Hailing from Croydon, south London, rising UK R&B star Josh Kye has been making waves in the music industry with his soulful vocals and captivating songwriting. In this interview, we delve into his journey from singing in church to becoming a solo artist, overcoming obstacles along the way. Josh’s influences are as diverse as his music, ranging from the legendary Michael Jackson to the storytelling prowess of Frank Ocean. He draws inspiration from artists who leave a lasting impact on their audience, just as he aims to do with his own music.
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Channel WAVY: Thanks for chatting with us today! Where are you from? And can you share with us your background in music?
Josh Kye: I’m an artist from south London, Croydon actually. I grew up singing in church from a young age but never thought it would be something I would be pursuing and doing professionally, you know. I knew I was good at it, but again it wasn’t something that I even thought I could do. I was more interested in visual art, drawing and animation at the time.
When I was introduced to the music industry, I was more doing BV work for artists, writing sessions and things of that nature with no desire to be a solo artist. At the time I didn’t really feel like I had something to say as an artist.
I then had a really bad throat infection that inflamed my vocals and throat, which made it near impossible to sing for about that whole year. A pretty dark time for me considering that at the time things were really picking up for me. Doctors had no clue what was happening and thought it was some sort of autoimmune condition. So, dealing with that was pretty difficult; however, I loved music so much that I said to myself, “How can I still express through music without singing?” That’s when I came to the guitar. A friend of mine borrowed me my first one, and I just poured myself into the instrument.
It’s funny because later on that year via various treatment I actually got better vocally and healed. I always say this was a turning point for me as an artist. As I got my vocal strength, it’s like I had a whole new lease of life, and with now being able to express and play via the guitar, I truly felt like I had something to say as an artist. I haven’t looked back since. I released my first song called “Remains” in 2020 during the pandemic and have just kept building everything brick by brick since then and putting on my own shows called “Josh Kye & Friends” – selling out three of those.
Channel WAVY: Who are your biggest influences?
Josh Kye: I have so many! I would say Michael Jackson is one. As a kid, my dad would play all his music, and we would watch a load of his music videos as well. Now I’m older I think I really gravitated towards his music due to how much his music would speak to me, from the way he had such feeling in his vocal takes to his live performances – so incredible.
Another influence I would say, especially with my writing, is Frank Ocean. I love he tells stories in his music and how he references things, which makes you as a listener really pay attention. I really try and take this approach whenever I’m writing, for the most part. Knowing that a song will live forever, I find it really interesting leaving little clues in the lyrics and things that will make listeners go back and look up the lyrics for years to come.
Bilal is another one of my influences but more because of how captivating he is when you hear him live. I remember seeing him live here in London with Robert Glasper one time and it’s like he had the whole room in a trance with how he used his voice, like it was an actual instrument in that moment. A lot of the time I’m performing now I always keep that in mind, like how am I giving the people in the audience an experience?
Lauryn Hill is one for sure as well due to her album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. That album really spoke to me as I felt like she was one of the first to really combine that whole hip-hop vibe with the production and drums in her songs to keeping her music soulful and R&B at the same time. So, yeah, her work is a big inspiration for me. The last one I’d say is Donell Jones!
Channel WAVY: How have friends and family reacted to your journey so far in music?
Josh Kye: My family and friends are really supportive. I have some that aren’t so much due to what they think about the music industry, but for the most part, I’m defo really supported. One of my good friends is my manager, and a lot of my other family members, who are also creatives in their own right, support me with any visual work I have going on as an artist, so I’m really grateful for that support.
Channel WAVY: Congratulations on the release of your latest single, “You Don’t Know”. What’s the meaning and message behind the song?
Josh Kye: Thank you! It’s crazy because I wasn’t even going to release that song. When I did it last year summer, it was just an idea that I cooked up pretty quickly. I did the hook and left it for a few months. Big up to my cousin and creative director Savannah – she heard it and was like defo put some verses to it and finish it, so I did, and we shot the visualiser for it like the following month; it all happened really quickly. For me the song was like a love diary confession. I was in a relationship, and it didn’t quite work out, but these were some of my thoughts after the relationship. I think most of us can relate to having that one person that lights up the world differently.
Channel WAVY: What are your thoughts on the current state of the UK R&B scene? Who are some of your favourite UK R&B artists?
Josh Kye: I feel like the UK R&B scene has produced some incredible work recently. Some of my favourites are Cleo Sol, Shaé Universe, Kaleem Taylor, Tendai, Svetlana, CARI, to name a few. I think the quality over here in terms of UK R&B has really skyrocketed.
Channel WAVY: If you could only listen to three albums for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?
Josh Kye: Ooh tough one! If I had five, it would be easier haha. I would say Michael Jackson – Thriller, Kanye West – The College Dropout, Radiohead – Kid A.
Thriller is one of my favourites, so I know that will defo be on rotation. I legit memorised the dance moves from the videos as a kid. It’s one of my favourite albums of all time.
I loved The College Dropout album. That early Kanye just spoke to me differently. The passion, the vibes and knowing his story from that project are all factors for me that keep it in my list. Plus, it was an album my older brother would play a lot, so it has a lot of nostalgia for me.
Kid A would be the last for me. Of late, I’ve really been into their old music, and to my understanding, this album was one of the albums that helped them make a shift from the traditional indie stuff they were doing before. I love the use of electronic synths and distorted vocals in this album – defo something and a sound I want to explore at some point with my own music.
Channel WAVY: What are your goals for the future that you want to achieve in your music career?
Josh Kye: I would love to have longevity as an artist in music, being able to create and live off my art more than comfortably whilst being about to tour the world, as I love performing. I would love to push my sound as far as it can go since I recognise that my voice is very unique, and I feel that it can connect with so many people from different cultures and backgrounds. I would love to be able to give back to artists and writers and be in a position to help shift the culture in a positive way here in the UK and put various creators within the industry onto opportunities.
Channel WAVY: What do you enjoy doing outside of music?
Josh Kye: I’ve got a lot of interests outside of music; I think that’s what keeps me inspired. I love art and going to galleries. I play quite a bit of basketball, and I love travelling. I’m a pretty spontaneous person though and love experiencing a variety of creative things.