PHILADELPHIA, PA – I was YouTube surfing live performances of British artist Laura Mvula when I accidentally stumbled upon a cover of “Make Me Lovely.” I’m NOT a huge fan of covers unless it’s BRILLIANT. Josh Nussbaum and his collective featuring Alita Moses did just that and more. They have two more covers including Kimbra’s “Miracle” and a different take on Stravinsky’s “Tango.” I got a chance to talk to Josh about the collective known as Feed Lab, an upcoming collaboration with Sun Lab Studios, and being a full time musician.
Who is Josh?
First and foremost, I’m a human being and a musician second. I don’t really like to totally define myself as a musician. I like to explore different art forms, I like people, relationships, reading, music, and exercise. Music just seems to be at the forefront of everything all the time.
What school did you go to?
I grew up in New Jersey, but I went to The University of the Arts in Philadelphia. I’m still in Philadelphia.
What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions of a full time musician?
That it’s a dream come true. When I tell people they’re like, ‘wow, you’re following your dreams, everything must be amazing.’ Sometimes things are amazing but other times they’re really hard. Sometimes, due to low or no gigs as well as no consistent pay it can be hard and stressful. So during those times I’ve had to tap into my creative side and plan for different projects I’m going to do.
What is Feed Lab?
Feed Lab came out of a lull period where I wasn’t gigging too much and I got inspired by Laura Mvula. I loved her music and thought it was cool how she mixed pop music with orchestral music in such a beautiful way. I think I only had to pay the string players because everyone else were my friends. It was low budget and it came out great.
There was a hiatus, because when I first posted the videos it was just for fun. Two of them got over 10k views, which isn’t a big deal at all, but it was more than I expected and realized there was potential that I can tap into; especially since Laura Mvula and Kimbra shared the videos. I didn’t have a long term plan.
I took eight months or so to plan and organize how I can release videos as a production company. I’m going to be releasing four videos a year, and they’re going to be everything from covers to original music in different locations. My first video is being released with Sun Lab Studios. Sun Lab is a production company, owned by Kevin Grossman, that only uses solar power to record all of their music. We used zero electricity. It’s an original song with a band called We Used To Cut The Grass, and they’re a really creative group from New Jersey.
Essentially Feed Lab will be multiple things, but mostly videos which will be easily accessed through social media. By December we’ll release an EP of the audio mastered versions of our covers via Bandcamp for free. Right now, we’re keeping things really organized and released in a timely fashion so people can expect the next release.
I think you’re in a good spot man, when was the Laura Mvula cover released?
It was released August of last year.
If people are still asking about it, you’re in a good spot. People are expecting you to do something.
I’ve been really inspired lately to get things out. A year for a younger person seems like a really long time. I’m 26, I’m not old, but a year doesn’t seem daunting anymore. I realized I can do something with this, so I took a year to plan. I shed the fear of wasting time. I’m taking my time and not being worried about restraints.
How did you get to the point where you didn’t have to rush?
My personality makes me naturally get really anxious and impatient. I see the twelve year old prodigies, and all these young people that figured it out at an early age and it gets to me a little. But then I take a deep breath and think, we’re on different paths. There doesn’t need to be anything other than inspiration from other people. There doesn’t need to be any competition, and we’re all on different timelines. It helps me to keep working for myself and not compete with others. Work now comes from a positive place.
Top Things You’re Listening to:
Susto. They’re an Americana band that I’m really into.
Coltrane and other horn players.
Stevie Ray Vaughn, B.B. King – all the blues musicians.
How do you feel about John Mayer’s transition from Room For Squares to Continuum to Born and Raised to where he’s at now?
I love John Mayer. I think he gets flack for whatever reason. Room For Squares is a solid pop album and he’s only gotten better since then. It gives me some solace thinking about that. Don’t be afraid to put music out, your first release won’t be your best if you’re serious about it. He’s proven in multiple ways he’s not messing around. His blues trio, his folk/pop band, his solo acoustic sets. He writes great folk songs. It’s not easy to write lyrics that are captivating.
What is it like being in Philadelphia? How has Philly influenced your sound?
It’s cool being in Philly. I came here just thinking I’d like it because it’s smaller than NY, but I ended up falling in love with it. Everything is here from good art, to amazing food, dance, the scene and musicians. However, and I could be wrong, there are great touring bands that come from here; but there’s not a lot of successful rock bands here.
Being here has put a lot of R&B and jazz in my playing, compositions and writing. It’s in the harmonies that I write. It puts a lot of soul into you. It’s kinda like New Orleans in certain ways. I feel like the best drummers are from Philly. If I play with other drummers from elsewhere, it doesn’t seem to feel as good. Marcus Myers is one of a kind. He’s humble and professional, and he’s just one of them. I never thought I’d be so into soul and R&B. I’m not making slow jams or anything but it creeps in my playing and compositions in a subtle way.
How can artists contribute to growing a music scene?
I think there are two ways you can go about it. You can sit back and wait for a phone call or make opportunities for yourself. I think the way a scene grows is to make opportunities. If you look at Philadelphia ten years ago, it was very different than what it is now. Coltrane is from Philadelphia, and now that’s not the thing anymore. There are little pockets of people that all work for/with each other. Feed Lab are my friends and if I want to call people for gigs, chances are I’ll call those people first (and vice versa). You just kinda make a scene for yourself.
So you’re saying, for artists to create a scene – they must have consistent, healthy relationships.
Creating healthy positive relationships are really important. Keep positive people in your life. You’ve gotta ween out negative stuff in your life; it’s the only way you’ll grow as a person. If there’s anything holding you back you must identity it and be okay with letting stuff go. It’s hard to do that stuff sometimes because those negative things can be people you care about. If you keep the positive people in your life, an artistic scene can grow and you can watch those seeds grow.
What is a venue that really helped you to get started?
I think it’d be back in the day while I was growing up. I started when I was 11 in punk bands, and other bands in New Jersey. The first venue I played at was a dive bar called The Saint in Asbury Park, New Jersey. It’s a trip because it’s a dive bar but an awesome dive bar. There’s also a place in Red Bank, New Jersey called Chubby’s (now it’s called 10th Ave Burrito). Venues like that allowed kids to get on stage and learn their craft. Before I went to college I didn’t really take any lessons, except for a great guy named Andrew Light who got me ready for auditions. Learning for me was from the stage.
What is your advice to those who want to do what you’re doing?
People are devaluing music more and more; so if you want to do it, you have to go all in. You have to be okay with not having money and having hard times. Getting guidance is now harder because the business of music changes so frequently. When you go to older/wiser people in the music industry years ago, their outlook may not work because it’s a different climate now. It’s not relevant anymore. You have to be adaptable, change with what’s going on, and be well read.
I have crazy student loans, so I understand having a 9 to 5 however; I don’t have a job because it makes me more hungry. It forces you to buckle down and figure it out. I think the 9 to 5 makes you a little too comfortable and then music turns into a hobby again. You can get out there and book studio time, go to venues, gig, and plan to make a scene for yourself. It may be hard at the beginning, but I think the end result will be better. It takes time and you may need to figure it out on your own. You must really be attentive and alert. It’s a bumpy ride, but I really do think it’s worth it in the end.
Stay connected with Josh Nussbaum and FeedLab Productions via Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Also be on the look out for their collaboration with Sun Lab via Facebook, Instagram YouTube, and their Official Website.