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Josh Thompson Shares Details of His New Deal and Upcoming Projects

josh-thompson
Michael Loccisano, Getty Images

Josh Thompson is taking control of his own musical destiny with a new deal and two upcoming projects.

The 37-year-old Wisconsin native released his debut album, Way Out Here, in 2010 via Columbia Records, scoring a hit with “Beer on the Table.” In 2011 he transferred to RCA Nashville as part of a corporate re-structuring, where he released two singles, “Comin’ Around” and “Change.” Thompson parted ways with the label before releasing an album, and went on to release Turn It Up under a new deal with Show Dog-Universal in 2014.

Thompson has just signed a new deal with ole Digital, the world’s fastest-growing independent rights company, covering digital distribution rights. The company also holds the publishing rights to Thompson’s catalog via its 2013 acquisition of Better Angels Music Publishing Group, and longtime fans will finally get to hear Thompson’s “lost album” from his stint at RCA as part of the deal, which includes digital rights to live and video content and will probably result in another, yet-to-be-determined studio project down the line.

Taste of Country caught up with Josh Thompson to talk about the long road to releasing his latest songs, the complicated tangle of the music business, what the future holds and more in the following in-depth interview.

Taste of Country: How did this new deal with ole come about?

Josh Thompson: The release of this has been three or four years in the making. This was a record that I cut on Sony in probably 2011, maybe. I’m not exactly sure. The first single off the record was a song called “Comin’ Around,” but the record never came out, and we ended up going our separate ways. But I left with the record, and I always had the intention of releasing this record as two EPs at some point in my life.

So after leaving there, I went to Show Dog-Universal, and I wanted to start fresh and just kinda put this record on the back burner. So that’s what I did, and we released Turn It Up. And now it’s the perfect time in my life to go ahead and release it and do a digital campaign and start putting these songs in the set, and get this record out finally.

"Somebody called it ‘the lost record’ years ago, and that just kinda stuck."

This is coming out as two EPs. What are the titles and timetables for those?

Timetables, I’m not sure. I know one is September. Two is gonna be basically whenever we want [Laughs]. So that’s kinda cool. It’s whatever we want to do. The titles — because the record was called Change, the titles are gonna be Change: The Lost Record, Volumes 1 and 2. I called it “the lost record” because over the years, I’ve had fans ask me, “Where’s that record, is that record ever gonna come out that’s got ‘Comin’ Around’ and ‘Change’ on it?” And somebody called it “the lost record” years ago, and that just kinda stuck.

It’s not often an artist gets an opportunity to go back and re-visit a project that’s been shelved. Usually they’re really lost, forever.

Yeah. Usually, I would say 98 percent of the time, if something doesn’t come out and it gets shelved, that’s it. It sits there. So yeah, we’ve been really fortunate to be able to take it, own it and just release it ourselves. Everybody’s deal is different, but we were just fortunate enough to be able to walk out with it, and free and clear on the rights, so we’re excited about that. That was a great feeling in itself. We always knew that we were gonna release it, we just didn’t know when. We just let it happen whenever it was the right time.

This deal is for digital rights only, is that correct? Does that mean there won’t be any physical product at all?

We’re going to print some physical copies for shows. You may be able to get them online, we’re still not quite certain about that. But there will be physical copies at shows.

What’s the thought process behind two EPs, instead of simply saying, “Here’s the lost album”?

I think it’s going that way in the music industry, because you can put out an EP every four months, instead of one record a year, and it’s easier to digest four, five, six songs. It kinda keeps me — creatively, instead of just concentrating on one record and getting it out, you’re just cutting these EPs and putting them out. I think this will buy me some time, now that this EP is coming out. By the time the next one comes out I’ll have a clear sight on what the next record or EP is gonna be, and we’ll start working on that.

"We always knew that we were gonna release it, we just didn’t know when. We just let it happen whenever it was the right time."

Is this deal going to apply to subsequent albums, or are you still under a deal with Show Dog?

No, it’s just us. There’s no binding contracts, no deals, so again, it’s just the perfect opportunity to get this out.

