Brian: On DC Music Rocks, we're shining a spotlight on great songs, artists, and incredible people behind the DC region's local music scene. Joshua Rich describes himself as a child prodigy, who began playing piano and composing when he was only eight years old. He's become an internationally known performer, despite never having had a lesson in his life, which I can't wait to talk more about. In addition to being a full-time touring musician, Joshua has released a multitude of original CDs and several recordings of masterful improvisations of both jazz and classical music. He's also an actor, screenwriter, playwright, and a producer. He's a very busy man. When I started doing DC Music Rocks, I came across his music and I've been a fan of his skills on the keys for quite some time. It is a treat to have you here. Thanks for being here.
Joshua: Thank you, Brian. I really appreciate the opportunity.
Brian: Talk to us about, you said you started when you were eight years old and you've never had a lesson. Does that mean you just hear it? How does that work when you're creating what we just heard on the show?
Joshua: Well, I'm definitely a unique artist in that I did teach myself all the theory that I needed to know because I started making a living at the piano at the age of 17. Every job, I got, I would teach myself the theory needed to be able to do that job. I've done every job you can imagine on the piano, music director, choir director, accompanyist, et cetera, as well as performer. Yes, I really do have great ears, and I can hear a song, and I can immediately play it. What I would do is I would hear a song, and then I would look at the music and figure out what it meant theory-wise, so I did learn how to read. It's been like remembering. It's never been like learning. I've always felt like I've been remembering. I believe in my past lives and things. Very natural process. I've never really have had to work at it. I never practice. I just have always felt really connected to the piano. I can hear, but I can [inaudible 00:01:51] myself and I can read it too.
Brian: You can read the music, and if they put a composition in front of you, you can certainly play it that way, but then you can also hear it and just play it?
Joshua: Right. I'm just a very improvisational player. I guess it goes with my creative nature. I can't really ever play the same thing twice and whenever I play things live, I always open things up and I never play the same thing twice. When I record, I like to get it exactly a certain way, and a real specific form. I think it came from my studying the Beatles when I was growing up. I love things recorded really well. When I perform, I'm always. In my days when I was still accompanying and doing some piano playing for hire, I have to force myself to read the music and actually play what's written. I just have this natural innate ability to just, inclination to just open things up and be experimental with it and fool around with them.
Brian: Now, rewind to the part where you said you started at eight years old. You didn't just start being a piano virtuoso at eight years old, and you've never had a lesson. How did it start then? Did you just hear things and keep hitting the keys until you found it? How did it evolve?
Joshua: No, that's what's so, I really just started playing. My dad was an amateur piano player. I later found out that his brother, my uncle was a successful side man in the 50s and 60s. That was kind of cool. He played with some pretty big guys. He's on some recordings of Charlie Parker and some other notable people. It was cool. I was looking at his discography. My dad was playing the piano at a party. I came up and sat on his lap. He took my hand. He put it on the piano. He showed me a C chord. That was it. I literally the next day was just playing. Just like, I don't remember what I first started playing. I'm sure I was just noodling. I was adept. I was able to really play and then, I was just listening to music, and then whatever I would listen to, I would go to the piano and I would play it. I think between eight and 12 I would say were the formative years where I was really learning how to really play and really read and then at 12 I started writing. I actually wrote my first song, Trying Vegetables, which is on the same album. Everything comes full circle.
Brian: Wow. One of the big things that I've seen in pop culture now is they've got dueling piano bars where the guy gets up there and hey just call out a song and they play it. This is the kind of thing that you do.
Joshua: Yeah, I made my living for a long time. I still play at the DC, the Georgetown Piano Bar actually on Fridays. That's coming to a close soon as I get more in to performing and getting too busy to do it. I've been there for a little bit. That's a fun environment. That's actually been a fun way to make a living. That's when I discovered actually, when I got my first piano bar job, I was actually underage. I wasn't even legally able to be in the bar, but I discovered that my ear was so good, that people were calling out songs and I just knew them. I discovered that my gift could actually make me money. That was a nice realization.
Brian: That is a great realization to make, yeah. The making the money part is often times the challenge.
Brian: It's good that you at least knew that that could happen.
Brian: That doesn't make it any easier. You still got to find, get a gig.
Joshua: I want to be a full time artist in the true sense of the word, but I've been able to make my living in the arts my whole life, so at least I'm blessed in that way. Yeah, that's sort of when I learned the piano can be a vehicle for making a living.
Brian: That's incredible Joshua. I love it. Now, in your connection to the DC region, you live where? You work in the area. How long have you been here?
Joshua: Right now I'm living in the Palisades, which is near Georgetown. I've been kind of in the Virginia, the Maryland, the DC area for a bunch of years, and probably about a good 10, 15 years now. I've kind of lived all over that area. I mostly resonate with DC. I'm originally from New England and I just came down here. It's sort of a second home. Yeah.
Brian: When did you come down? How long ago was that?
Joshua: Wow, it's got to be maybe 20 years ago now. Yeah.
Brian: Been a while now, that's awesome. Okay. What about-
Joshua: My daughter is 19, so it's about as long as she's been alive, so yeah.
