YouTube sensation Joshua OKeefe is thoroughly living his American dream, hanging out with celebrities such as Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift, after taking the US country music industry by storm.
Josh, who is just 21, has over 90,000 twitter followers, managed by Gillie Crowder and is currently creating his first EP with world class producer, Bobby Huff.
Josh has had a love and passion for music since a young age: “I started singing on the way to school years ago, when my dad would play Don Williams, The Mavericks, The Bee Gees and Elvis in the car”.
“I used to be the lead singer and guitarist in a pop band that had toured the United Kingdom three times by the age of 16 it was great fun, we didn’t take it too seriously, but hundreds of girls use to show up to our shows all around the country. I loved every minute of it but I always knew that country music was in my heart”.
He then left the successful band to kick start his solo career as a country artist.
Josh was also an inspiring actor but music was his true calling card so he attended the prestigious music school; Brighton Institute of Modern Music for a year, where he developed his songwriting skills and got his big break: “I was chosen to perform at the music schools show case, which was amazing”.
“The directors of the music school told me to go to Nashville, so I packed up my bags when I was 19 and got on the next flight to Nashville”.
“Country music was my childhood; it was why I went into music in the first place and there is no place country music is bigger than in Nashville”.
Josh recalls his first flight to Nashville: “I was sitting on the plane and I happened to be sitting next to a guy who was in the Goo Goo Dolls”.
“Before I realised exactly who he was, we were listening to one another’s music and before I knew it we were at his house listening to one another’s songs and actually singing together”.
“In England that would never have happened, but everyone in America is much more friendly and welcoming and before I had even landed I felt at home”.
Almost instantly, Grammy Award Winner producer Kent Wells, who has worked with Dolly Parton and Reba McIntyre, picked up Josh as a solo artist: “At this point, I was in dream world. I had not been there that long but already everything was falling into place”.
Josh could never have foreseen what happened next as he received a phone call from his current manager Gillie Crowder who has worked with major country stars such as Shania Twain and Billy Ray Cyrus: “My old lecturer, who works alongside Eric Clapton from the Brighton Institute, sent out some of my music and videos to Nashville”.
“That’s when I got the call and I knew it was the start of something great. My first trip to Nashville only lasted two months but then Gillie Crowder flew me back over to discuss my future and meet with her colleagues”.
Manager Gillie, speaks very highly of Josh: “He reminds me of a Shania Twain, with his work ethic, vision and talent, he is so different, knowing his audience and how to sing to them”.
Big words for a local Derby boy, who is fast becoming an inspiration, but it didn’t take Josh long to bump into one of his country idols himself: “I was sitting at a table for one of Rascal Flatts’ charity events. I had always been a huge fan of his music and this was the first time I had a chance to talk to one of my idols”.
“I went up to him and said hey Joe Don, I love your songs and your guitar playing, would you perhaps write with me or play guitar for me, I’ll produce. He then laughed and said you’re funny, sure, let’s make it happen, I’ve heard great things about you”.
This was the first time Josh realised he was on his way to success and for the past two years he has been collaborating with two times, Grammy nominated songwriter Jan Buckingham.
“I love writing with Jan, we just have some kind of crazy connection that makes us write, and he has songs recorded by Whitney Houston so he really is one of the best song writers around”.
Josh has also worked with other top Nashville writers including Jimmy Robbins, Rachel Thibeadeu and major recording artist Rebecca Lynn and is now looking forward to working with Bobby Huff on his EP:
“I really can’t wait, I love Bobby’s work and I think we are going to come up with something really special”.
To show just how much life has changed for Josh, he has recently been recording music with none other than British sensation Ed Sheeran:
“I’ve had the chance to hang out with Ed in Nashville recently, whilst he’s been on the road with Taylor Swift, he’s a real nice genuine guy and he has actually recorded a song with me, which will be a bonus track on my EP. He sets a great example for British music and is certainly someone I look up to”.
Josh is very modest, hardworking and appreciates the luck and success, which has come his way.
A lot of Josh’s success has originated from social media and the biggest shock to him was the way his online profile took off:
“Social media allows any young musician to show case their music but I never expected to earn any recognition from it. Initially I was just uploading my songs to show family and friends, but then I realised I was missing a trick”.
“YouTube and social media allows me to interact with my fans and share my music with them, it is a fantastic platform, which has allowed me to build up a strong fan base”.
Between 2011 and 2012 Josh created a YouTube page and began uploading original songs, giving him over 350,000 views and he has now surpassed the 90,000 followers twitter mark:
“It is mad, how many people know who I am and how many people come and watch me play. I recently played at the O2 arena in London, when you’re playing at like that, there’s nothing really to complain about”.
“My first gig in Nashville was very special for me. At the point I didn’t think I was that well known, but then I had people lining up around the corner of the building for me. It was surreal to say the least”.
Thankfully Josh’s first gig was a huge success: “It was amazing and very surreal, I was so nervous but that is a huge part of being a musician and thankfully people actually came, so I wasn’t playing to nobody”.
Josh is family orientated so missing his family and friends has been the hardest part about moving to America: “I am close to my family; I think it is important that family come first. I guess I miss seeing my friends and family and I defiantly miss watching my younger brothers play football”.
“My brothers are 15 and 16 and it’s so strange how fast they have become teenagers. When I’m home I spend most of my time watching them play football as they constantly train and play matches. I try my best to be a good brother and guide them in the right direction”.
“I hope that they see me as a good role model, but there’s nothing better than standing in a muddy field on a cold English day watching them play football”.
Something that not many people know about Josh is that he is a fine actor, as well as musician:
“I used to do a bit of TV extra work, just before I got into the Brighton institute. Music has always been my passion but I have been in Waterloo Road and Shameless. I’ve never been recognised though for my acting unfortunately as I was in the background most of the time”.
Since then Josh has firmly stepped out of the background and is very happy with his progress and feels he made the right decision to move to Nashville: “I love being in America as I work with amazing talent on a daily basis, who have had many hit records”.
“At first I thought would be hard to earn respect as I was only 19 and but now I spend every day working hard and earning respect as an artist and songwriter. Being in America doing what I’m doing is amazing; things are going in the right direction”.
Josh is an inspiring example that anybody can achieve their dreams: “My message is that you can do anything if you put your heart and soul into it”.
“I grew up being told by everyone in my close family that I should get a real job when I’m older as music is only a hobby and it is impossible to be successful. Now I look back at those times in my life as I love every minute of being in Nashville and working on my music career”.
“I will always strive to be better in everything I do no matter what and I will continue to show my heart when I sing and I hope my fans will grow with me”.
– Jon Mees