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Monday, January 25, 2010

Taking it one week at a time: Josh Fuson and Feat 52

Dog Eat Crow is always interested in artists who attempt to do something difficult to expand their craft. Nashville singer-songwriter and producer extraordinaire Josh Fuson has done just that. He spent all of 2009 writing and recording a song a week for something he dubbed Feat 52. He then posted all 52 songs for the world to enjoy.

You may recognize Josh's name from posts I've done on my indie-folk group Noble Three. He produced both of our e-singles as well as prattle on, rick.'s solo debut. He is very talented behind the boards but his talent extends further, to his songwriting and multi-instrumentalism. He is a humble spirit and a profound help in the studio.

Even though his Feat 52 project is over, you can visit his blog and go through all of the songs on your own time. trust me, it is well worth the effort.

I sat down with Josh via email and asked him a little bit about how the project went and his reasons for doing it. The interview follows.

To visit his website click here.

The Crow: Tell me a little bit about your background, Josh. When did you start playing music? What groups influenced your early development? At what point did you start making recordings and amassing the equipment for your studio?

Josh Fuson: Well, first I was in a lip-sync'ing band when I was around 7. We "played" everything that was going on at that time on the radio in central Maine: Poison, Michael Jackson, ZZ Top, Van Halen, Def Leppard, Madonna, etc. I get a good chuckle remembering those days.

Well, then I started playing drums in a band with some friends when I was 9. Under the instruction of a local jazz pianist/teacher, we covered mostly old rock groups like Donovan, the Rolling Stones, Johnny Winter, the Loving Spoonful, the Kinks. A lot of it was stuff that was introduced to us for the first time. So, those are the early, early influences and then there was my parents' vinyl collection: Beatles, Stones, Zappa, Janis Joplin, CSNY, Buffalo Springfield, Paul Simon, Led Zeppelin, you get the idea. My first recordings (Fischer Price gear aside) was with that childhood band on a family friend's 4-track. I was hooked immediately. It was only after college that I slowly started collecting recording equipment.

TC: What is Feat 52 and what got you interested in the project?

JF: During 2008 I had experienced a significant writer's block. Creativity wasn't flowing and I had a false start making my first record. I needed something to help break things up, something to force me to go outside my stale writing, recording, and production techniques and stay on task to boot. I had thought in years past of recording a song a week for a year mainly to see if I could do it but the time was never right. Then in 2008 my friend Tate Eskew embarked on a similar project. That was the tipping point for me and Feat 52 is what I ended up calling my song-a-week, New Year's resolution for 2009.

TC: What were some of the difficulties you faced? What did you learn about yourself as a songwriter and engineer/producer? What recordings are your favorites? Which ones do you wish you’d had more time with? Any plans on compiling the best into a purchasable CD? Speaking of which, where can your other work be purchased/listened to?

JF: Probably the most difficult part was coming up with ideas, lyrical or musical, each week and having to set up the studio for everything I wanted to do. Every week. One of the things I had to get good at (and eventually did) was letting songs go without making them the grand productions that I often imagined.

What did I learn? Elaboration is often a distraction. A song doesn't have to have a chorus... or a verse. I learned what my voice can and can't do and how to better take advantage of that. I also learned a few recording and mixing tricks/techniques that will surely come in handy in future studio projects. Some of my favorites are speaking terms, go slow, know the feeling, all will unravel, medicine's hard to say which songs I'd spend more time with if I could have...probably about half of them! I'm a little OC like that and yeah, I'm considering remixing some of the stronger songs from Feat 52 and releasing an EP or record later this year. We'll see. check out my site You can listen to all the Feat 52 songs on the mp3 player in the sidebar. I love feedback. Leave some.

TC: During the F52 project you also worked on the debut CD for prattle on, rick.? What was it like working with Patrick on that record? What other projects did you work on while doing F52? Was it difficult to juggle all the projects?

JF: Patrick's songs are quite good, and he's a really easy-going chap, so when he asked me about doing the record I jumped at the chance. He came to me with quality demos and had a lot of the arrangements figured out already. I added my 2 cents, some drums and bass, and then we mixed it. Definitely check his stuff out.

There were a couple of other projects in 2009. I took part in the RPM Challenge: write and record a record in the 28 days of February. 5 of those 10 songs were also Feat 52 songs. Then in November I started working with my brother ( on his debut EP. fortunately I was only ever working on 2 projects at once so it wasn't too bad.

TC: Would you do Feat 52 again?

JF: Nope. Glad I did it but there are other ways I need to push my music and I want to be able to spend time refining sounds/songs and practicing my musical chops. That was hard with Feat 52.

TC: What’s next for you? Who’s really knocking you out now?

JF: Well, I'm working on mixing the Greybarrel EP and next month I'll be collaborating with my friend, multi-instrumentalist/engineer Nate Dort, on a record for RPM Challenge 2010. Then finally make that solo record that I tried starting in '08. These days I've been listening to Elliot Smith, Nick Drake, Low, American Analog Set, Chris Whitley, Joe Henry, and Sun Kil Moon.