Share This

Buy This

Josiah Leming

Singer-songwriter Josiah Leming – he of the plaintive vocals and instinctive piano skills, and writer of catchy, Americana-meets-Brit-pop influenced songs – is proving to be an exception to a rule.

He’s an American Idol outcast who’s actually well worth listening to.

We don’t really cover the singing competition circuit here on Pyxis Mag. Not because such shows don’t have their place – plenty of people enjoy them regularly – but just because, with a few rare exceptions, we haven’t seen a whole lot of solid talent evolve as a result.

Leming, though, proved to be a standout as one of the singing contenders during the 2008 series of Idol, even though he was voted off before the main competition took place. A natural, if occasionally over-confident, performer, he even made notoriously blunt judge Simon Cowell sit up and take notice (“I don’t know what they (the other judges) were thinking,” Cowell told the Knoxville, Tennesee News-Sentinel after Leming was eliminated, “We should have put him through. I wanted him in the competition.”)

Idol ended up being merely a springboard for Leming, as might be expected – the show, as mentioned, isn’t really a place that cultivates originality. So perhaps it was better that he was freed from the Idol chains before they could get too solid of a grip on his talent. And with Leming being something of a “chill spirit,” he recognized Idol’s limits – and simply moved forward from there.

“First and foremost, Idol is television, and the goal of television is to be ‘must watch,'” Leming explains. “That’s easier done with songs people are familiar with, and contestants that are willing to be told what to do.”

“If you take it for what it is,” he continues, “it’s a pretty genius concept for a show – just not the most appropriate thing for an artist. That being said, I’m grateful for what the show opened up to me, the fans and the opportunities.”

Growing up in Tennessee, Leming taught himself the piano on a Casio keyboard, later taking piano lessons and then branching out into performance at coffeehouse shows. He even released several short EPs before traveling to Atlanta, Georgia for his Idol audition in 2007. Following Idol, he signed a record deal with Warner Bros. Records, who released a couple of Leming EPs in 2008/2009 (Angels Undercover being the standout)  and then Leming’s debut full-length album, Come on Kid, in 2010. The album showed off Leming’s innate musical talents, from the emotional outpouring of “To Run” to the twists and turns of “Arctic Outcry Wind.” Without proper promotion, though, the album was a commercial ‘failure,’ and WB unceremoniously dropped Leming from their roster.

“The only plan I had before Idol was to make a full-length album,” Leming explains. “My love has always been to write and record music. The goal wasn’t to sign a deal, or get a team together, or any of that, and I didn’t understand any of that at the time. So I went out to L.A. to do some media stuff, and found myself with a manager, and this, and that, and the other – too many people to name.  I was a bright-eyed kid from Tennessee who didn’t understand, and they saw me coming a hundred miles away. I spent 3 years on the Warner Bros. label, and I did get my debut album out – but with very little support from the people who contractually owned it.”

But even after he no longer had a label to call home, Leming refused to give up. Instead, he smartly released a single version of the song that had perhaps gotten him the most attention to date, the evocative, metaphorical “One Last Song,” with its lyrics of a doomed sea voyage set to an Embrace-like tune and piano part.  He focused the rest of his aggrevation and disappointment into writing and creating another new album, which he wittily dubbed Another Life.

“I spent the whole spring and summer of 2011 in Los Angeles working on the new record, really making it everything I wanted it to be, and released it last November,” Leming says. “The process has been long and trying, but amazingly rewarding. I’ve seen few things people get to see and come out on the other side unharmed.”

Pre-tracked with co-producer friend Jesse Owen Astin at what Leming calls an “abandoned house” in South L.A. where they set up all their gear, secondary support for the album arrived in the form of Leming putting together a new band to work through the songs with on a day-to-day basis.

“I chose some guys I had toured with, and some other guys I knew, and we started playing every day in January of last year, working on the parts and the structures of the songs,” he explained. “Then we tracked the album at a studio in Burbank that Jesse worked at, mostly nights and weekends. I poured everything I had into it – I don’t believe I even talked to anyone that wasn’t involved with the album during that time.”

There’s not an overall theme for Another Life, Leming says – not one that he’ll name, at least.

“My songs are mostly autobiographical, and I won’t explain them, because one should take what they like from any music,” he says. “I write about the world I live in, and only from my experiences in that world, so I mostly let the songs answer questions like these.”

Wise choice, letting these indie-pop songs speak for themselves, because they do so quite well. Leming’s latest set includes the title track, with its rich guitar strumming, wavering vocal, and unique arrangement, as well as the instantly compelling, piano-anchored “All I Got,” just two out of nine well-crafted tunes – and he’ll be taking these tracks on the road all this month, into next month, and probably well beyond, an experience he considers a definite bonus of his career of choice.

“The greatest thing about touring is that it takes me to all the places I want to go,” Leming grins. “The worst thing about touring is that it also takes me places I don’t care to go, but even that is made up for by the fact that there are amazing, wonderful, music-loving fanatics at those shows, so where they’re at doesn’t matter.”


For more info about this Band to Watch, plus current tour dates, visit his official website. He can also be found on Twitter (@josiahleming) and Facebook.