JOSIAH LEMING and TODD CAREY with DION ROY at the Vernors Room

doors at 6:30pm
tickets: $8 adv; $10 dos (buy tickets)


“Music is in my blood,” says singer and songwriter Josiah Leming. “It’s the only thing I want to do. I’d rather die in a ditch somewhere than not be able to make music. There are no other options for me. Music is my way of getting things out. It has saved my life many times.”

Such intense statements may sound like the drama of being a teenager, which Leming is, but spend any time with this thoughtful 19-year-old and it quickly becomes clear that it’s true. Josiah Leming plays music as if his life depended on it, because for him, it does. Born and raised in the hard-luck rural town of Morristown, TN, Leming left home at 17 to make it as a musician, leaving behind eight siblings (six of whom are adopted), an out-of-work stepfather, and a mother battling serious illness. As Leming traveled around the Southeast playing open-mic nights in any club or coffeehouse that would have him, he slept in his car and took odd jobs to pay for food and gas, all the while dreaming about the album he would one day make.

Now he has finally gotten his chance. Leming has begun recording his debut album for Warner Bros. Records, with whom he signed a recording and publishing deal not long after appearing on Season 7 of American Idol. His brief, yet memorable time on the show spurred fans to turn up in droves online to demand his reinstatement. They sent him messages of support and encouragement. Many posted clips of themselves performing Leming’s original songs on YouTube.

Thousands of fans also purchased Leming’s music through his MySpace page, proving that the young artist’s songwriting skill, powerfully expressive voice, and passionate performance style had touched a chord and could indeed capture a wide audience. “Josiah’s talent as a lyricist is one of the main reasons I signed him,” says Warner Bros. Records’ Senior Vice President of A&R Perry Watts-Russell. “All of his emotions go into his songs. He has an extraordinary gift for turning his experiences into art.”

“No matter what I’ve gone through, I have the same feelings every kid has,” Leming says. “And I think I can put those feelings in such a way that they connect with people and help them get through their hard times. If my music can give others something they can express their emotions through, that’s the whole point.”

Leming first fell in love with music at age seven when his parents brought home a keyboard as a Christmas present for the family. “I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen in my life,” Leming recalls. “I went downstairs at 5 A.M. and played ‘Joy to the World.’ It came very naturally. Playing that piano flipped a switch in me and everything changed.” He took a few months of lessons, but says, “I had no interest in playing anything that some guy named Bach had written. From the beginning, I just wanted to do my own thing.”

In 2000, Leming’s parents decided to expand their family, which already included Josiah, his older brother, and younger sister. In order to complete the adoption process, Sharon Leming had to see a doctor, who discovered that she had ovarian cancer. Multiple surgeries, radical chemotherapy, and radiation treatments followed, financially strapping the growing family. Meanwhile, young Josiah struggled to fit in at school. “I was short, chubby, and really pale,” Leming says. “I wore glasses and my teeth were all messed up. I never had nice clothes because money was scarce. So it became all about the piano. It was the only way I could express my anger and anxiety and sadness. It was like the friend who never went away, who never said no. I hid away from the world. I didn’t talk to anyone. My life just revolved around music.”

Leming finished his junior year of high school, but decided not to return for his senior year. “There was no more need for school,” he says. He hit the road in his battered ’89 Mercury Topaz, spending time in Jacksonville, Charleston, and Fort Worth, waiting tables, doing temporary labor, and trying to find a safe place to park at night so he wouldn’t get robbed. In August 2007, his mother mentioned that American Idol was holding auditions in Atlanta and suggested he try out. Despite wowing the judges with his performance of his own song, “To Run,” and Mika’s “Grace Kelly,” Leming fell short of the cut for the top 24 during Hollywood Week. “I really wanted to make it,” he says. “I worked my ass off and poured my heart and soul into the music. But it turned out for the best.” Leming is now working with musician/producer Dave Kosten (Faultline, Bat for Lashes) helping Leming, who is accustomed to accompanying himself on piano and guitar, to flesh out the instrumentation on his songs. There’s “One Last Song,” (“that’s about Mom and her situation with cancer”), “To Run” (“a loss of love song”), “Punk Ass Rain” (“about the moments when you just don’t care about anyone else”), and “They Say” (“about how people are always going to try and put you down, especially where I’m from”). “I try to use imagery that really sticks with people, but at the same time, every song I write is about something I’ve been through,” Leming says. “So it’s impossible for me to write a song that doesn’t tell a story. I can’t write about things I don’t feel. That’s just faking it and I want the music to be real. I can’t control what anyone thinks of it, but I can promise that it’s going to come from my heart.”



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