Bright-eyed singer-songwriter and Chicago native, Josie Dunne, is excited and eager for the release of her first single, Old School, out now.
From old friends that were born five days apart at the same hospital to an unbreakable romance that began at a 1989 New Year’s Eve party, Old School retells the heartwarming story of how Dunne’s parents fell in love. But the title of the song and the story premise aren’t the only nostalgic aspects of Old School. Dunne’s sound is inspired by Motown and Soul eras of music. We sat down with Dunne to dive deeper into her parent’s uncanny love story and how her artistically driven family has helped fuel her passion for music.
Continue reading for our interview with Josie Dunne.
The Knockturnal: Just to start things off, how did you get into music? When did you start playing and why? H
Josie: I come from a really creative family and all of my siblings do some kind of art, and I guess I just happened to be the one that did music but I think my parents were always playing music in the house and we just came from a really creative family and we were always encouraged to do what we loved, so that was probably how I got into it.
The Knockturnal: I saw that in your bio you mentioned about your siblings: one’s a dancer, an actor, and all that. I was wondering about how that influences your artistry today and if it helps inspire you? Stimulates you as a musician in any way, and kind of what you have taken away from them?
Josie: Yeah definitely. I think just being around arts of all different kinds has helped me as a songwriter for sure and then to be able to translate it into like video things or cover art and stuff. Just having an appreciation for arts of all different kinds has totally helped I think my music for sure. It’s also fun like art creates such a world, like it really creates its own world, and to to try and take that, like the feeling you get looking at a painting that really moves you or if you’re watching a dance or whatever, or watching a video even too, and the feeling that that creates, and trying to bring kind of that full body experience to music is really I guess really what I’ve tried to do with my music writing and my music too.
The Knockturnal: Have you collaborated with any of your siblings or other family members that are kind of in that realm at all?
Josie: Definitely. I’ve done a lot of writing with my uncle who was a songwriter in the music industry, and actually just a writer for like old sitcoms and stuff back in the day, and so we’ve done some songwriting together. He really was the one that showed me songwriting, like I wrote my first couple songs with him. And then a bunch of my cousins played too, so like I took guitar lessons from my cousin and I took singing lessons from my cousin, like we’ve collaborated on some stuff and I’ve like painted with my brother, but nothing where it’s out there. My paintings probably shouldn’t be out there in the world.
The Knockturnal: So I saw that you wrote songs for Kelly Clarkson and Jacob Sartorius, what made you decide “okay it’s my turn for me to do my own thing and get my own music out there in terms of being a performer”?
Josie: Yeah so the Kelly experience was really really cool. I got to be a part of her songwriting camp and she put one of the songs that I wrote on hold, which was really cool just to know that she heard a song with my voice on it, it was like oh my gosh Kelly Clarkson because Kelly Clarkson’s one of my heroes. But the Jacob Sartorius thing, I had actually written that song for me originally, like a long time ago. I probably wrote it when I was like 16 or had maybe just turned 17 and it had always stuck with me. It was one of the first ones that I really grabbed onto I think. And then as we were locking in on what is going to be my EP, and just kind of getting that finalized, his people heard the song and fell in love with it I guess, and it totally worked with what he was doing, and I was happy to have it in the hands of somebody who was really proud to put it out, so that was a cool thing for me for sure.
The Knockturnal: So how did those experiences make you decide —
Josie: That it was my turn? I think both of those just helped me grow as a songwriter. When you write for something other than yourself it stretches you in a way, you know, you have to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes. And it’s so different from what I was doing on a day to day basis, which was just going in a writing about my experiences, so almost like an actress to stand there and go “okay, Kelly Clarkson’s married, she has kids and all day long she’s playing music and touring the country and I’m not doing that so how do I put myself in the shoes of a mom and a wife and you know, her. It definitely has just stretched my songwriting, but it also just made me more excited to get my own stuff out, which I either had written or was writing at the time that I was doing the Jacob, Kelly thing because it was exciting to see them do their videos and to do their book their tours and stuff and it just made me antsy for my own stuff. You’re just like “ugh I can’t wait for that to be me.”
The Knockturnal: You live in Nashville now, and I read that you perform all around town and what was it like first moving there from Chicago, and how has Nashville’s music scene inspired you?
Josie: Nashville’s super cool because it’s really a town about the songs and about the songwriting, so as a result of that, they’re very particular in telling your story, and getting to know the artist. The songwriters really want to make sure that the music that you make as an artist is really a representation of you, and I think having my creative development be in Nashville … the product of that was that I came out with songs that like totally felt like me, and were really authentic to my growing up and my whatever I’m going through like dating-wise or blah blah blah with friends or whatever. There’s an authenticity because of the willingness to collaborate in that town, and so I think that was the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me was moving to Nashville because it was like I got to settle into who I was.
The Knockturnal: Do you have a particular place in Nashville that you love performing or feel particularly at home in?
