Josh Eagle and his Harvest City vultures
By Benjamin Dale
These days, in the relentless media climate of categorization, endless genre creation and labeling that often deadens music before the first listen, it is difficult to transcend judgment to be perceived as truly unique.
“If I must call it something, I call it Americana Soul,” said Josh Eagle, of Josh Eagle and the Harvest City, “but only out of necessity.”
The Internet has created a giant pool of music from which to choose, and the temptation to put every piece of music you hear into a neat little box is all too often irresistible. Yet Eagle perseveres, with his heartfelt album of emotional acoustic/electric ballads called A Good One Is Hard To Find.
“To me, it’s all about creating and sharing, it’s all about the song,” said Eagle. “Getting people to feel the same way you do.”
Music has always been the most direct conduit for human emotion and Eagle’s music speaks to the stripped-down, bare bones, exposed-to-the-world side in all of us. Most of us are too bashful or confused to share our vulnerability with others. It is precisely this vulnerability, this raw passion that makes Eagle’s music so transporting and striking to the ear and to a very specific set of feelings within us all.
“I’m not a player of theory,” said Eagle. “I’m a player of heart. I play cowboy chords, you know, and I get labeled as folky or whatever, but what I’m really trying to get across is the words. For this record, as opposed to my last one (2010’s Show Your Teeth), I didn’t want to put a lot of effects. I wanted a lot of clarity. It means more this time, and I’m more proud of it than anything I’ve done before. It’s just better.”
Growing up, Eagle listened to his fair share of the Beatles, “Of course,” he said, along with his parents’ favorites like Clapton, Warren Zevon and John Prine.
“I went through my Dave Matthews phase too, not ashamed to say it,” said Eagle.
It was not until his college years, studying politics at the University of Cincinnati that he was introduced to Neil Young, an artist Eagle says he is most influenced by.
“Young never gave a fuck about what the label wanted or what people wanted, he just put out records about wherever he was in his life,” Eagle said. “People would be like, ‘Where’s the harvest, Neil?’ And the backlash was like what happened when Dylan went electric.”
After college, Eagle wallowed for a while in that indecisive period of the dark days of his mid-20s. A political junkie, Eagle’s disillusionment reached the breaking point around 2008.
“I wasn’t treating myself well, I was breaking away from a relationship and I forgot who I was for a while.”
Eagle’s band seemed on the verge of breaking up, too. Mark, the drummer, was about to get married and Tommy, the bassist, was pressed for time from the demands of his record studio gig. So, on a whim, Eagle and a friend bought one-way tickets to Hawaii.
“It was vastly exciting, but at the same time it was like shit-in-the-pants surreal.”
Eagle found employment on a raspberry farm, where he found solace among the dogs, the waterfalls and the Aloha vibe.
“For about a year I just did yoga, jumped off waterfalls and didn’t smoke or drink anything,” Eagle said. “I quit caring about politics when I moved to Hawaii. I realized what is really important – family, writing, my dog. Politics is just all this hoopla, a big circus-factory show. I just decided that if things don’t make me feel good, I don’t do them anymore, because that’s just silly time.
“You never know how important a place is until you’re gone,” said Eagle. He returned to his home, Cincinnati, in 2009 and immediately re-formed his band.
Now on their second LP, Josh Eagle and the Harvest City have kept busy ever since, throwing record release parties in Columbus and selling out Southgate House in Cincinnati.
Josh Eagle and the Harvest City will play in Dayton at South Park Tavern on Friday, August 19 with local rockers the White Soots. Doors open for all ages at 9 p.m. and admission is $5.
Reach DCP freelance writer and editorial intern Benjamin Dale at BenDale@DaytonCityPaper.com.