Josh Garrels needs to be known for not being known.
Humble, genuine, gifted. Josh Garrels has become known for these qualities through his attitude towards music, life, and God. Musical at the very young age of 3, Garrels started getting more serious about his music at 13. Starting a band, Garrels gradually honed his craft on the guitar and writing music. By the age of 22, Garrels was making lo-fi recordings in rooms and pumping out music on his schedule. Unimpressed by recording companies and the bureaucracy behind the music business, Garrels chose to self-record, mix, and produce his music without a record label or industry management. Keeping true to this style, every album he has released has been from the sweat of his brow. In Love & War & The Sea In Between, he and his wife hand labeled and sent out all copies of their music. His grassroots approach is radical. It’s not supposed to work, but it does. His fans love and appreciate his diversion from the traditional craft and they support it.
His albums, starting with Over Oceans (2006), as I haven’t listened to his earlier recordings (Stone Tree (2002), Underquiet (2003)), then Jacaranda (2008), followed the next year by Lost Animals (2009), and two years later by his most famous album Love & War & The Sea In Between (2011). The next year he released a B-sides EP that was fantastic, Love & War: B-Sides & Remixes (2012). After making the film, The Sea In Between, Garrels released the soundtrack to it in 2013. Then after a two-year hiatus, Garrels releases Home (2015), a lovechild of his newly built recording room he constructed on his home property in Portland, OR.
Personally, my favorite full album is Jacaranda. Starting with the peacefully beautiful pickings of a mandolin, the song Lake Yarina brings you to a place only Josh Garrels can transport you. With songs like, Don’t wait for me, Rejoice & Lament, Words Remain, and Jacaranda Tree, Garrels sings sonic complexity into the ears of the listener. With the depth behind a song written to his wife, Jacaranda Tree speaks about how his now wife Michelle, lived in South America where Jacaranda Trees originate. The lyric, “I’ll be a Jacaranda Tree in Indiana,” speaks to the long distance relationship they carried out until Michelle moved back to America to marry Garrels. Little Blue, written about his daughter is a wonderful song that demonstrates Garrels’s love for his family and this new person he has brought into the world. In the opposite corner The Original Spacefan is written about a close friend who died, and Garrels paying respects through an incredibly moving and emotional song. It’s this commitment, and underlying desire to write the music he is passionate about, and is every much apart of who he is, that spurs new droves of fans to his music every single day.
I was first made aware of Indiana born, Portland based musician Josh Garrels on the music site Noisetrade. I can’t remember the specifics now, but I was surfing this website to find some good music on the cheap. I had found great music in the past through this website as new artists will give their music away in hopes that you will tip their cause, and listen to their album. On this day, lo and behold, Josh Garrels’s music was featured on the banner of the website. In big BLOCK letters, Garrels was giving away his album for free with the release of his new EP, Love & War: B-Sides & Remixes. Subsequently, all his other albums were also available for a limited time. What a deal! I jumped right in and downloaded all his music. Sweet!
I then put his music on my iPod and started delving in. I usually give albums a car test to see how they stack up to the ride. Josh’s music was incredible. The rapping and etherial qualities mixing in his songs were a bit hard to get used to. I had never heard this kind of music before. At first it was weird. Then I started to like it. This guy was singing about God, his promises, and Jesus’s love for us, but it didn’t sound like Christian Music. Had I found a Christian artist that was making good music and had strayed away from the formulaic sound of Christian Mainstream?? Was it possible? You know what I’m talking about. Without lyrics, you can almost pick out a Christian sound. And to be clear, there is Worship Music, which has a purpose and direction, and then there is Mainstream Christian Music, which can sound, like I said, formulaic at times. In my opinion there is a structural difference in the genetics of the two types of music. This music was managing to bypass these genetics and grow a whole new kind of sound that was fresh, beautiful, deeply personal, and vulnerable. I was in love.
I found myself telling everyone I knew about his music, playing it whenever I could in the car, and taking it with me when I moved to New Zealand. I couldn’t support his music more if he asked me to give him money…and then he did! In 2013, Josh released the soundtrack to his film, The Sea In Between on Noisetrade, again…for free…but this time he told his fans that if they wanted to, please tip the album so it could fund the NEW album he’d be releasing sometime in the next year or so. WHAT?!? Of course I would. Josh. I want you to make music for as long as you can. Just last week, Josh Garrels released his album, Home, and needless to say, I told everyone about it. This man, who makes a living not being known, needs to be known. Not caring about hype, he releases new albums for free before selling them to the public. Who is this man?? Why does he do this? He throws his work in the face of convention and says, It will be what it will be.
Home hit the ground running. With Garrels doing appearances in major cities across the country, many have taken to his hit single The Arrow, and I have to say it is my favorite song he has done on the album, possibly my favorite he has made ever. Musically, Garrels has come a very long way and The Arrow drives home how sonically Gold his music can be. Home peaked at #1 on the Singer/Songwriter charts on iTunes and many more charts. I couldn’t be more happy for how people have received Garrels and his music. Even though I haven’t been following Garrels since his band days as a teenager, I feel a sense of connection to his journey, especially when I thought no-body knew who he was or how incredible his music could make you feel. This man needs to start getting blessed for the faith he put in God to take care of him. I can only imagine how hard it must have been to release an album in faith, AND put it out there for free, especially in this music market. Despite being free, his album Home has defied all odds and people still want to finance this man and his vision for better music and a better way to make it.
I can say that Josh Garrels is in my Top 2 artists, and is easily my favorite singer/songwriter. His authenticity keeps me coming and I hope to get him any added exposure in order to keep his vision alive. Go buy this album or check out his other work on Noisetrade too. To know more about his life, his story, and his music, check out his website here.
I leave you with my top 20. This is “The Garrels Experience.” My favorite and best of his work. You won’t go wrong here. Enjoy and thank you for reading.
Also, the trailer to his film he created. Enjoy: