Rising Artist Josh Dorr Looks to ’90s Country — and Boyz II Men — to Influence Debut Album
In many fields, internships are great opportunities to work your way into the industry and get the experience you'll need to land a job. The music industry is a little different -- there really aren't internships for aspiring artists, unless you count something like an opening slot on a big name's tour -- but interning certainly helped Josh Dorr.
After injuries sidelined him on the football field in college, Dorr landed an internship at Toby Keith's Show Dog Nashville record label through his sister-in-law's friend -- a bit of "right place, right time" luck, he says.
"I was pretty much the only intern for the entire label," Dorr says of his experience, "so I was doing things for A&R one day, and I would get to learn some stuff about that. And then I would go to marketing and go to a photo shoot with people one day, and so I was constantly running around. And then I'd go in and listen to demos ..."
When Show Dog merged with Universal South in 2009, during his internship, Dorr had even more opportunities to meet people and learn valuable skills.
"[Record label employees] were kind of giving me little pieces of advice, and when the artists would come in, if it wasn't a good presentation, they'd tell me why it wasn't a good presentation," he explains. "And so it was cool learning how a record label thinks, so to speak."
After his Show Dog internship, Dorr spent time as an intern at a publishing company, learning "how the publishing and the songwriting thing, how that side works, and the more business side of the songs," he says. "Once I left, I felt like I had a leg up ... It put me in the right direction."
The Gillette, Wyo., native put all that knowledge to good use and landed a development deal with Sony, then signed his current deal with RCA Nashville.
"I came in and brought my guitar and CDs of some of my crappy iPhone work tapes ... and I played a few songs on my guitar, and then I left the CD, just like you would at any other publishing meeting," Dorr recalls with a laugh. "It's kind of nerve-wracking doing those meetings because clearly the people are judging everything that you're doing, you know?"
The singer-songwriter released a self-titled EP in 2014, and he says that he's now "about halfway ... maybe" done with his debut album.
"It's kind of a lot of, like, '90s country lyrics, and there's a lot of story songs and songs that you can, if you close your eyes, you can see the video," Dorr explains of the record. "I try to write that way a lot, as much as I can, but at the same time, the actual music part of it, it's got some edge to it, like edgy rock 'n' roll, and, you know, even some kind of grungy guitars on some of 'em."
"When I grew up ... if you made a mixtape in high school, one song could be Eminem, and the next song would be Garth Brooks, and then the next song would be, like, Boyz II Men or Michael Jackson, and then next one would be Bruce Springsteen -- it was a huge melting pot," he says. "I didn't even really look at bands and genres; it was just different bands that I liked, for whatever reason."
That doesn't mean you'll be hearing some sort of country / rap / pop-rock hybrid from Dorr; his current single, 'Save Your Breath,' which Dorr co-wrote with Jason Mizelle, doesn't even qualify as "bro-country." Instead, Dorr says he's simply looking for ways to incorporate the unique skills other artists -- country or otherwise -- bring to the table.
"I used to listen to John Mayer all the time, just because John Mayer, the way he played the guitar ... was really cool to me. I love Eminem because of the way he can put a million words into one sentence and make it sound awesome," he explains. "It's just more of an appreciation for what people can do."
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