A guy with his guitar who probably needs no introduction for listener who are into Creative Commons music. It’s a great honour for us to have one of those rare interviews with the overly friendly and humble Josh Woodward. He’s the prototype of a new rock star with no local audience, but a huge community on the internet.
Please introduce yourself to our listeners.
Greetings! I’m a singer-songwriter from Ann Arbor, MI with 12 albums of acoustic rock music available for free under the Creative Commons Attribution license.
What’s your focus with your music?
I think that most artists, myself included, have a hard time describing their musical or lyrical focus, even when it’s obvious to everyone else. What makes an artist unique is usually just what seems normal to them. But I’d say my focus is on creating music that taps into deeper storylines and darker themes, bittersweet yet optimistic.
How do you define and measure your success?
I’ve always avoided anything that feels like aggressively marketing myself, or treating my music too much like a business. I also don’t really worry too much about how large of an audience I have. I define success as the feeling I have when I listen through a finished mix of a new song and have that feeling like I created something I’m proud of. There’s not a good way to measure that, but part of why I’m still excited about the process after over 200 songs is that I don’t worry too much about anything except what’s happening inside of my own head.
What Creative Commons license are you using and why have you chosen it?
I use the Creative Commons Attribution license. I started off long ago with the more restrictive Non-Commercial and No-Derivatives clauses, but I dropped them quickly when I realized that the exposure I would get from the liberal Attribution license would be much better for exposure. Best decision I ever made with my music!
Please pick three tracks from your work that best represents you. Why did you choose them? Can you tell us something about the creation process?
I seem to have a few primary musical personalities, so here are my favorites from those:
Upbeat Pop/Rock: “Swansong”. Back in 2003, I found a website called SongFight.org, which was a weekly songwriting competition where I got my start on the internet. I did tons of those for a while, then gave up to focus on fewer songs. A few years after I retired, I came back for a week to write “Swansong”, which is ostensibly about coming back to an old lover, but was actually written about SongFight itself.
Acoustic: “Border Blaster”. This is a song from the perspective of an undocumented worker coming across the border from Mexico. This was one of those times when I said exactly what was in my brain, just as I’d wanted to say it.
Dark: “Sugar On My Tongue”. A subset of my songs are so dark that I know they’re not ever going to be remotely popular, but I personally love them so I keep doing them anyway. This is an example of these, a song about being stuck in a house alone over the winter, and slowly losing your grip on reality.
Why do you give away the music for free?
At first, it was just a matter of my music already being online through SongFight for free, so it felt weird to charge. Plus, I didn’t think anyone would want to pay. As my audience grew, I realized quickly that it was a result of the freedom of the license. YouTube uses, in particular, have been a huge source of exposure for me. The videos using my money have cumulatively had over a billion views. Even if only a small percentage of them translate into people searching out the music they heard, that’s a huge number.
How are you connected, networked within your country and worldwide?
One of the strangest aspects of my situation is that it’s a truly international audience. I stopped playing live shows when my internet exposure had picked up around 2007, which means that I don’t have a local audience to speak of. On the other hand, I have large audiences in countries like Brazil, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Germany, and more. For the last Kickstarter I did, over two-thirds of the CDs I shipped went overseas. There’s not a huge concentration in any given city, so touring is still probably not very practical, but for my situation, I love hearing from people around the world.
Do you have new or upcoming works that can be interesting for listeners?
As a matter of fact, I’m almost done with working on not one, but two new albums. I’ve written a few dozen songs since my last release, so I’m planning on choosing some of those for a light-sounding and a dark-sounding CD. I’ve been obsessing over them the past month, and I’m planning on launching a Kickstarter in early January, and hopefully releasing the albums in February!
Looking forward to it and thank you for the interview