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Heart-to-heart with Josh Stewart: From Down Under to High Tropics

After Sandra Iris’, we’re honored to share another exclusive interview with QLD-based singer-songwriter Josh Stewart, the mastermind behind High Tropics. This post shares the intricacies of his artistic journey and sheds light on the trials and triumphs that have shaped High Tropics into the indie powerhouse it is today.

There are artists whose stories resonate deeply, showcasing resilience, passion, and an unwavering commitment to their craft: Josh clearly personifies these virtues. His music affair began innocently as a self-proclaimed “audio production nerd” tinkering away as an amateur drummer.

It wasn’t long before this journey landed audio engineering studies; little did he know, that this flirtation would blossom into a lifelong commitment to songwriting and performance. And we’re so glad it blossomed.

Let’s get personal…

Josh Stewart (High Tropics)
Josh Stewart (High Tropics)

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started in music?

I am a huge audio production nerd, my journey started many years ago as a very amateur drummer, who got the recording bug and went on to study audio engineering.

What inspired you to pursue a career as an indie artist?

Well, just as things felt like they were beginning to take off with the previous band I was in, and also the same year I finished my degree, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and, ironically, although at the time I thought that was the end of all my dreams, that was the thing that made me fall in love with songwriting.

Music became more of a means to escape reality, as opposed to a career. Writing songs is how I deal with things, it’s just something I have to do.

Musical Journey

How would you describe your musical style and the themes you explore in your music?

I’d say I am a bit of a musical chameleon in the sense that I have songs that are very garage rock orientated and then conversely, I also have a lot of softer songs. I try not to think about styles but rather just try to make each song as good as it can be, whether that means leaning into a genre or experimenting with something new.

Can you share a bit about your artistic journey, from your early works to your most recent projects?

My artistic journey has come full circle, from trial-and-error home recordings to studio recordings, back to home studio recordings, sometimes with studio overdubs. I will say it’s become a lot easier to record music from home, technology has made it so anyone, anywhere can make music with very little equipment.

Songwriting Process

What does your songwriting process look like? How do you typically come up with lyrics and melodies?

It’s different every time, sometimes it’ll be from strumming the acoustic guitar until a melody pops in my head, and other times it’ll be messing around on keys or humming over loops. It’d probably be really helpful if I could refine things down to a system… The only tried and true method I know is to force myself to dedicate time to writing, even if I spend a day working on something that never gets used, it’s just about repetition.

Are there specific themes or experiences that consistently inspire your songwriting?

I don’t know about consistently, but a lot of my writing is definitely inspired by experiences. I am a bit of a recluse as well, so even things like movies, video games, or other stories. I try to take inspiration from everywhere.

Influences

Who are your musical influences, both within and outside your genre?

I am a huge 90s and 2000s fan, so bands like Oasis, Blur, The Killers, The Strokes, etc., but I will say I don’t have a preferred genre, I just love good songs regardless of what era or genre they come from… (I’ve had James Brown on repeat all week).

How have these influences shaped your music, and do you actively seek out new inspirations?

I’d say the biggest thing is that the above-mentioned bands became my reference for the tones I like. This is why in songs like “Girlfriends” it may sound like I’m trying to rip them off but, in reality, I’m just making the music I want to make and using the tones that sound good to me.

Indie Music Scene

What do you find most rewarding about being an indie artist in today’s music scene?

I think the best thing about being an indie artist is being able to move at your own pace. As for what I find the most rewarding, probably when people reach out to me on socials and tell me they’ve been listening to one of my songs on repeat… That always makes it feel worthwhile.

What challenges have you faced as an independent artist, and how do you navigate them?

The challenges faced as an independent artist are plentiful. On the one hand, there aren’t as many gatekeepers as there were pre/early internet; on the other hand, there are like 100,000 songs a day getting released to DSPs so for people to find your music it’s kind of like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

As for how I navigate said challenges, I just kind of stopped worrying about it. The only thing I can control is trying to write good songs, I really do believe at the end of the day it’s all about the music anyway.

Recording and Production

Can you walk us through your recording and production process?

Well, all of my songs usually start as demos, and then if I think the song requires it, I’ll get overdubs done (i.e. live drums, etc) and send it off to get mixed by someone else. A lot of the time, though, the demos just end up becoming the final release.

How do you approach the creative and technical aspects of your music production?

I kind of write and produce at the same time, I just find it a lot more inspiring to capture a feeling. Then you can come back and listen the next day with fresh ears and have a way better idea of if there’s something there to work with.

Collaborations

Have you collaborated with other artists, and if so, how did those experiences influence your music?

No, but I really want to, it doesn’t help that I’m such a recluse but that is something I’m hoping to change.

Is there a dream collaboration you would love to pursue in the future?

Probably Liam Gallagher, I’ve got some songs up the sleeve that I think LG would nail.

Performance and Live Shows

How does performing live compare to the studio recording experience for you?

Well performing live is a lot harder, it’s a lot of work to maintain a live band, but it’s definitely one of the best feelings in the world getting on stage and hearing people sing your songs back to you.

Do you have any memorable or unique experiences from your live shows?

My favorite experience to date was when we were selected to represent Australia in Seoul, South Korea for Project Aloft Star in 2018. I’ll forever be grateful for that experience.

Challenges and Achievements

What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your music career, and how did you overcome them?

I think maybe the biggest one is that as an independent artist, you really need to wear so many hats. All you can do is show up each day, keep going, and always stay grateful.

Can you share a moment in your career that you consider a significant triumph?

I’ll paraphrase something Mike Posner said which I really relate to. Finishing the song is the reward, everything else is just the cherry on top.

Advice for Aspiring Indie Artists

What advice would you give to aspiring indie artists who are just starting their musical journey?

Do it because you love it, don’t focus on all the outside noise, just make the music you want to make, and make it the best it can be.

Is there anything you wish you had known when you first started as an indie artist?

Yes, the numbers for last week’s lottery draw (laughs).

In the ever-evolving landscape of indie music, High Tropics (@high_tropics) stands as a beacon of artistic integrity and innovation. With Josh Stewart at the helm, the journey continues, promising new adventures, sonic explorations, and boundless possibilities.

As the world awaits this band’s next chapter, one thing remains certain—wherever the music takes them, it’s sure to be one unforgettable ride.

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