When I went to the Project K-9 Hero fundraiser at the Nashville Palace, besides meeting some precious canines, I got to see some of the artists I had previously interviewed and learn about some new singer/songwriters who also performed in the famed songwriters’ rounds. One who particularly stood out to me was Josh Kiser. Even at his young age, he had that traditional country vibe that I favor, and the songs he sang had clever lyrics like they were written by a veteran songwriter.
Much to my surprise, when I posted his picture on Instagram, a friend said, “Bradley Country Boy!” I was like, What? As in Cleveland, Tennessee, where I am from? How had I not heard of him before now?
I immediately put the talented artist on my radar as one to interview as soon as possible.
It turns out Kiser has just been in Nashville a little over two years.
Although he and his family were interested in music, Kiser never aspired to be a musician of any kind, much less a singer/songwriter.
He states his uncle gave him the first album he ever owned: The Eagles Greatest Hits. (I personally cannot think of a better country-rock album to be introduced to.)
“I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was until I started digging into music. It’s insane the things that they did.”
As a teen, music was more of a hobby to Kiser. He didn’t listen to much current radio. He was into artists like Ray Charles, Otis Redding, The Eagles, and Travis Tritt.
“[Music] wasn’t really something that I wanted to pursue. I knew that there was something in it, but I didn’t know what it was at the time. It took me a while to figure it out.”
Kiser lived with his grandparents at that time and his grandmother played piano. His uncle played bass for several artists like Sara Evans and Rascal Flatts and eventually, they got Kiser his own guitar.
He didn’t get to see his uncle much because he was always on the road but when they did get a chance to connect, they would sit around listening to music together.
Once he got good enough, he played some in church, but ultimately, that was not the path for him. He ended up working as a road engineer and gave up playing completely.
In June of 2019, Kiser was at the gym working out with his friend, Jonathan Cantrell. Cantrell asked him, “Hey, I heard you sing, do you want to come and sing at my birthday party?”
Even though he didn’t consider himself a singer, he agreed and played several cover songs to a delighted party. Cantrell’s wife, Sarah, had recorded it and put it on social media.
The next morning, Kiser woke up to 15 missed calls. One of the people who saw/heard him sing was Nashville record producer, Nathan Chapman, who also lived in Cleveland, Tennessee, while he attended Lee University in the early 2000s and was a friend of the Cantrell’s.
A few of them went to Franklin, Tennessee, and while he was there, Chapman called Kiser and he said, “Hey, we want to sign you. You need to move to Nashville. We’ll get the ball rolling.”
At the time the then 24-year-old had no idea what all that entailed. In October 2019, the Cantrell’s moved Kiser to Nashville a few months before the unexpected onset of the pandemic.
During this same period, Kiser’s friend and bandmate, Trent Fisher, encouraged him to try his hand at songwriting. Fisher, a former English teacher got together with Kiser and wrote a song. The second song they wrote was “Whiskey Wins” which lyrically is one of the finest songs I have heard in a while. With the lyrics And heaven hears every cry/ Catches every tear from your eyes/ And you don’t have to fight alone/ Do your best to forgive an old enemy/ We all lose when the whiskey wins you would never know that it was one the first songs the artist ever wrote.
He states, “’ Whiskey Wins’ feels like the first time that I was able to be honest and vulnerable in my songwriting, and it felt good getting it off my chest. We don’t get to choose what life throws at us, but we do get to choose how we react and recover from it.”
Kiser studied songwriting and read how some of the best go about it. He began writing with some of the finest songwriters in Nashville just to absorb what they were doing. Fisher and he were well on their way when COVID hit. Since it was impossible to tour during the lockdown, they were concerned as to what they were going to do for money.
But God provided and at that time, Kiser signed a publishing deal with renowned Nashville songwriter, Liz Rose who is part of Warner/Chappell Music, Altadena, BMG, and Anthem Entertainment.
Rose told him, “Josh, I am so in on you and so about this and I will do everything I can to make this happen.”
The songwriter has been on Rose’s team for two years now.
Kiser’s song titles often mislead on purpose like “The F Word.” The F word to which he refers is “friend” as in “she just wants to be friends” and she “loves me like a brother.” He admits he didn’t write this one, but when he heard it, he knew it was about him and he had to cut it.
The song certainly did resonate with my (much) younger self and it resonated with Kiser as he described himself as “everybody’s best friend.”
“I definitely got F-worded a lot,” he admits.
I have interviewed hundreds of artists but never do I recall someone going from not singing at all to becoming a recording artist and signed songwriter all within a few months. The east Tennessee boy is truly THAT talented. But humbly, he gives God the credit.
“If I had to do anything else (besides singing/songwriting) I would quit. I am so one-track-minded and so into this now, if there was ever any other thing that I would have to do, I would not do it.”
Kiser is an authentic artist and finds social media a bit taxing but he knows he needs to be out there for more people.
He confesses, “I’m not a big fan of TikTok and yet we have to do it now. I want people to discover me and fall in love with the songs” (and not just some short clip).
Kiser has toured with Drake White and loved being paired with him. New projects are in the works hopefully will have news to share shortly.
His first EP When Kountry Was is expected out in April and he hopes the songs will get radio airplay. He has also collaborated with fellow songwriters Ashland Craft and Cassidy Daniels and may do duets with them in the future.
To be honest, Kiser sounds so much like Chris Stapleton, it is almost eerie. But country crooner wants to make it in his own lane. He knows Stapleton is one of the best, but he doesn’t want to be known for playing his covers. He wants to sing and write music that reflects his thoughts and values, music that means something to him. And when an artist does that, it will mean something to the rest of us as well.
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