Burlington, Ontario native Josh Ross has goals of becoming a global artist and is leaning on the wisdom of fellow artists like Tyler Hubbard and Jordan Davis as he begins his career. Signed to Universal Music Canada, Ross is an artist to watch in 2023 with more than 21 million global streams of his songs, including “First Taste of Gone” and “Tall Boys.”
Ross chatted with Music Mayhem about the relationship he’s formed with Hubbard and Davis, the personal story behind his latest single “Trouble,” and more.
Although Ross grew up dabbling in writing lyrics and playing air guitar along to rock artists like Guns N’ Roses and Bruce Springsteen, it wasn’t until football-related injuries sidelined him in college that he started focusing on making his own music, learning how to play guitar and practicing in his dorm room at Ontario’s Western University.
He still sees parallels between his days as an athlete and his current journey as an artist. From the self-determination required of individual sports like motocross to the team mentality of playing football, Ross says he still uses some of the same techniques with his music career. “I’ll even go back and rewatch how the whole show went and critique things and stuff like that.”
Ross’ first live performance was in front of 5,000 people at the Boots & Hearts Emerging Artist Showcase, generating a physical response he was used to having before playing football games – throwing up from anxiety. That self-imposed pressure to succeed had shifted to his music and he decided to make the move to Nashville in 2019 to pursue his dreams.
One of those dreams came true when Ross performed with Tyler Hubbard and Jordan Davis on the CFL’s Grey Cup Halftime Show in November 2022, which he says was a “surreal” experience. “It’s really cool just to kind of see things come full circle,” says Ross. “Both Tyler and Jordan were so good to me in the sense of just guidance and music, even just life stuff. We talked about relationships and kind of what they were going through at my age. I feel just really, really lucky with the relationships that we’ve formed.” He says that the best advice they gave him was about authenticity. “They’re like, stick true to you and your sound and what you will wanna do and what you wanna say.”
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Although Ross admires singer-songwriters like Morgan Wallen and HARDY, he taps into himself and focuses on what feels organic.
“I kind of lean on other songwriters and artists just kind of to get a feel for what they do,” says Ross, “but we’re not really trying to copy or chase what other people are doing.” He says he’s a melody guy, typically bringing a melodic guitar part and a title to work from. Although some songwriters start with a chorus, Ross says he takes a different approach. “Especially with people that I write a lot with, or when I’m by myself, I actually write the first verse first and then just kinda let the whole song roll out like that.”
That process took a unique turn when he wrote his major-label debut track, “On A Different Night” at a bar. “Mason [Thornley] and I, we actually didn’t have an instrument with us. We were at a rooftop bar in Nashville at the Virgin Hotel and we were just sitting up there kind of hanging out and going through ideas and stuff and we started that first verse and chorus without any instrument.”
Ross says that he wanted to cast a wide net with his initial releases before fine-tuning his sound. “In the beginning it’s so important to affect as many people as you can at once and then you can dial into who you are and let the listeners get to know you a little bit more.”
With his latest single “Trouble,” Ross is giving listeners a peak into his personal life. Co-writer Mason Thornley had the idea for the title at a time when Ross was going through a transition in his love life. “I was out of a relationship and was going out partying and doing things and just kind of figuring life out. I remember one night calling my ex at the time and being like, could you just come back home? And I said something like, ‘I feel like I’m in trouble.’” He added, “it was kind of just weird the way it all tied back into kind of that idea that we originally had and kind of changed the hook. It’s very similar to what my message was on the phone. It came from honestly just a real place.”
Ross admits that he’s still figuring out what he wants his sound to be, that he’s learning as he goes. “I’ve really noticed that with each song, I’ve kind of learned a new side of me and sonically it’s been different on every song.” He revealed that some of the new music he’s writing leans more into his pop and rock influences, which fits in perfectly with his upcoming tour plans.
Ross will be opening alongside Tenille Arts on the Lee Brice: Beer Drinking Opportunity Tour in April, then hitting the road with rock supergroup Nickelback starting June 12.
When sharing the Nickelback tour announcement, Ross said in an Instagram post, “Try to explain this to younger me… I’m going on DAMN TOUR with @nickelback + @brantleygilbert 🔥 WILD, See y’all across North America. CMONN “
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Ross will also be making a stop at the Tailgate N’ Tallboys Festival in Bloomington, Illinois, this summer, where he’s excited to perform his aptly named song “Tall Boys.” Ross recalls the moment he met one of the festival’s organizers, who heard the song for the first time. “I remember when I actually played it live at Peoria, Illinois and one of the gentlemen that runs the festival, that was the first time he had heard of me and I played ‘Tall Boys’ that night. He’s like, man, that is the perfect song for the festival. It’s funny how stuff like that happens.”
The Canadian country singer says that his definition of success is performing his music around the world. “I’ve always just wanted to be a global artist and I think success for me has always meant traveling the world and seeing the world,” says Ross, who seems to be well on his way.