When he was just 16-years-old, Josh Krajcik schemed his way onto the stage of a bar near his hometown of Wooster, Ohio. Earning $100 for his four-hour debut gig, the singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist decided that night to devote his life to making music. Over the next 14 years, Krajcik fronted a host of musical projects and eventually founded the Josh Krajcik Band, a three-piece blues-rock outfit that toured with the likes of Corinne Bailey Rae and The Fray and appeared on the Bonnaroo Music Festival’s 2006 lineup. But by 2011 Krajcik was fighting to sustain his music career, and ended up taking a job at a burrito joint to make ends meet. On a whim, Krajcik then auditioned for The X Factor USA—and soon found himself wowing audiences with his gravelly-rich voice and stirring delivery on the show’s premiere season. Now, Krajcik is set to release a debut solo EP and full-length album that pair his powerful vocals with intensely passionate, soul-infused songwriting.
On both Josh Krajcik EP and his forthcoming album Blindly, Lonely, Lovely Krajcik offers up a blend of rock and roll, soul, and R&B that’s instantly striking in its balance of raw emotionalism and sonic sophistication. In addition to writing on each song on the EP and album, Krajcik lent his masterful guitar work to many tracks on the recordings. For help in elevating his long-honed musicianship while preserving his earthy charm, Krajcik worked with premier producers and collaborated with some of the most successful writers in the music industry today. Recorded in Los Angeles and London (including a session at Abbey Road Studios), the resulting selection of tracks lace warm melodies into lavishly textured arrangements but ultimately let Krajcik’s endlessly moving vocal work serve as the stark centerpiece of each song.
“More than anything, I wanted this music to be honest,” says Krajcik of his debut releases. “I wanted it to be tap into something very real inside me and inside of everyone listening.” In crafting songs for the EP and album, Krajcik mined inspiration from his favorite soul singers, including Bill Withers, Ray Charles, and Sam Cooke. “What’s interesting to me about all those artists is the way their voice and delivery have this power to bring you into the moment, in a way that you’d be hard-pressed to find in any other style of music,” says Krajcik. To achieve a similar power and purity, Krajcik took care not to shy away from venturing into tangled emotional territory when immersing himself in songwriting. “As a kid I listened to a lot of metal bands, which helped me not to be afraid of exploring the darker side of things when it comes to writing lyrics,” he notes.
Indeed, Krajcik plumbs such thorny themes as infidelity, irreparable heartache, and loss of faith throughout his new offerings. On “Nothing,” for instance, Krajcik growls his way through a deceptively swaggering ode to a doomed romance (“There’s nothing we can’t handle/Except for each other”). The quietly devastating “Hopeful” finds him perfectly capturing the spirit of desperation, while the searing “One Thing She’ll Never Know” has Krajcik serenading his devoted lover just before revealing he’s fatally unable to let go of an old flame. And on the hushed, nearly hymnlike “Let Me Hold You,” he weaves his smooth yet sorrowful vocals into a piano ballad that’s both tender and tortured. All the while, Krajcik matches that emotional complexity with an intricate soundscape rich with scorching guitar, sweeping strings, and smoldering horns.
Although he’s been songwriting since age 13 and playing piano since he was eight, Krajcik cites his lack of formal musical training as essential to the vitality and authenticity of his sound. “I taught myself to play guitar, and as a vocalist I tend to just go for it and belt it out right in the moment,” he says. “Nothing about my style is very calculated. My feeling is that you have to create music for yourself first, the music that you want to hear and that hits you on a deep emotional level.” And when it comes to gauging the emotional impact of a song, Krajcik relies heavily on his instincts throughout the songwriting process. “Everyone has their first kiss, which gives you that crazy feeling you can never get back once it’s over,” he says. “For me, songwriting is the closest thing you get to that having the first-kiss feeling all over again. Sometimes you get chills all up and down your back, and you just know that the song is right.”
Instinct has also played a key role in guiding Krajcik through the ups and downs of his early career. “Over the years I definitely had a few of those moments where you’re doubting yourself and you wonder, ‘Should I just give it all up?’” Krajcik admits. “But at the same, I really don’t know what else I could have tried to be.” So while holding to the promise he made himself at sixteen yielded its share of struggle, Krajcik asserts that those tough times have more than paid off. “The day after I finished the sessions for ‘Nothing’ and ‘Hopeful,’ I was walking around Hammersmith, just sort smiling to myself and thinking about the songs and my music in general,” he recalls. “After a while I looked up and realized I didn’t know where I was. I’d gotten so caught up in thinking about where I was now—compared to just about a year before, when I was jumping from couch to couch and making burritos to pay rent—that I’d ended up completely lost in the middle of London. It was a great moment.” Still, Krajcik asserts that his ultimate goal is to continue expanding his sound and delving more deeply into his songwriting. “The most important thing for me is to just keep on pushing myself as a singer and songwriter and musician,” says Krajcik, “since I know that this is what I’m going to be doing forever.”