By Noah Sollinger | June 7, 2022
Just two and a half years ago, Josh Fudge was a normal high school senior. He was enjoying his last few months in his hometown of Oklahoma City and awaiting his college decisions just like the rest of his peers.
When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, just like so many other people, Josh’s world was turned on its’ head. He had just released Flora, an EP that deserved to be celebrated, but instead, he found himself in quarantine. While most people his age resorted to relentless video gaming and Netflix binging, Josh turned to what he knew best: music. He had been performing and making music since he was eight years old, but never truly planned to pursue it as a career. In fact, he had a full ride engineering scholarship from Oklahoma State University that he planned on accepting. While the pandemic took away senior prom and graduation, it provided Fudge with the unique opportunity to spend all day everyday writing and producing music, leading him to make the all important decision to pass on college later that year, and go all in on music.
Fudge plays all his own parts and has a home studio, so he was able to crank out one new single per month throughout 2020. Those singles eventually amounted to “Fun Times”, a seemingly positive yet beautifully honest album in which he explores the realities of being a teenager during a global pandemic. “Fun Times” much like the rest of his music, can be described as bedroom pop or indie pop, and much of it was made on vintage synths. The influences he cites, such as MGMT and Mac Demarco, can certainly be heard, but he adds a unique touch with the creativity of his production and instrumentation. The release of that project marked the beginning of a huge 2021 for Fudge, capped by several prominent Spotify playlist placements and a feature from Rolling Stone covering the release of his new hit single “Feel Like.”
Fast forward to 2022, and he is on tour with industry powerhouse, Bastille. He is the perfect opener for their energetic performance, setting the tone with an energy and youthful joy of his own. Playing bass on stage, the chemistry he has with his bandmates at such a young age is impressive. The pop themes come through with friend/collaborator Logan Bruhn playing a rolodex of vintage synths, while guitarist, Tyler Sexton, and drummer, Jhakobi Harkey, bring out the rock energy. Fudge told us he has not had stage fright from the moment he began performing in front of others, and that definitely showed. Check out his music on streaming platforms, catch a live show, and hop on the Josh Fudge bandwagon before he becomes a superstar, because trust us, it won’t be long.
We caught up with Fudge after sound check at Terminal 5 where he answered a few questions for the groovement:
What was your first concert?
It was actually Ed Sheeran on his + tour in Tulsa. I had never been to a concert before, and my mom kind of dragged me there. I thought it was so cool and I was trying to figure out what he was doing technically more than I was enjoying the performance. I was just so fascinated by how he was doing what he was doing. I was kind of just staring at him playing. My mom was asking why I wasn’t dancing and having a good time and I told her “I’m having a great time, I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on!”
How would you describe your music – either by genre or general vibe?
Genre is difficult, but the genres I normally put it in are Indie Pop, Alt-Pop, and Bedroom Pop. I like to say it’s pop with cooler noises. It’s basically pop arrangements, but I include a lot of certain sounds like synthesizers and old drum machines and things like that. With Technicolor, my upcoming record, I’m trying to create something very retro-futuristic. It sounds very new, polished, and shiny, but I’m using only vintage equipment. So it has that vintage warmth to it, which is very important to me.
Love that concept! Who or what do you draw inspiration from?
So many things. The people who got me into this genre specifically are MGMT, Passion Pit, Foster the People, Phoenix, that whole group of musicians. Nowadays, I listen to Mac Demarco, Tame Impala, Omar Apollo, Dayglow, Girl in Red, Rex Orange County. Indie Pop is such a beautiful genre, and I love to see it growing and evolving. It allows so much room for creative freedom and integrity. My problem with pop is that it’s so generic, and it’s great, and pop artists are super talented and amazing vocalists. But it just kind of lacks that soul and character from one person who is making everything.
What’s your favorite venue you’ve played, and what’s a bucket list venue?
My favorite venue has probably been the Anthem DC. The energy was electric and the venue was just gorgeous. Opening your eyes and seeing thousands of people in front of you with their hands raised up in the air was amazing. It was a core memory and something I will hold onto forever. My dream venue is Madison Square Garden and always has been. I believe whole-heartedly in myself that I will make it. I made it from nothing in Oklahoma, and I’m playing Red Rocks this summer. I’m going to keep moving forward, keep growing, and keep working on my art to bring the world exactly what it needs.
Do you have a pre-show routine?
Throat-coat tea baby! I always have a cup of throat-coat tea and pee like three times. I also always get in a huddle with my boys before we go on and give them a little pep talk. I’ll tell them I love them, tell them they’re doing great, and make sure that the energy is good. Your mentality is so important as a performer, so the mental preparation is what really matters. Making sure that you are in a space where you can give these people what they paid for and leave it all out on stage is what’s most important to me. So I just try to hype everybody up pre-show, get my tea, and just relax and have a good time.
If you could spend an evening with any artist dead or alive, who would it be?
I could give a ton of answers, but I have to say Matty Healy from The 1975. On this tour I’ve been listening to their second and third records pretty much non-stop. I am just so enamored by the way in which he writes.
Tell us about your musical upbringing. Were you surrounded by music growing up or did you fall in love with it yourself?
I’m the oldest of four kids, and nobody in my family plays any instruments at all. My Dad was really excited because he wanted to have an athlete. Basketball, specifically. And I’m 5’11 and ginger, so, you know, not going to happen. Basically he put me in all the sports and I really didn’t take to it, but he knew he had to put me in something. One day my neighbor was throwing out a piano, and my dad found it out there. It was a 1924 upright, a Hanes & Co, a piece of crap. When we brought it into our house it scratched up the wood floors super bad. I kind of just started playing on it and was thinking “this is insane.” Just being able to make noise that is gone in an instant which you can use to express yourself, that whole concept was so crazy to me. I remember specifically my Dad would sit with me while I was playing, and one day he told me to “play about my day.” I asked him “well, what does that mean?” I was maybe six years old, and he responded “stop thinking and start feeling.” I remember that so vividly because it gave me this way of looking at music as a form of expression. After that happened it was game over. From then on I was playing four plus hours a day, just improv.
