Josiah Carr, 22, has joined the ranks of musicians such as Chely Wright, Matt Alber and Frank Ocean in being an out performer. Carr, like Wright, is a country-music performer, and he recently talked with Windy City Times about his genre, coming out and more.
Windy City Times: Where are you right now?
Josiah Carr: I'm in North Carolina right now. I go back and forth to Augusta, Ga. and Wilmington, N.C.
WCT: What was it like growing up in Augusta?
Josiah Carr: The only thing in Augusta that's exciting is the club where the Masters golf tournament. Other than that, everything else is pretty much country, day-to-day life.
Growing up, my dad taught elementary-school music for 35 years and my mom taught art. I'm just thankful I was born into that household instead of a really athletic family but I'm not good at sports at all. There are five kids in my family, and I'm the third; we grew up in Evans, right outside of Augusta.
Josh Kelley out of Lady Antebellum went to my high school, and James Brown is from Augusta. Some pretty reputable musicians have come from that area; I'm just trying to be the next one. [Laughs]
WCT: Your siblings are musical as well?
Josiah Carr: Yes, except for the youngesthe didn't get the music gene, I guess. The brother underneath me plays drums and guitar; I play piano and guitar, and I sing; and my sister plays harp, flute, violin, cello.
I'm in a place where I can freely pursue my musical dreams. My dad chased his dreams but got to the point where he had to go for job security; he had mouths to feed. He actually just retired two years ago. My mom has been cheering me on, too. When they saw music was my passion, my dad's direction turned and he said, "Give it all you got." My parents have helped me some, financially, but for the most partwith CDs, recordingI've been doing it on my own.
WCT: So when did you know this was what you wanted to do?
Josiah Carr: Since I was 6 or 7. My dad has a recording studio in the house I grew up in, and I have recordings all the way back to when I was 6, singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and "Jesus Loves Me." I wrote my first song when I was 8, and came out with my first CD when I was 12. When I was 15, I recorded another CD and they were Baptist hymns. (My dad is a Southern Baptist pastor and the hardest worker I know.)
When I was 20, I recorded another CD. I paid for 100 percent of the production, found the musicians, wrote the musiceverything. That CD [Tangled Up] is available on iTunes.
I was about to come out in January 2011, when that CD came out. So that CD has songs, except for one, that are written like, "Girl, you look so beautiful..." It doesn't sound authentic to me at all. It was a starter project.
The new songs I have I'm really excited about. The Tangled Up CD was piano-driven, pop-rock music, like Gavin DeGraw. I've changed back, and am doing the country thing.
WCT: So when you record songs now, are your lyrics gender-neutral or do you use "he" and "him?"
Josiah Carr: Everything from the time I came out until now, and going forward, is gender-neutral. One song talks about getting married and driving off into the sunset, and it never says anything like, "You were wearing a white dress." My thing, growing up, if I heard a Brad Paisley song that said, "I can't believe the way I feel about you, girl," that completely eliminates that song for any two gay guys.
All the songs I write now is more about "If you're in love with somebody, then you're in love with somebody." It's not about being straight or gay or bi. It's like, "I'm Josiah and I believe in love, and these are my love songs." I want straight people to think of their [significant others] as well. I want everybody to feel love through my music.
WCT: It's also more commercial that way.
Josiah Carr: Yeah, that's true. But if I don't sing in a gender-neutral way, that eliminates a lot of people.
Another song of mine that's in pre-production says, "I want to be with you so ... I'll go pick out a ring and come back to you/ And I'll pick you up in my daddy's truck/ Take you to the church and announce our love." When I first started writing it, it sounded Taylor Swift-ish ... but I painted a story [talking] about our memories. At first, I was going to write about someone picking out a dress, but that would eliminate the gay community. I would pick out a ring for my husband like somebody would for a wife.
WCT: What do you feel is the country-music industry's attitude toward gay people? Do you see it changing?
Josiah Carr: I don't know. [Laughs] As if it's not a big enough dream to try and become a famous singer, I'm an openly gay country singerthat's the hardest genre, as far as being [out]. There are a lot of country singers who are against homosexuality.
My dad's a pastor, and I actually went to seminary in North Carolina...
Josiah Carr: I was a pastor of a church for about a year before I came out, and I still go to church. I'm not immersed in the "gay scene," getting wasted; that's not my thingbut I don't judge people who are.
If I was on TV and someone asked me about being gay, I would say that I ambut it's not like my videos are going to be Brokeback Mountain. I'm writing about love, and these songs are from my heart. If a guy loves a guy, let [that happen]. I am super-big on equality and [issues] like that, but it's a big dream of mine to be an openly gay country singerand I feel that dreams can come true.
I was watching [the NBC show] The New Normal and I was telling someone I'm not sure that even a year and a half ago if there was an openly gay character like thatbesides a character who was like those in Will & Grace. But you have Modern Family, The New Normal and Partners. They're not on Logo or channel 800. I do feel like times are changing, and the approach to a gay singer who's not like Adam Lambert (again, not judging) is good for a genre that's [traditionally] closed-minded.
WCT: Since October is National Coming Out Month, can you tell me your coming-out story?
Josiah Carr: I talked to my sister first and came out to my parents later. I didn't know how well they were going to receive it because of the religious background that I have.
I talked with them on the phone. It was a bit intense at first, with my family not being able to understand at first. I will tell you thisand this is specific to Chicagobut Andrew Marin of [Chicago's] Marin Foundation wrote Love Is an Orientation, and that changed my family's life. I knew that their love for me was always there. My mom literally bought 15 copies of this book and bought it for her friends.
Find out more at www.JosiahCarr.com . His newest single, "Drivin' Me Wild," is now available for download on iTunes and is also available for streaming on Spotify.