Yes, that’s Jeshua, with an “e”.
But the Dundee lad and former St John’s High pupil, known to his friends as Joshua Gray, won’t be correcting folk for long.
The 27-year-old released his debut album, Unreliable Narrator, on June 4 and has already garnered praise from LA reviewers and BBC Radio Scotland DJs alike.
With dream-pop tracks carefully crafted over more than six years, and subject matter ranging from grown-up cynicism to an ode to his grandmother, the independently-produced Unreliable Narrator has impressed the critics.
So I caught up with the man behind the music, talking lessons, lyrics – and bygone nights at Balcony Bar.
Rebecca: Congratulations on your album, Unreliable Narrator. You started writing it in Dundee, but now you’re in Glasgow. What was the journey to this album like?
Jeshua: Thanks! Yeah, I left Dundee when I was 21 but I spent my formative years there and really enjoyed it. There’s a great music scene and I wrote a lot of the songs on the album in Dundee before I even left.
Instead of going to class, I’d be learning drums.”
I started off playing drums at high school, at St John’s. So sometimes instead of going to class, I’d be learning drums, which was great! And then I moved on to guitar, and I discovered songwriting when I was about 16.
When I moved to Glasgow, that’s when I started really working on this project. It wasn’t intentional for it to take this long, but I was taking my time. It’s a learning process.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
Rome wasn’t built in a day, time can really help things. You can’t just be creative and be this major success story – even though loads of artists seem like an overnight success. You need to develop, not just as an artist but as an individual as well.
I’m a bit of a perfectionist as well, so it helps taking the time to get everything right.
You’ve obviously taken the time to come to your own sound. If you had to describe your sound in three words, which words would you choose?
That’s a good question! For this album, I’d say: Misty, electronic… journeys? Misty electronic journey, there we go!
I think that’s pretty accurate – I was listening to it this morning, watching the haar come in off the Tay…
That’s perfect then, you get it! That’s definitely the vibe I was going for. I think, living in Glasgow as well, the constant rain and greyness probably informed that as well and ended up in the music. Where I recorded, you could always see how bad the weather is.
It’s the exact song I imagine to listen to when running through a forest in slow motion (if that’s possible?!)”
Lucy Bower, God Bless The Bands
Where was that?
It was my friend Robbie’s flat. Robbie (Gunn, Sun Dogs Production) has a studio in his living room just in the suburbs of Glasgow.
The album title is interesting – Unreliable Narrator. Do you feel like an unreliable narrator?
100%. But I think it reflects the things I think about other people too.
I think sometimes when you reflect on things afterwards, you’re projecting a different version of events or how you were feeling. A lot of the time you’re making this narrative that’s influenced by too many external things.
Do you write all your songs yourself?
Yeah, everything’s written by me. The lyrics took a long time – I was always just sitting in work, writing things down on bits of paper, trying to get the right thing. I was working full-time at Marks & Spencer. That’s what paid for the album!
What’s ‘the right thing’? What’s your favourite song on the record, if you had to pick?
IDK (“I don’t know”) is my favourite. I think it’s the most accomplished musically and works so well.
It’s a different dynamic when they’re your songs as well, because if you play them live or someone says something about a certain song, it can change your feelings. It’s easy to dote on other people’s opinions!
Have any comments stuck out in your mind, good or bad?
Yeah! I got this review from this guy in LA the other day actually, which was pretty cool just because it was all the way in America.
But he said something like, “I wonder what Jeshua could produce with a bigger budget” – which I just thought was funny! He was like, “yeah, someone give him money” and I agree with him.
— CJ Simonson (@CJsimonson) June 24, 2021
You funded it all yourself then, no label?
I funded and did it all myself, yeah. And I think that’s good because it pushes you harder to work for what you want to achieve, you know? All the risk is put on you.
But don’t get me wrong, I’d definitely be open to having a budget at some point!
Who are your major influences, musically or lyrically?
Lyrically, definitely Leonard Cohen. I obviously could never write anything of his calibre because hello, it’s Leonard Cohen, but I’m definitely influenced by his style as a starting point.
There’s different ways you can be influenced too. Like David Bowie not sticking to the one sound has influenced me. And this album is influenced by a lot of ’90s dream-pop, alternative bands.
And I definitely went through a phase of listening to a lot of pop. I think people undervalue pop.
An artist after my own heart. Any post-pandemic gigs on the horizon?
Yes – I’ve not played a gig in a long time! I need to start practising. I have a gig, it’s to be confirmed, but it’s a headline show in August at the Hug and Pint in Glasgow, and I’ve got a show in November too at Stag and Dagger.
I also have a gig in November 27 at Beat Generator in Dundee, with another artist called Happy Tears.
A hometown gig! Where’s your favourite place to play in Dundee?
A lot of the venues have changed hands, but if I could go back in time, it would be the Balcony Bar. It used to have gigs back in the day and they were brilliant. It was just an interesting little space.
I’m looking forward to just playing music in a room. I think everyone’s excited for things to get back to normal.
You’ve made your mark as one to watch among the critics. What’s next for Jeshua?
I don’t have any particular goals in mind – I’m just going to keep working on more music. You can’t stop, you’ve just got to keep going.
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