Saskatoon, Saskatchewan ♦ Folk, Singer - Songwriter
The best way to tell any story is to live it. Canadian singer and songwriter Joshua Hyslop has certainly done that. Since 2013, he’s actually played over 50 intimate “House Shows.” You read that right—he literally performs in a fan’s living room for a crowd of their friends and family. However, it’s more than that. After finishing the set, he doesn’t immediately pack up his gear and hit the next town.
Joshua would break bread with these families across the country and often end up staying awake late into the night talking about life, loss, love, and everything in between. These revealing conversations awakened something inside of him. He felt he was being given a unique opportunity to truly open up to these people and to share his own thoughts, fears, and doubts. It helped to serve as the catalyst for his second full-length album, In Deepest Blue [Nettwerk]. In an age when we’ve become more isolated than ever, he connected in the most old-fashioned way possible.
“We’re raised to be afraid of strangers,” he says. “More and more, I’ve found that many people are just inherently good and kind. I’ve had the pleasure of playing for some of the nicest and most hospitable families around the country. I’d show up, we’d have dinner, I’d perform the concert, and sometimes we’d end up talking almost all night. After breakfast the next day, I’d say goodbye and drive to the next families house. Some of the conversations I got to have had an impact on me, and it would bleed into the songs. Through these tours, I've realized that, ‘Yes, times can be hard, but everybody has felt that way. Everybody's got their stuff. I’m not alone in that.”
That catharsis drives In Deepest Blue. His empathy expanded, and he channeled those feelings into the writing process. However, he also wanted to continually challenge himself by breaking a personal tradition and writing in Nashville instead of his native Canada.
“In some ways, going to Nashville and writing with other people was similar to me doing the house shows,” he explains. “When you meet someone for the first time, it’s much easier to be open—because you don’t have to worry about the history of the relationship. You can simply be who you are. At the same time, the work ethic in Nashville was incredible. They don’t stop. We’d go from one song to the next without a break.”
Finished back home in Canada, In Deepest Blue reflects every facet of Joshua. Album opener “The Flood” starts with a soft mandolin strum and rustic acoustic guitar that seamlessly complements his breathy delivery. Written in one nine-and-a-half hour sitting, he utilizes the entrancing opener to tell a rather timeless tale.
“It’s loosely inspired by the biblical story of The Return of the Prodigal Son,” he explains. “There’s this idea of really messing up, feeling bad about the mistakes you've made, and hoping you can be forgiven. Underneath it all what unites everybody is that hope. More specifically, it’s hope in humanity, forgiveness, and love. It’s the blood we all share. I think it’s something everybody can identify with.”
“Let It Go,” penned with Michael Logen during a Nashville trip, pairs a soft violin and finger-picked acoustic with a soaring refrain.
“I often feel like I don’t have a well of security to draw from,” he sighs. “I can be quite neurotic which gets me worrying about everything from mortality to how I could be a better person. Sometimes, you just need to let all of that stress go, wash your hands of it, accept that it’s there, and hope that maybe it will lead to some deeper revelation.”
With its countrified pounce and spirited hook, “Living & Dying” examines the changing climate both figuratively and literally, while “Gone” is a soulful rumination on existence.
He says, “I love my job, but it can be pretty lonely. With so much time alone I start thinking about things. I don’t know if there’s an afterlife, or what that looks like, so it’s sort of an urge to live in the moment. You only get however many years you’re going to get, it would be a shame to waste them.”
Since first emerging with his 2012 full-length Where The Mountain Meets The Valley, he’s garnered praise from the likes of The Daily News, Vancouver Sun, !earshot, and more. He has also has carved out an impressive diehard fan base, willing to consistently invite him into their homes to perform. It’s because he always imparts an honest part of himself on the audience with every song and show.
“I want people to listen to In Deepest Blue from beginning to end,” he leaves off. “If they do engage with it, I think optimism will be the one thing they’ll feel. Whatever that looks like. I think they'll find their own personal meaning though. Beyond all the chaos, you find the Deepest Blue. It’s the calmness we all have. It’s the hope inside.”