Josie: I’ve played at the High Watt a bunch, which is a really small room … it’s a really intimate and I’ve played there so much, I’m playing there actually this Monday, so it’s a really fun spot definitely. The Listening Room is really cool too, it’s set up for rounds. So songwriters’ rounds are basically — if you don’t know what they are because I think they’re kind of a Nashville thing — everyone just goes in with a guitar and then before every song the songwriter will be like “yeah so I wrote this song about blah blah blah and this, that and the other thing and then they play their song and each person tells a story before they play the song. And the Listening Room is like the biggest room for that in Nashville, and it’s super cool. Other than BlueBird. That’s the big one. And that one’s cool too, I’ve played there before.
The Knockturnal: I also noticed that you have a lot of Motown and Soul sounds incorporated into your tracks, what is it about that era of music that inspires you and how do you think that it fits into today’s music realm?
Josie: I think that there’s a heart and a soul, there’s kind of a grit to what the people in Motown and that old R & B Soul were doing that I think is actually coming back in music which I’m excited about … it’s cool to feel so much and in that music when you listen to it, you can feel if it’s agony, sadness, anger, happiness- you know, whatever it is you feel it so much just by listening to music because I think the singers in that time embodied what their music was, and it was just so truthful … And so, hopefully with my music, what I think I’ve grabbed onto is being able to go into this world when you’re performing or when you’re singing in the studio and to feel it as hard as you can, and try to get that emotion across.
The Knockturnal: Do have any particular artists either in history or in today’s world that you look up to immensely?
Josie: Some of my favorite artists of all time are Amy Winehouse and Etta James and Stevie Wonder, but then with people that are out right now, I love Bruno Mars and I love Ed Sheeran. Obviously love Beyonce, like who doesn’t? Duh.
The Knockturnal: If you in the future had the opportunity to collaborate with any current artist, do you have anyone in mind that you would want to reach out to?
Josie: Oh man. There are so many. The ideal would be to do a song with Stevie Wonder. That would be like such a cool moment… oh my gosh. But it would also be super fun for me to do a song with Britney Spears. I am such a big Britney fan too, so that would be really cool. Princess of pop.
Switching gears into your video, “Old School,” what was it like looking back at your parent’s story and then filming the video and how was it like in terms of an emotional process for you?
Josie: Yeah. Oh my gosh that was my first ever video. So it was super super cool to get my parents to be a part of it and have my family be there and to get to do it. We shot it at the house I grew up in, which actually happens to be the house my dad grew up in. So it’s in the actual house and then in the actual church where my parents got baptized next to each other and then in the actual high school. We went to all the locations and we were in my hometown and I have such a huge family and they all came behind the camera, what you couldn’t see, was maybe 30 of my cousins taking iPhone videos. They were so excited, so it was really fun to have my parents be a part of the video, for sure, but also to do it in a place where my whole extended family could be there… it just added such a depth to the song I think for me. I’m going to love that song forever … And it was cool too to be able to go through a bunch of their old letters and a bunch of their old photos and get to look at them in high school, hanging out and their letters back and forth in college. It was really exciting.
The Knockturnal: How did you think your parents’ story influenced your definition of love today?
Josie: Everyone always jokes … with a story like that with your parents, they’re like your expectations are going to be way too high, you’ll never find somebody that beats that story. It really doesn’t make sense, it’s almost too good to be true, but I think that them just being the greatest examples of love in my life, they’ve just totally shown me never settle and to really search for somebody who there’s a deeper connection there where they were friends for their whole lives until they decided like oh we really actually like each other. And so to find and fall in love with a friend is their best advice.
The Knockturnal: So what do you want people who listen to your album and I guess the song specifically to walk away feeling?
Josie: My goal is happy. I think with the music, I’ve always tried to be super authentic and just telling the stuff I know. Like growing up in the suburbs, and I come from a really solid family and a really great group of friends and I guess my goal with the music was to kind of remind people life is good, lets smile, lets dance, lets have fun. And so in addition to telling love stories and talking about heartbreak to try and spin it in a way that nothing’s the end of the world and I think life is pretty good.
The Knockturnal: Is there anything you want to add in terms of the song and any reaction you anticipate coming from it?
Josie: I just hope that people like what it sounds like. I think it’s a bit different from a lot of what I’m hearing that’s coming out or, so I’m just hoping that people react well to it. And that they’ll like my parents in the video and my house in the video and stuff.
The Knockturnal: How was moving away from home? Has that been challenging? Do they come down and visit you and watch you perform all the time?
Josie: Yeah it’s funny. [Chicago] so close, the flight is so easy or the drive is pretty easy too that I’m often telling my parents, “you guys don’t have to come down for every show I play.” I could play an acoustic set of three songs at some dingy bar and they’re like “yeah we’re gonna fly out and bring a bunch of the cousins” and I’m like “you don’t have to come to everything, it’s okay.” They’re so supportive and they visit a lot, I get to go home a lot which is just fun, so it hasn’t actually been that bad. I also have a couple cousins who live in Nashville so we get together for family dinners every weekend.