Words by Keane Fletcher
For Melbourne-based singer-songwriter Joshua Hennessy, 2020 hasn't gone exactly to plan. I mean, really, who's year has. But that doesn't mean he's let it go to waste. On the contrary, after years of writing for bands and other people's voices, 2020 marks the release of his first solo EP 'Plans', a multi-genre exploration of love, hope, and perspective at a time when the world probably needs it most.
'Ironically this year has solidified the meaning of my song 'Plans'... It's good to have a goal, a plan, and an idea of what you want things to look like in the future... but sometimes personal growth is better than a tangible outcome...I feel like love isn't really our initial response to life, and I can't help but wonder what the world would look like if it was.'
With new music on the way and an outlook on life not often championed in the music industry, we feel like Hennessy might be the perfect balm for all those 2020 anxieties you've been carrying around. Or in the words of Hennessy himself:
'I wanna start with a brand new morning/ I wanna start with a new beginning.'
We couldn't agree more. Bring on 2021!
We recently sat down with Hennessy to talk all things music, inspo and the futility of making plans during a pandemic. Check it out below!
1- Where in the world are you based at the moment?
I'm in Melbourne Australia.
2- How did you first get into music? What are your musical influences?
I remember when I was about 16 I got my first 'Sanity music' voucher and I went and bought my very first live music DVD... it was 'The Beautiful Letdown *Live in San Diego" by Switchfoot and I remember I must have watched it a thousand times that week just being mesmerized by Jon Foreman and wanting to be just like him... that's the moment I started to write songs.
My main influences are obviously Jon Foreman/Switchfoot, Mutemath, Needtobreathe, Jamie Cullum, and I'd also say Coldplay.
3- How does the songwriting process usually work for you? Do you have a routine when it comes to writing and recording, or does inspiration usually take you by surprise?
I'd say yes... haha, the process has happened in every way... I remember one time I woke up singing a song that was stuck in my head that whole morning... only to realise that it wasn't yet a song that existed but a song that I'd basically written in my sleep from top to bottom... that was such a crazy realization! but there are also songs like 'Never Giving Up' off my EP that took over 7 years to get right... I remember when I wrote the EP title track 'Plans' I had bought a loop pedal and just wanted to jam out with it, and the loop I created ended up becoming the whole song... so I don't really have a set formula... but it does help when I've got a good musical foundation for a new song as I don't tend to struggle too much with lyrics once that's down.
4- Your latest EP 'Plans' is part rock, part jazz, part intimate singer-songwriter. How did it end up coming together? Were you working towards a specific idea, or did the project come together in a more organic way?
Haha! Yes, Plans was such a crazy process. I wanted this EP to reflect every single part of who I am in every way, and I didn't want it to be limited by genre but rather have the content of the songs shape the genre through their lyrics... and I must say I'm pretty stoked with the outcome. I probably lean more on the 'alternative rock' style of music as a starting place for my writing, but sometimes during the production process you realise that a song needs to highlight the message a little more through the music and so then the song shapes itself accordingly.
This EP was my breakaway from writing in a band format and an attempt to discover who I am as a musician and writer... I learned a lot about myself in the process, but also I'm so glad that it's out and all these songs I've been carrying for these years are now released from my head and my heart so that I can start really focussing on where I'm at now.
5- What do you hope listeners take away from this EP?
I hope that they see that there is more to a song than the sound... I really want my listeners to feel like they can know who I am after listening to my songs and there was a lot of vulnerability poured into them from parts of my life that I'd kept to myself. Broken Artefact for instance is a song about admitting my faults and learning how to accept being loved as who I am and not what I have to offer... It's knitted in with this love story about finding my wife in a broken place and loving her, but really it was more of a reflection of my broken self.
I think the other thing is how powerful it is to be loving... not in the 'commercial' way of a relationship... but I feel like love isn't really our initial response to life, and I can't help but wonder what the world would look like if it was... that's the underlying message I hope people can catch and hold onto.
6- How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you and your plans for this year?
It's hard to think about the effects of COVID in a positive light... so many people have been stripped bare of the securities they've built up over their whole lives, and I can only pray that lives may be healed by a happening of this magnitude, but I honestly am grateful to God for the time I've been able to spend with my wife this year. Obviously being 'grounded' isn't ideal, but being 'forced' to spend time with the person who I chose to be with so many years ago has made me appreciate just how much of a gift she is in my life. The peripherals of money and the burden of isolation is something that we can all agree has been painful, but ironically this year has solidified the meaning of my song 'Plans'... It's good to have a goal, a plan, and an idea of what you want things to look like in the future... but sometimes personal growth is better than a tangible outcome... and so my external plans were definitely altered this year, but I'm so grateful for the growth I've been able to see in my relationships and even in my songwriting, and that's not something I ever want to take for granted.
7- How do you feel the internet has affected your career as a songwriter? Do you believe streaming services like Spotify and Soundcloud are making things easier or harder for artists?
I've said this a lot recently... when everybody has a voice, nobody does... and I feel like that overflows to the music industry at times. These online services are an amazing way for music to be accessible to fans, but it also I believe makes it a little difficult to stand out. That being said, if we're in this life to make money I don't think there would be many songwriters out there, and the main reason I write is to hopefully give people an alternative perspective than what the world seems to yell at us every day. So maybe it does make it harder... but I'm ok with that as long as we're all out there making music for the love and not the cash.
8- What's next for you?
I actually today finished my new single 'Neverland' which will be out next month. I'm actually really excited about this one as I wrote it on a flight home from Sydney earlier in the year and I can't help but think of the opening scene of Peter Pan when he grabs the kids hands and teaches them all to fly... That brings back so many beautiful memories of my childhood growing up with that film and so I'm so excited to share it with the world! From there I'm hoping to get working on another EP for a release next year.
The single is due to be released Dec 10.
Thanks for stopping by Hipland!