Meet Josie Dunne, 22 year old singer-songwriter and musician who’s blending old school soul and contemporary pop sound. Aiming to make music for the every girl, the 22 year old takes inspiration from what she calls her "awesome normal life" to create songs that are relatable to young people around the US and then some. Having released her first EP, To Be The Little Fish, in 2018, Josie's mission is to uplift the underdogs, inspiring listeners to continue learning and growing as they navigate tough waters in the sea of life.
Her first single, “Old School”, an ode to timeless love, reached the top 15 on the ‘US Viral Chart’ on Spotify. Accompanied by a heartstring-tugging music video that stars her own parents and was filmed in her childhood home, it tells the true story of how her parents met and fell in love, with anecdotes that sound almost too perfect to be real.
I sat down with Josie to ask her what it means to be the little fish, and how she plans to takeover the charts one hit at a time.
THIS INTERVIEW HAS BEEN EDITED AND CONDENSED FOR BREVITY AND CLARITY.
LET’S GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING. WHEN DID YOU DISCOVER YOU LOVED MUSIC AND HOW DID YOU GET HERE?
“Well I come from a really creative family, I’m one of four siblings, and we all do [something artistic] in some way, so music was always my thing. I like to sing, and I learned guitar really early and ukulele and piano, but it wasn’t until middle school that I started playing gigs and taking it seriously and writing songs.”
WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO GO ALL IN WITH MUSIC AND PURSUE IT FULL TIME?
“There were different levels of me diving in full-time. I started playing shows when I was in 7th grade, and I reached out to every bar and community event centre and different people that ran all the events in the suburb where I grew up in Chicago. I started playing anything and everything I possibly could, birthday parties, block parties, etc. That was when I stopped playing sports and I really focused on music. But it only seriously jump-started when I moved to Nashville about 3 and a half years ago, and that’s when I was writing full-time and I had signed with Atlantic Records and that’s when it started to feel like I was doing it on a more legitimate level.”
SO YOU’RE 22 NOW… HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE HAD THIS EXPERIENCE OF BEING SIGNED TO A LABEL, AND GOING ON TOUR, AND RELEASING AN EP, ALL DURING YOUR EARLY TWENTIES? HOW HAS THAT SHAPED YOU?
“I think the timing for everything has been so perfect, because I started meeting Atlantic and Warner/Chappell when I was 15 or 16 and had just started travelling down to Nashville as I was finishing up high school to write and to figure out what my voice was. Once I moved to Nashville 3 years ago, I continued to do that until I started releasing music. I think that [my record label] has been so great about giving me time to figure out who I am and letting me grow up before just putting my first song out. From the time I met everyone here, it’s really great that now I have these awesome relationships with the team and they’ve known me since I was 15, so it’s this cool relationship where we’re all on the same page. Touring has been so much fun, and to go on that journey has been really exciting.”
YOU RECENTLY RELEASED YOUR DEBUT EP, TO BE THE LITTLE FISH. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN, TO BE THE LITTLE FISH?
“It’s kind of a long story, but when I moved to Nashville, I got a psychic reading and she kept telling me to be the little fish. It means that when you’re the little fish, you get to hang out with the big fish and see how they’ve grown so big in rough waters and watch what they do in order to thrive. But once you’re the biggest fish, the pond is only so big, so you become stagnant and can’t grow or learn anymore. The way that this EP was created was me going in with people I really admire just learning as much as I could from writing with them and working with them. That’s how I got the name for the EP!”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE LITTLE FISH IN THE INDUSTRY?
“Totally, I feel like iI’m just at the beginning, but I’m so happy to be the little fish. I think in anything, be it in music, or in life, you always want to be learning as much as you can and once you feel like you [have it all figured out], it’ll get boring. You have to be hungry for knowledge and that’s how I approach everything in life, but especially music, and songwriting. I hope I always feel like the little fish.”
YOUR EP WAS CO-WRITTEN WITH SOME BIG NAMES LIKE NATHAN CHAPMAN WHO'S PRODUCED FOR TAYLOR SWIFT AND AMY WADGE WHO CO-WROTE ED SHEERAN'S THINKING OUT LOUD. TELL ME WHAT IT'S LIKE WORKING WITH AND BEING IN THE STUDIO WITH SUCH TALENTED PEOPLE.
