When telling a story, writers can either come clean about who they are through their work or find clever ways to disguise themselves behind the veil of their characters. For Dallas-based Joshua Ray Walker, it’s a combo.
“Over the years of traveling and because I am interested in getting to know people, I've gotten pretty good at guessing things about people,” he laughs. “So the songs definitely come from a real place.”
Walker will be returning to Houston to perform with a three piece outfit at The Continental Club on Saturday, March 25 with opener Patrick B. Ray.
Though he’s been playing with his punk outfit Ottoman Turks, he hit the scene in 2019 as a solo artist with his first release Wish You Were Here, the first of an ambitious project, a series of three concept albums that tell the tales of sad and hopeful barflies in the ever fading honky tonks across the country.
“I didn't reveal that it was a concept trilogy until the last album because there are a lot of people that don’t like concept albums and I thought coming out of the gate with my first record ever and letting people know it was the first of three in this concept was probably going to get poo pooed so I waited until the last one was out to let people know what the deal was.”
Walker recorded his albums in his hometown and in the very appropriate Audio Dallas, previously called Autumn Sound Studios where the great Willie Nelson recorded one of the best Country concept albums ever, Red Headed Stranger.
For his albums, Walker took inspiration from the dive bars he visited when growing up in Dallas and touring as a musician. “I like people watching and getting to know new people but sometimes through people watching you make up a whole backstory for someone's life and you don't actually know if any of it is true or not.”
Walker has a real gift for tapping into the stories of others and his own with his warm, observational approach and loving energy that pulls the listener into the tales he weaves around his instrumentation and sweet voice that teeters between a yodel and a ballad at times, no doubt the product of spending time in his grandfather's workshop singing along to old bluegrass and country albums.
“I’ve always written from the characters' perspective,” says Walker. ‘I was never a student of writing of any sort. I was always more into the music part of music and so when I started writing I didn't realize that the way that I was writing was a style that was unique to me.”
The sincerity in his craft is a huge part of his appeal as his liveliness on and off stage is impossible to deny. He carries a powerful dynamic that can range from sweet sadness personified in “Lot Lizard” to the ultra catchy “Sexy After Dark.”
Walker took a plunge when transitioning from band member to solo artist and admits that it didn’t happen overnight. He had to push himself to play open mics at the beginning of his solo career to eventually get used to performing alone in front of others.
“I just didn't like the tone of my voice growing up. I thought my voice was really clean sounding and I didn’t have a lot of personality. I started writing my own original lyrics when I was 19 and I wanted to play the songs so I had to learn how to sing,” says Walker describing how initially he would shake so hard it made it difficult to play the guitar.
It’s hard to imagine Walker being nervous then watching him now take over large stages all over the country, most recently on the Outlaw Country Cruise and performing on major television shows like the CBS Saturday Morning show.
Walker and his band are touring non stop and the songwriter is already planning his next move. “I’m already writing,” says Walker who released the last installment of his trilogy See You Next Time in 2021.
“I think I got the next five or six records planned out,” he says. “I think big picture before I think individual songs so sometimes I get ahead of myself and want to get in the studio but I don't even have half the songs written yet.”
Joshua Ray Walker will perform with Patrick B. Ray on Saturday, March 25 at The Continental Club,3700 Main. 9 p.m, $20-30.