That kind of seems like the future for a lot of artists, if they have a guaranteed audience — try to own as much as you can, manage expenses and go to the marketplace yourself, without a giant company to answer to and take a giant bite out of your profits.

Yeah, I think we can certainly do everything that major companies do. Maybe on a smaller scale, but still, you’re in control of where you go, where you’re playing. You know where your fan base is, you know what you can do release-wise and music-wise, and you know who’s gonna dig it, so you can just concentrate on that. It just makes your target a lot easier to see. You don’t have to waste time trying to throw a dart at the wall and see if this sticks or that sticks. You have a very firm direction.

How does that change the radio game for you?

It will definitely make radio more difficult. There are aspects to labels and promotion teams that really are a factor, and it does make the radio game attainable. We’re not really gonna focus on that. We’re just focusing on getting the music out, and putting it in the live show and seeing how that goes. We’re gonna figure it out as we go, but for right now we’re really just worried about putting the music out.

Was this always in the back of your mind, when you were under the dictates of various label deals, that one day I’d like to try to do this myself?

This was always in the back of my mind, especially after getting this record. I knew from the time that it didn’t come out that one day, at some point in time the stars are gonna align and we’re gonna go ahead and put this out, and be free of any binding contractual obligations at all, and just see where it goes and have fun with it.

What can you tell us about the music on these two EPs — how does it compare to what you’ve released previously, what’s different about it and what might fans expect?

"There were four years between two records that I was making music, but most people didn’t hear it."

This would be bridging the gap between Way Out Here and Turn It Up. It was more rootsy, sonically and production-wise. The songs are lyrically equivalent to Way Out Here, but had a little more — not so much party, a little more reflective, looking back at where you’ve been, where you’re going, and just loving who you are right now. So it’s definitely a gap to bridge between the two records, that nobody got to hear. So I’m excited to be able to fill in the blank, because there were four years between two records that I was making music, but most people didn’t hear it.

Let’s talk about the up and down sides to the digital realm. It empowers artists to take a lot more control, like you’re doing; it also empowers people to steal that music a lot more readily. Did you take that into account before making this decision, and how do you try to get around that kind of thing?

Yeah, I took it into account. But it really doesn’t matter if you’re with a label or doing it yourself, or just playing some corner bar every Friday night. It’s gonna make its way to the internet, and people are gonna be able to take it. If I stop to think about how to stop that, I’d never sleep at night. [Laughs]. So we’re just gonna put it out, and if people like it, they’ll buy it, and we’re gonna be playing the songs at shows and kind of adding a new flavor to the live set. It is what it is, so we’re gonna roll with it.

What’s your position on streaming? There’s been so much debate about whether it’s more beneficial, or has a bigger downside. Where do you stand in that debate?

It’s hard. I do know from a songwriting standpoint, and I hear arguments on both sides of the fence, they’re correct …  the money is, they should be getting paid a lot more money. They’re getting millions of views, plays, spins if you will, for pennies, but the upside of it is, you’re getting an audience that you never would be getting. These streaming services, you’re playing your favorite artist, and all of a sudden you’re on somebody’s page, and they’ve never heard you before. So it’s a way to gain new fans, get your music out there and hopefully that will lead to, when you’re in the area and somebody heard you on a streaming site, hopefully they’ll buy a ticket and come on out to a show.

The press release about this deal states that it covers digital rights for video, master and live recordings. Does that mean that at some point there will be some live and video content as part of this deal?

I think so. We’ve done a few things in the past. I do know that there was one show that we recorded for the purpose of a live DVD, so what facet of that is gonna come out, I’m still not sure yet. But I’m almost positive that it’s gonna come out in some aspect at some point in time.

Once these two EPs have emerged and run their course, do you have anything in mind as far as another project after that? Or have you thought that far ahead?

I’ve definitely thought that far ahead, and already started kinda putting more thought into it and putting some songs aside. I’m not exactly one hundred percent certain what I’m going to do, but I do think I’ll make another record, and I’m hoping to get started on it probably some time around the first of the year in 2016.

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