Considering your natural love for the music, was there ever any fear or stage fright when performing live?
Never. Not a single time. I have been performing since I was really small. I started street performing when I was eight. Busking for tips was how I got all my music stuff. I’d go out there with my Mom’s sugar jar and play covers, and actually make like $200 a night. And I would just sock away that money to buy more music stuff. So performing has definitely been in my life for long enough that I don’t feel nervous, I just get really happy and get a lot of energy when I perform. I kind of lose everything and when I’m on stage I kinda feel like I’m immortal. In that moment I’m everything I want to be, and I just get to leave it out on stage.
That is so amazing and it’s great you are getting the opportunity to do that on such a big tour with Bastille. How about growing up in Oklahoma City? How did that affect your musical identity?
It’s really interesting because any time I tell somebody from the industry that I’m from Oklahoma City they’re like “What? What’s there?” And, to be honest, for a long time, I didn’t think there was anything. Playing music has been a core part of my identity for my entire life, and I couldn’t find anyone to play with until I was older. I went to this summer camp, at ACM [The Academy of Contemporary Music]. There, I met all the guys who I’m playing with there while they were all actual students and I went there as a young kid! I met my community through that and I think those guys have affected me more than anything. Knowing there were people around me who had the same passion I did was so inspiring. I think the people around you matter so much more. And also what’s in your heart, what’s in your soul, what you’re feeling. So that’s what drew most of my inspiration from.
Let’s talk about 2020. You released an EP in March and dropped seven singles before the end of the year on top of that project. How did you stay locked in during such an uncertain time?
Honestly, all I ever do is music. So when Covid happened, I just used my home studio. So I would sit with my friend Logan who plays keys and co-produces sessions with me, constantly making music. I still do that. I have a ton of unreleased singles, and I have no problem making music that fast. A single a month was honestly not that hard for me, just because I play all my own instruments and do all my productions with just one other person. During Covid I just boggled down and just thought “this is what I’ve wanted to do, and this is what I want to do forever, let’s go all gas.” So I put out a lot of music and it got me here.
We would also love to talk about your project Fun Times. Beautiful album, and obviously the title is not necessarily reflective of the themes in the project. Can you talk a bit about the naming process behind that album and what the title signifies in relation to the songs?
“Fun Times” as a name is obviously pretty ironic. I wrote this during Covid, so depression was a real thing. I was still going to go to college when I started writing it, then finished it during the pandemic. I thought I was going to leave everyone and everything I knew. I was by myself all the time, and really dealing with a lot of pretty intense feelings. My mentality that I adopted through all of it was “life’s going to be crazy, let’s just keep on getting through it and keep grooving. Just fun times, let’s keep running.” Eventually, I was thinking about all the names for the record, and there was something so simple, ironic, and understated about it. And it gave it this happy go-lucky, bedroom pop kind of aesthetic but when you really dive into the record, you’re like “Oh, this is kind of sad.” So I really liked the juxtaposition of the album titles with the songs.
Can you talk about your mental health and how it has changed as you have grown as an artist?
To be honest, I feel like your mental health in some ways is separate from your successes. There are a lot of ways in which the better you do the happier you should be, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Life just has its ups and downs from day to day, and you just have to take it for what it is. I, just like anybody, have mental health struggles, and some days are definitely better than others. On this tour, some days have definitely been better than others! It just kind of is what it is. The valleys make you appreciate the hills. That’s what I always tell myself when I get in those bad zones.
We appreciate you opening up about that. Let’s talk about Rolling Stone. They covered you as a teenager! What was that like?
It felt pretty electric, I’m not going to lie. I called some of my family members and Logan right after and was like “Guys, I just got put in Rolling Stone!” It was a larger than life moment for me because I think every artist struggles in getting the affirmation of knowing they’re doing things that are worth being talked about. I am still not fully above that. Every artist to some degree is going to second guess their work. So having a place like Rolling Stone give you that affirmation and acknowledgement saying things like “this project is super cool” or “this video is sick.” It really was heartwarming, and very inspiring. To know that the work t I am creating is impacting people is very heartwarming to me.
Dope! You previously said you play all your own parts. What is the importance to you of making the entire track?
Honestly, I’m just super picky! As I said, I’ve been playing music my whole life, but never had buddies to jam with. So for me when I started producing, it was almost out of necessity. I couldn’t find a bassist or guitarist, so I had to pick up a bass and a guitar. I fell in love with each instrument individually. But I think the importance of knowing how to play all my own instruments is that I can make it exactly how I want. In my mind I have a very clear vision of how I want my art to be when I’m in a creative zone. Being able to do things how I want them and not having to communicate that to anybody is huge. That to me is the importance.
What are your plans for the future?
My new album, “Technicolor”, is going to be released in September with singles leading up to it every month. So I’m planning on dropping three more singles and then the record, which is extremely exciting. I am already working on the record after that, too! I’m planning on releasing a ton of music and continuing to tour as much as I’m able. My plan is to change the world!
Final question: Is a hotdog a sandwich?
Objectively yes, morally no. A hoagie is considered a sandwich, and that’s connected. But people are arguing that a sandwich has to be two pieces of bread. So I don’t think a hotdog is a sandwich.
📸: shot by Jill Boyatsis