Interview: Josh Setterfield swaps pop-punk for country, dishes on third EP Til Dawn

Josh Setterfield started his career in Brisbane-based pop-punk band, Call The Shots. When the group disbanded, he decided to go solo and embrace the new-sound of current country music. With his second country EP, From Dusk and its singles ‘Feelin’ Love’ and ‘Hometown’, and currently working on his third Til Dawn, the buzz around his name continues to soar.

Earlier this year, you performed at the annual ten-day Tamworth Country Music Festival. How was your Tamworth experience this year compared to when you were starting your transition into country music last year?

Tamworth was awesome compared to last year. Last year, I went there to find my feet. I went down to busk, but that’s all I had gig-wise. This year, I had a show almost every day, sometimes four times a day. (Laughs) I knew more people, fit in [and] obviously, coming from playing punk, it was a bit different coming into someone else’s scene but it seems to be going well.

I had a couple people say that I am a bit different, with obviously the punk influence, I have fun with it. It’s not so much that I play punk country or “punktry” but people seem to be taking to it. I had a couple people say they found me on Country Music Channel [or] heard me on the radio and came to check me out, which was awesome. I [even] had a couple of punk bands come down. They left going, “I love country music!”. (Laughs)

There has been a big shift in country music over the past couple of years in America, and we are recently only now seeing that American influence coming through in Australian country music. So essentially, you could say when you were playing pop-punk music that that Americana country sound was still finding its feet.

Apparently, I’m coming into the scene at a good time people are saying, because last time I was [in Tamworth], there was a huge cry out for the American country. I take a lot of influence from the American country sound; that’s what my music sounds like. When I was in the punk band, I started getting into this new wave of Florida Georgia Line, Sam Hunt, all this upbeat, new-style country and that’s when I decided that I wanted to give it a go, when the band came to an end.

[Call The Shots] were at a level where we got tour with The Offspring, and then came to a point where all the guys felt they wanted to grow up, have kids, get married – that whole life thing happened. I was never that interested in that; I just want to play music. (Laughs) I thought, I don’t want to go down the same path and build something for another six years, just to get back to the same point I was. It didn’t feel like my scene anymore either – there’s only so many years you can sing angry songs about being an angry teenager when you’re not one anymore. Country has that timeless feel; you can tell stories and any age can relate or be into it.

What was the reaction from family and fans when you decided to move into country?

I lost a lot of followers to be honest. Not everyone’s going to come across but I’m still getting fans check it out now. Once people realise that it’s not all about trucks, cats, cows and crops, they’re like, “This is really cool! I didn’t think this was country!” It’s that new-wave vibe; it’s like pop rock with banjos. They need to check out (laughs). I sat down one day, put on a country song on You Tube. It came up a related artist and I clicked on the next one, and the next one, and kept going until I was amazed by this new wave of country genre.

My family were absolutely stoked because they’re into country. They supported playing angry pop-punk, but they support the country a little bit more. My dad, the other day, said he couldn’t get into the [pop-punk] music. That shows me, now, what I’m doing, appeals to more people. It was the best move I’ve ever made.

There is also this stereotypical look of a male country music artist: the old man in boots, jeans and cowboy hats, sitting on hay bails and singing about the topics you mentioned before. You definitely don’t fit that traditionally country mould. Was your look an issue for the country music traditionalists at the beginning?

I definitely don’t look traditionally country! I walked into the country bar a year and a half ago, people kind of looked to me a bit weird, because I walked in there with the flannel shirt wrapped around my waist and skinny jeans, but it’s becoming a thing because more of the new fans are coming over.

I’m more accepted [now]; I’m not such a standout. Older people in the scene have looked at me and gone, “You’re not country!”and I’m like, “It’s not about what you look like. It’s about what you sing about and how you tell your stories.” I don’t think it really matters too much what you look like, as long as you are sincere about your songs and you’re giving it your all.

I don’t like to put limits on what I can and can’t do and what is country. I write about what’s happening to me at that time. I don’t feel like I need to be faithful to the genre. The whole point of writing country music is to be faithful to who you are and to express who you are. It’s still country music because you’re still telling it how it is. Write what you want to write and with your sound, that’s the way you should be able to do it. Don’t think about the stereotypes.

Have you tried to sing your punk songs in a country style and vice versa?

I have. It’s hard to go back to singing that style of music when I’ve been doing country for two years now. I didn’t realise but I’ve got a country accent happening, which is really strange to me because I promised myself I wouldn’t have one! It’s not like I’m John Williamson, Tim McGraw or anything like that. It’s a bit of a relaxed sound, which I prefer to be honest. I listen to my punk stuff and am like, “Wow, you were so angry!”. (Laughs)

Is the process of writing punk songs the same as writing country songs?

It’s completely different. I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to writing songs. I currently write and record all my songs myself. I played all the drums, the bass, the guitars, vocals as well. I like that creative side of it, but, at the same time, I miss writing in a band environment. It’s lonely being a solo artist after you’ve come from a band. Everything now is all me. Every decision I make is all mine. All the songs I write are all mine.

Lately, I’ve figured country artists collaborate. That’s the gap that I needed filling. It is like bouncing ideas off each other that you would do in a band. I’m hoping to do it with other artists in the scene.

What kind of music do you listen to? Going from pop-punk to country, I’m going to assume you have quite a random collection of music.

I do actually. When you hit shuffle on my Spotify, it plays hardcore, then punk, then country, some electro shit – it’s just all over the place. (Laughs) I’ve actually made a country play list now and have people started to follow it. There’s some old stuff, but all the new country stuff as well.

What artist or band are you a fan of that you think would most surprise people?

I’m a huge Backstreet Boys fan – I paid a lot of money to go and see them last time they were here! – or maybe NSYNC or my love for 90’s boy bands. I feel like there is a whole new ball game between boy bands now and boy bands then. They were so much better then!

Let’s talk about your current self-written, recorded, mixed and produced three-track part one EP, From Dusk. What was the reason behind the duel release?

It’s keeping it fresh, keeping things being released and constantly putting out new stuff. You know when an artist puts out an album, they’ll be heaps of hype over it and then it’ll die after a while? This is like bringing the second wave of hype over it as well. Focusing on half and focusing on the next half, it gives me a chance to put out the best songs again. When you put out an EP you want to put your best songs on it. I put the best three songs I had at the time on From Dusk, and every single one of them will be a single. I’m just about to do a single for “My Kind Of Saturday Night”, which is the last track on the EP.

From Dusk is my second country release. My first one into country has so much punk element in it. (Laughs) I’m working on the third, part two, and hopefully that will be very soon. It should be another three tracks. The first one is called From Dusk and the next one is called Til Dawn. It’s going to be a follow on, similar style songs and I’m really excited for it.

What else do you have planned for the rest of the year?

I’ve been touring everywhere lately and plan to be everywhere for the rest of the year. I want to get back down to Melbourne, go to Adelaide for the first time with my solo music, and go to Perth, because even the band never made it to Perth. I love getting out there and meeting people who like my stuff. Basically, do what I’m doing now, but on a more intense level.

From Dusk is out now.


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