We meet on Sunday evening at Joshua Grierson’s rehearsal space, Salt Dog Studios, in Woodstock. As we settle into the white armchairs in the front room, Grierson fiddles with his chunky knit jersey and fingerless gloves, both at ease in the space while anxious in the company of new energy.
We’re here to discuss trouble. Not only as a recurring theme in his life but also as the name of his new band. Throughout the progression of his career, Grierson has been faced with challenges. He had been convinced, from as young as 15 years old, by those around him that he has “what it takes” – that immeasurable allusion of potential, that certain thing that will make you successful. He is also, however, prone to bouts of anxiety and depression, and he possesses slightly compulsive tendencies and struggles with attention deficit.
From the outset, Grierson had no certain idea of what impression he wanted to make on the music world. He toyed with the idea of becoming South Africa’s Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen, but when that goal was deemed insurmountable by his management team, he laid the idea to rest. To date, 2012 has proven to be the most difficult period in his career. It was the year Grierson had the opportunity to record an album with producer Dan Roberts (Laurie Levine, Radio Kalahari Orkes). In hindsight he recognizes that he was mesmerized by the carrot dangled in front of him. The idea of the album far exceeded the reality, resulting in a product that required far too much compromise. He was releasing music that didn’t authentically represent himself as an artist and his career was going nowhere. Frustrated, despondent and at a loss, 2012 seemingly drove the final nail into the coffin of this tortured soul’s morale.
The darker times in his life have produced some of the best music he has ever written. When Grierson grew tired of writing sad songs, he knew a shift in perspective was needed. It was time to take the control back and no longer entrust the path of his career in the hands of people who put their interests before his own. Choosing to expend his creative energy on several different musical projects, rather than trying to be Bob Dylan, Grierson now has Field of Giants, Big Exit and Follower at his disposal. Delving into the world of experimental instrumental rock, a powerhouse band and the previously unchartered waters of electronica, Grierson has found a way to focus his frantic mind. He has also embarked on a visual adventure by taking up photography and being more considerate of the design elements that accompany his music.
In 2014, Grierson decided to call it quits as a solo performer, after years of trying to convince South African audiences of his worth. His final tour, ironically, received more support en masse than any of his previous outings. He may have retired as a solo performer but this Saturday the 11th of April marks the launch of Joshua Grierson and The Trouble at Noordehoek’s Cafe Roux. The band consists of musicians with whom Joshua has been collaborating recently and whom he trusts implicitly. Gene Kierman contributes guitar, voice and French horn, with Lauren Fowler on vocals and Wesley Reyneke on drums. I can discern almost immediately that Grierson is more certain than ever of what he needs to achieve. He was not made for the rat race, the 9-to-5 grind is alien to him. “All I know is I wanna wake up every day and make music, everything else seems difficult,” he confesses.
Joshua has his sights set on foreign pastures. Although concerned with the idea that his South African audience will resent him for leaving, he knows that there is no more room for him to grow or find success here and hopes to be based in Berlin and New York as soon as possible. His move and the future of his career will weigh heavily upon which of his four current projects finds success in an international market. In the meantime, he will just keep making music.
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