Brian: There you go. Now, what about talk about you on a personal side now. Outside of the music thing, do you have other hobbies? What else do you do?
Joshua: Yeah. One of the things I'm most, that I most need in my life that's really vital is called Bikram Yoga. Some people call it hot yoga, but there is hot yoga, which is just sort of an add hot, bunch of postures with different varying kinds of heat. It's whatever. Bikram Yoga is a specific 26 postures, same ones every time, 105 111 degree heat. You're staring at a mirror. I never in a million years thought I would ever do yoga. I swear by this. It's amazing. It's very healing. You're sweating a lot. It's really hot. It's not easy at all.
Brian: Do you do this at a studio? Is it in your closet?
Joshua: Yeah. You could do it in your closet, if you got like a heater. No, I do it at, I can plug it. It's called Hot Spot DuPont in DuPont Circle, really, really great studio run by a woman named Carolyn Hoffman, who's a really wonderful person. I've been practicing that for about seven years. It's really changed my life.
Joshua: The postures themselves are amazing, but then you're doing it with the heat, and so that's something that's actually now, it's not really working out. It's really part of my lifestyle. Yeah. That and I play chess.
Joshua: I like chess a lot.
Brian: Excellent. It's fun to think about the two mental exercise because composing and piano and making things up on the fly and improv and then there's chess, which are both very creative but using your brain in totally different ways.
Joshua: Yeah, I'm really like I said, I'm kind of a unique artist because I don't have that typical. Some musicians it's hard for them to kind of look at the business side of things. The artistic tents to be not quite as grounded. I have a real grounded nature and I like rules and I'm good at thinking ahead. That's what is good about chess. It keeps that part of my brain. You have to think about what you're doing before yo udo it. Then, I also am very creative. There are those two parts. Chess is fun because there is a connection between a lot of the chess players and musicians I think. A lot of musicians like chess. There is the math to it and the patterns. Then there is like, you know I'm just going to try my pawn here and see where that brings you. There is a creativity involves.
Brian: That's amazing.
Brian: What's one thing in your music collection that might surprise us?
Joshua: You mean in terms of like songs?
Brian: No, in your personal music collection that you might listen to in the car or something like that.
Joshua: I don't know. That's a good question. I really love all different kinds of music. I love classical. I love Jazz. I love pop. I don't know, something that is from like the 1920s because when I was growing up, my dad had this fake book. I learned all these really great old songs, like Bicycle Built for Two, from 1890 something. I can listen to songs like that. That might be surprising I guess, but yeah, I gravitate towards, I love the old fashioned nature of those songs. That might be something.
Brian: Is this, you're listening to these on an actual, like vinyl record?
Joshua: No I don't have those anymore.
Joshua: It's Spotify or where ever I can find them now.
Brian: Where you can get them. I get them.
Joshua: I've moved a lot and lost a lot of those records. It's funny how they're coming back now. It's like, oh I should have kept them all. Vinyl is making its comeback.
Brian: Now, biggest success moment that comes to mind from your music career.
Joshua: I did a show at a church in Orlando probably two or three years ago, whenever it was. For a while, I was trying. You know what it's like. You're trying to find your genre, trying to find your audience. For a while I was looking at the new age or some kind of movement as far as non-denominational churches. They're open air.
Brian: Sure, yeah, yeah.
Joshua: Really open hearted people and I've always gone over well in those kinds of environments. This is a specific one of those down in Orlando. I think it's called The Orlando Unity. It was just like three or 400 people, standing ovation. People were coming up and touching my arms afterwards and just really, really affected by the music. Any of those kinds of moments are definitely most memorable for me, when I really feel like I've connected.
Brian: That's really cool. Now, my favorite question to ask on the show is, if you could offer one piece of advice, what would it be?
Joshua: I would say check out whatever kind of deserving issues you have, because that has been the thing I've had to really work through the most, to get to where I'm starting to get to know.
Brian: Check out deserving issues, kind of like entitlement? What do you mean by deserving issues?
Joshua: Figure out what you might think you don't deserve. What subconscious decisions have you made about what you don't think you deserve, because those are what is holding you back. Your subconscious is in charge, even though we don't think it is.
Joshua: You just look at your life, look at what's happening.
Brian: You don't think you're worth it, but you are.
Joshua: Right. Really just look at what you're not getting and then think about why you might think you don't deserve it, and kind of do some head work. It doesn't take long. Just being aware of it I think is the first step. That would be, I think people that are in their own way a lot, unknowingly. I've done a lot of work lately about that. You know what? I do deserve it. Kind of like looking at the reasons why I might have decided I didn't and work through those. Yeah. I'd say that.
Brian: It's one of my favorites. I always love hearing what the artists say on that one, or the guest in general, not always artists. I mean, bookers and photographers and everyone else that's been on the show. Now, if folks want to find out more about you and follow what you're doing, where do they go?
Joshua: They just have to go to joshuarich.com. It's very easy. I'm also on Facebook but my website has all my links. If you Google my name, Joshua Rich, you'll find out all that stuff. Yeah, I'm all over the place, Spotify, Instagram, and Facebook, et cetera.