP is like my baby, because it literally documents like me growing up and just figuring out who I am. It’s been such a joy to have it out in the world and to get to show people what I have been working on for all this time and who I am and what I do. I am so happy that it is out and I am so lucky that it has been having such as great response. It’s been really fun.

Absolutely! That’s so lovely and the hard work surely paid off. Speaking of the title of the EP, To Be the Little Fish, is quite interpretive, if you ask me. Where did that come from?

  So, my mom is kind of like hippie-dippie. She does yoga and hot yoga and she kind of is into like moons and stones and what your sign is and stuff, so every Christmas or birthday or whatever, all my siblings and I would always get a psychic reading with this psychic. Right when I moved to Nashville, I used one of my coupons and got a psychic reading with this lady who said and just kept saying, “to be the little fish, to be the little fish,” meaning to be the little fish and watch how the big fish survive in rough waters and how they’ve gotten to be so big and just learning from them and soaking up as much as you can from them.

  That was kind of where I was, and still am, a little fish in a big pond. Going into these rooms with all these people who were my heroes and have written all of these songs and records that completely influenced my music, and so, I was just soaking up as much information from them as I possibly could from them, so I realized that this was the beginning and this was how the record was going to be made; just by going in with these people and just watching how they gotta be so big. So, I named the record To Be the Little Fish, so that I could pay tribute to them and to thank them and everyone on the team, and my parents, and people that I’ve learned from over the course of my whole life, because they are all in this record somewhere.