Singer-songwriter Joshua Howard, who appeared on Season 6 of “The Voice” in 2014, is releasing his debut EP “Forgive my False.” He’ll be celebrating with an event at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia.
Howard, from Philadelphia, was living in the Phoenixville area. His band Emjay performed on occasion at Steel City Coffeehouse and he was earning a living working the overnight shift in the Registration Department at Phoenixville Hospital.
On one of those late nights he got a call from his dad, who suggested that they go to New York City for Howard to audition for “The Voice.”
“At first I told him ‘Nah, I don’t really wanna,’ because my sister had done something like that for ‘American Idol,’ and the way she described the process was pretty gruesome,” explained Howard in a telephone interview from his home in Philadelphia.
“I kinda wanted to do it the organic way, but then I called my dad back and was like ‘Yeah, let’s just go for the heck of it,’ and so we went. And they loved me, I guess. Then I ended up going on the show.”
Howard, who ended up on Team Adam, eventually lost in the Battle Round, but not before learning a lot about the music business.
“The experience was pretty educational,” said Howard. “I learned a lot about what it takes to be an artist full time. Some things like taking care of your voice and different lessons, and really investing in your craft. I think that part was great, but there’s also a side of it that was pretty stressful.
“When I went out there I had this idea of the artist I wanted to be, and for shows like that… most of it is produced, in a sense that they’re looking for their star, so you’re kinda at their mercy for a little bit of it, and (it) was tough to surrender some of my own ideas that I’ve had.”
Howard grew up listening to artists including James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, Carole King and Joni Mitchell. He envisioned himself writing and performing in the singer-songwriter vein. He realizes in that sense he wasn’t a good fit for “The Voice,” which is looking for the next pop or country star.
“The way I’ve always envisioned my music is I wanted to write what I’m passionate about and sing about things that really mean something to me, hoping that it connects with (an) audience, and that they can learn from something I’m saying, or experience something themselves. I wanted to have the creative control.”
Once Howard returned to Philadelphia it was hard for him to adjust.
“It was a pretty big struggle coming back, because… when I was out there I kinda had the idea I had a great chance of winning. It was hard to come home and lose my battle the way I did. It kind of took the creative spirit that I did have… and so I wasn’t creating for a while. It took a while to even write again.”
Howard made a living playing cover gigs. He didn’t play a show of his original music for a year-and-a-half. He landed an opening slot at the now-defunct Tin Angel, where he serendipitously met his producer, Ron DiSilvestro, who was playing drums for another act on the bill.
DiSilvestro and Howard began working together and the result is a six-song EP, “Forgive My False.” Howard acknowledges that in some ways it was hard to get through. It touches on some difficult topics, including estrangement from his mother.
“Even though I write sad songs, I know it’s a cliched thing, but sad songs make me happy. My goal for the music is that somehow people find hope in the midst of the chaos. At the end of the day, there’s hope.”
He added: “(This is) a record I had to get through, because the new music that’s coming out – I will be previewing some of those songs as well at the show – the new music that’s coming out after this record is more of that radio-friendly feel.”
And as for new music, Howard also has his next album ready. It too was recorded at Forge Recording Studio in Oreland, but live with a studio audience. It will likely be released later this year.
Howard is excited about the upcoming show, where he will be performing with his full band: Josh Nussbaum on electric guitar, Nazir Ebo on bass, Emanuel “Manny” Hampton on keyboards, Isaac Brooks on cello and DiSilvestro on drums.
“(People) can expect a big show, for sure. And if you want to come to a show where you want to see someone (who is) passionate about what they’re singing about… and cares just as much about the experience (for) the audience… then it’s the show to come to. It’s going to be a special night.”
Opening for Howard is the Philadelphia band Ode to Omni. They released their album “Perception” in February, which debuted at #18 on the iTunes Jazz Chart.