Q&A with Soul-Pop Songstress, Josie Dunne
Josie Dunne is the Chicago-born, Nashville-based songstress famously intermixing soul with pop. The eclectic singer-songwriter comes from a close-knit Midwestern family surrounded by creative minds and exotic animals. It’s only natural that Josie gravitated towards a career in music, beginning on youtube eight years ago with “mash-up” videos- landing her a deal with Atlantic Records in high school. Dunne hit the mainstreams eye with the youtube series, “Old School Sundays,” debuting renditions of her favorite tunes- ranging from Frank Sinatra to Britney Spears. Raised on Motown and Jazz, traces are sprinkled into her music and most recent EP, “To Be The Little Fish,” paying homage to her family’s influences and love stories. Harnessing the raw honesty and emotion of soul music and a catchy pop beat, Josie seamlessly combines her two favorite genres into one cohesively playful tune.
Most days, you can find Josie with her sapphire toned electric guitar and pet parakeet, Calvin, atop her shoulder. While she’s usually in Nashville writing away, she’s trading in pens for mics, joining Ben Rector on tour at the start of next year. With her energetic stage presence, infectious laugh, and ear-to-ear grin that never seems to fade, Dunne is the eccentric soul-pop star to look out for in 2019.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m Josie Dunne. I’m a pop singer-songwriter that lives in Nashville but was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. I love the Cubs and my pet parakeet, Calvin, and playing electric guitar.
How have your midwestern roots shaped you as an individual and as an artist?
Being from the Midwest is something I am so incredibly proud of. It’s has given me a wonderfully normal life with an incredibly strong support system. I grew up with an amazing family, great friends, and a super encouraging community. As an artist, I noticed that a lot of the current pop music being made is negative and angry. Being surrounded by this wonderful support system my entire life, I can’t relate to a lot of the negativity that’s being thrown out right now. So, I wanted to make songs that made people feel good and tell stories about real experiences that have happened to my friends or me as we were growing up. As an individual, being from the Midwest has just given me a hardcore Chicago accent. Haha!
You have an extremely large and close-knit family. Tell us about the importance of family in your life and career.
Family is everything to me. I’ve just started touring this year, and it’s been a blast stopping in all these different cities and having at least one cousin in almost every stop. The crew and band make fun of me because it feels like every single night I’m adding an uncle or aunt to the guest list. But that’s how my family is- they’re so sensationally supportive of what I do. I don’t know how I could do it without them!
Who are your musical inspirations?
I grew up on a lot of Motown and R&B Soul music. So, my favorites are Stevie Wonder, Amy Winehouse, and Etta James (to name a few). There’s something about the grit of soul music that is so inspiring. I’m also a mega fan of pop music — everything from Britney Spears to Beyonce. Nothing beats a catchy pop song.
How has R&B Soul music shaped your pop sound?
I remember hearing Amy Winehouse for the first time and being absolutely blown away. Her lyrics are so real. Plus, I loved how you could listen to every one of her influences in her music: the hip-hop, the sing-songwriter, the jazz. Her music has been so influential to mine. I think soul music has this honesty that isn’t found in any other type of music. It makes you feel something, no matter what. That’s what I’ve tried to achieve with my music- making sure that it really expresses emotion and tells an authentic story. What’s the point of doing it if it’s not 100% true to who you are and what you feel?
If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be and why?
I’d die to do a song with Stevie Wonder. I mean, I’d really lose my mind. The first song I ever sang in front of anyone was “Sir Duke,” so it’d be a real full circle moment to do a duet with him.
What song or project has been the most exciting in your career thus far?
This might be an unexpected answer, but I wrote a song called “Chapstick” that Jacob Sartorius released as a single earlier this year. That was the first song I’d ever written that came out. It was important to me because I’ve worked really hard over the last five years to become a better songwriter, so to have a song that I’ve written get cut by an outside artist was so exciting. It was validation that I haven’t just been working towards nothing. Plus, I got to see a room of a thousand people sing every word at one of Jacob’s shows a couple of months after the song came out. That was pretty insane.
Another honorable mention would have to be releasing my first single off my debut EP, “Old School.” I got to do the music video with my parents, telling their love story in all the places it actually happened. That was like putting out a family photo album; It was really special.
Currently, you play the piano, guitar, ukulele, and the trumpet. What instrument will you pick up next?
I’d love to learn the drums, but I don’t think my roommate or the people that live next to us would love that too much.
Walk us through your debut EP, To Be The Little Fish.
“To Be The Little Fish” is a collection of stories about my growing up. It’s all about falling in love for the first time, having my first heartbreak, being in high school. I’ve worked really hard to always be as true to myself as I know how to be, so this EP is all experiences and feelings that I’ve gone through, or I’ve seen my family or best friends go through. I wanted to tell the stories about normal life, growing up in the suburban Midwest.
Sonically, it’s a blend between the current pop music I love and the Motown I grew up on. I wanted all the real instruments and real players to give it the retro feel I love about soul music, but also with the catchiness of a pop song.
What’s something most fans don’t know about you?
Most people might not know that I grew up with a ton of pets. My dad built an aviary in the basement of the house I grew up in, so we had about 40 different kinds of birds at any time. Not to mention, around the house, we had tortoises, fish, guinea pigs, dogs, lizards, cats, and even a potbelly pig at one point. It sounds bizarre and smelly, but my dad has built an amazing environment for all our animals. They’re all so happy there. He had special air filters and lights put in to make sure everything was well kept and true to the animals’ natural experiences. If you walked in the front door of our house, you would never guess that there was a zoo exhibit in the basement.
What can we expect from you in 2019?
You can expect new music that I’m so so so excited to share! I’ve written probably over 100 songs since “To Be The Little Fish,” and I’m proud of what I’ve got coming next. I’m stoked to start working on more music videos that’ll come with the songs. Also, I’m going to be touring a lot in 2019! I’m leaving for a two-month tour all across the country opening for Ben Rector in February. It’ll be my longest tour yet and my first time in tons of cities. I’m crazy amped.
Photography by: Adair Smith