With his recent release “Dissonance,” Edmonton-based artist Josh Sahunta has made a bold statement – of musicianship, of creativity, of talent. This seven-song EP is a delight to the ears and a tremendous accomplishment, especially when you consider that all the vocals and nearly all the instrumentation on the album belong to Josh.
The album begins with the soulful “Take All I Am,” a bluesy ballad with some searing guitar from Josh. The gorgeous and brooding “Sing Me to Life,” a meditation on emerging from chronic anxiety, is one of the highlights of the project, with a tune and lyrics that stick in the mind long after the song actually ends. And lest you think that Josh’s gifts are limited to music, check out the video below – the concept, direction, and sound are all his as well. (He also is a terrifically gifted photographer.)
Although all of the uptempo songs are terrific, I find myself drawn to the slower pieces – “Dissonance” is another gorgeous song, thoughtful and atmospheric in all of the best ways.
This is a hugely enjoyable album (with my one – and frequent – complaint about EPs: it leaves me wanting the full 10 or 11 songs!) and, I think, indicates that we have much to anticipate in coming years from Josh Sahunta if he continues to pursue music. He is so gifted at several things that he’s in the enviable position of being able to choose his path forward – I hope he’ll choose music. 🙂
We’re thrilled that Josh took some time to answer a few questions about the album.
How did the imagery for the video for “Sing Me to Life” come to you?
The imagery for “Sing Me to Life” actually came to me in a dream believe it or not, or at least fragments of a dream. I don’t exactly remember the entire thing, but I do remember it having to do with being chased by people in masks who seemed to be everywhere. I couldn’t escape no matter what I tried because they were always one step ahead of me. I had this dream at a time in my life where I was going through a lot of intense stress and anxiety, and when I thought about this dream, I started feeling like the masked people chasing me in my dream perfectly represented how my anxiety was making me feel. After that, everything else came easily. I wanted the video to depict what I felt in my mind during that time and I think it does that perfectly.
You’re the sole performer on the album (all the vocals, all the instruments). When you play your songs live, how difficult is it to transition from doing it all yourself to performing with other musicians?
I actually did have help with the instrumentation on this album. Although I did do most of the instrumentation myself, I had a couple people fill in for things like bass, some piano, and some guitar parts that I couldn’t have come up with myself. It’s awesome being able to do the whole thing yourself, but you unlock so many different musical avenues when you allow yourself to be open to collaboration. When I play live with other musicians, it is a little tricky at first, especially if it takes some time to build chemistry together as a band. I usually have a mind map of exactly how I want things to sound, and if a band member isn’t quite vibing with that right away it does throw me off a bit, but in many cases, they actually come up with something that sounds way better than what I had in mind. Again, collaboration is key.
Of all the instruments you’ve picked up, which has been the easiest to learn? And the most difficult?
The easiest to learn was definitely the piano, and I’ve been playing the piano since I was in diapers, but what I’m finding now is that the piano is the most difficult to get better at. I’ve built most of my sound around the guitar and I have been obsessively pouring my time into improving at that, but whenever I feel like switching things up and going back to the piano, I get frustrated quite easily at how much more effort it takes to show any signs of improvement. The guitar comes a bit more naturally to me because I also play the drums and so keeping time and playing percussively are things that I am quite good at, but with piano, it’s all technique and you can’t hide behind things quite as easily as you can on the guitar.
You’ve excelled at so many different things – singing and photography, just to name two… how do you balance these various artistic pursuits, and how do they help express different parts of who you are?
I really appreciate that compliment! I would say that photography is something that I use as an escape from everything else that I do. Music is in many cases an escape, but it’s also my job and so there is a certain amount of stress that I still associate with music. There’s still a standard that I set for myself, whether it comes to trying to write decent songs regularly, or learning different aspects of the music business as much as I can. With photography though, there’s no pressure on me to meet a certain standard. I just take pictures because its therapeutic for me in a way and it allows me to take a step back and appreciate the little things in life that often get overlooked. I love that I’m able to express myself artistically in different ways because I believe that it sets me apart and allows me to tell my stories to people who are more visually stimulated, and to those who prefer music as their medium.
Last year you traveled to Guatemala to work in an orphanage. Now that you’ve had time to process that experience, how did it change you, and how did it affect the music you make?
My experience in Guatemala completely changed my life, and I mean that wholeheartedly. Never in my life has any experience impacted me so deeply and never before have I been so driven to do everything in my power to make a difference to those who don’t have the opportunities to make that difference for themselves. I actually just went to Uganda, Africa this past summer too and this further deepened my motivation to try and help the less fortunate in any way I can.
I think the thing that impacted me the most was being able to see life from the perspective of those who aren’t bound to the trends and artificiality of North American culture. These people, especially in Uganda, were just who they are and they didn’t try to hide behind anything. I really appreciated how genuine they were and it was the first time in a while that I felt like I was actually having real conversations with real people. It sounds kind of weird, but that’s just how it felt. These trips have had a huge impact on the way I want to approach my music career going forward. I really wish to work towards using my music and photography to bring awareness to global issues, specifically poverty, and to empower people who have the resources to give and to help in any way they can. I heard a while ago that we have enough food on earth to feed a thousand earth’s worth of people or something like that, and I totally believe it. I’m not sure if my numbers are correct but the point is, we have more than enough resources to share, so why aren’t we doing it? That’s the thing I’m trying to change.
What touring plans do you have in the next few months?
I’m going on tour with The Soap Box Duo in mid-April, and we’re hitting up multiple cities in Saskatchewan, and then coming back through Alberta through Calgary, Banff, etc., and then making our way into British Columbia all the way to Vancouver, and then back. It won’t be very long, but it’s my first tour experience and I’m absolutely ecstatic about it.
Photo credit: Jake Pantinople