“It’s so much fun! I wrote the song ‘Cool With It’ with Nathan Chapman and it was the first song we ever wrote together, and I was so nervous to be in the studio with him because he was my hero, he had done all of the Taylor Swift albums that I had grown up listening to and was such a big fan of, so to get to work with him was a dream come true. With all of these people that I’ve worked with, it’s just been a treat to go in and try and soak up as much as I can and learn as much as I can from these pros who have made all of my favorite records and have worked with my favorite artists.”
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE SONG OFF THE EP?
“It changes every time someone asks me, but right now, it’s ‘Old School’. That song has such a special place in my heart, and it was the first song I wrote on the EP, so we built the entire EP around that song. It’s also called ‘Old School’ which fits so well aesthetically with all the things I like.”
WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR FANS AND LISTENERS TO TAKE AWAY FROM TO BE THE LITTLE FISH WHEN THEY LISTEN TO IT?
“I hope that the people listening to the EP walk away with the honest storytelling of me growing up. I hope that they can hear it and relate to the stories about me being in high school or being heartbroken for the first time and just hear themselves in that. In my life, I’ve had this really amazing, ordinary, wonderful life. I’ve had this awesome normal life, so I’ve tried to just put that into music because I think there are a lot of people out there who can relate to that.”
YOUR FIRST SINGLE ‘OLD SCHOOL’ HIT THE TOP 15 ON THE ‘US VIRAL CHART’ ON SPOTIFY, SO I WANTED TO CONGRATULATE YOU, THAT'S SUCH AN ACHIEVEMENT. THE VIDEO FOR OLD SCHOOL TELLS THE TRUE STORY OF HOW YOUR PARENTS MET AND FELL IN LOVE. IS THAT WHAT INSPIRED THE SONG?
“I think the song was written about the example that my parents have set in their marriage. They’re the greatest example of love I have ever seen and their story is so crazy and amazing that I had to tell it. Also, it was my first music video, so there was no more comfortable way to do my first music video than in the house I grew up in, with my parents, surrounded by friends and family.”
TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOUR SOUND AND HOW YOU'D DESCRIBE IT.
“I grew up on a lot of Motown and R&B Soul, but I also grew up on the music that was coming out in the late 90s, like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. For me, it was exciting to try with my with music to try and blend the worlds of gritty, heartfelt soul music that I love so much, like Stevie Wonder and Etta James, with the pop music that I also love.”
WHAT DOES YOUR SONGWRITING PROCESS LOOK LIKE? DOES IT START A TITLE, OR TUNE, OR IDEA?
“It’s different every single time. What I typically do, is start with meeting the producer or writers in a studio, and then start with a riff or drum beat and build the melodies based on that. So I’ll sing nonsense syllables over the music and then attach lyrics to the melody. The lyrics are the hardest part and they always take the longest because I want to tell a story that’s honest, and tell stories that have actually happened to me [or loved ones].”
WAS THERE A NOTABLE TIPPING POINT WHERE YOU WENT FROM, “LET’S SEE WHERE THIS GOES,” TO, “THIS IS BIG NOW”?
“When I dropped out of school, that was the moment it started to feel real. I went to Belmont University in Nashville for a year and I dropped out of school at the beginning of my Sophomore year, and that was a real kick in the butt for me because I didn’t have a degree to fall back on and it was me actively going against the normal path of kids my age. Luckily it worked out and opened up more time for me to be write and put this EP out and be able to travel and tour, but I was so scared.”
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU’VE HAD TO OVERCOME THROUGHOUT ALL OF THIS?
“The years of development I did to figure out what the music would sound like and to write into who I am and this EP were a lot because I had to be really patient. I knew that it wouldn’t happen overnight, and it took over 3 years, so to just sit tight on these songs once I had them and trust that with time everything would happen. I think just being patient is something I struggle with and that’s probably been the biggest obstacle.”
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOU IN 2019?
“New music, which I’m so excited about, and more touring. I’m going on tour with Ben Rector from February 2019 until the end of April.”