Joshua Lewis, Multi-Instrumentalist Extraordinaire, Conveys a Sense of ‘Friction’

Most mystics and some musicians, when asked for advice, inevitably stress the importance of silence. One of the most healing aspects of retreats, hikes and the like is embracing the lack of noise and letting one’s mind go undisturbed. Miles Davis famously said, “It’s not the notes you play, it’s the notes you don’t play.” 

Through no fault of their own, musicians — who want to be at least heard, if not worshipped — have a tough time staying humble.

Cerebral multi-instrumentalist, producer and engineer Joshua Lewis doesn’t have that problem.

For the first 10 years of his career, the Boise-based artist played nary a note on a stage or in a studio. Instead, his primary trade was (and still is) engineering and producing music for other artists. Most recently, he helped record and mix the new album When the Wind Forgets Your Name by Boise’s best band of all time, Built to Spill.

Joshua Lewis Switches Gears

But during the pandemic, as was the case for many of us, a key trait of his personality changed. Lewis decided it was finally time to take a stab at writing and recording a record of his own. He took action and saw his aspiration through to its finish with his self-recorded debut album, Too Soft.

In making that record, Lewis noticed that he had opened a can of ear-worms. He quickly found joy in creating and sharing his own music. He also felt the satisfaction of completing a project of his own, and seeing it delight people.

With Too Soft, Lewis knew he was onto something. And, wisely, he didn’t put his newfound passion of recording and releasing even more music on the back burner. While working with other artists remains his primary focus, he pursued his instinct and recorded more songs.

Embarking on the album that would eventually be called Friction, Lewis delved deeper into other ideas he’s spent a long time contemplating. A mere year later, Lewis already had a new record on his hands. And today, he’s putting it into the world.

Earth Libraries, the same label that issued Too Soft, just released Friction. The Bad Penny had the honor of debuting one of its tracks, “Thinkin’ About You,” late last month.

Lewis also generously carved out some time from his busy studio schedule to speak with us about Friction on the whole.

Lewis Revels in Friction

“The initial idea to call the album Friction came as a joke, rebelling against my first record’s name, which can imply weakness,“ Lewis began. “But from an artistic perspective, friction is the mother of all creation.”

Creating is often simple but not easy. It’s even tougher for producers and engineers, even though their lives are immersed in music. After all, it’s their job to make sure songs come out to a band’s liking.

Moreover, the person working behind the glass in a studio is likely a perfectionist. Lewis confessed to fitting that profile.

“I can keep working on one track for months and months and months,” he said. “I’ll never actually be totally happy with a recording. But there’s a point where you have to kind of say goodbye. And I think I’m getting better at learning what that moment is.”

In more forceful terms, he added that perfectionism “is a nuisance when it comes to unleashing my creative spirit. It halts me frequently when I’m trying to simply channel what I’m feeling. But when I know it’s all done, I’ll sometimes nod to myself or even say, ‘There it is.’”

In case it isn’t already obvious, Lewis — who knows all aspects of making music, from writing to recording to mixing — enjoys having complete control over his solo material. That’s because, when one of his songs turns out exactly as he wanted, he can claim the credit.

Well, most of the credit. While Lewis wrote and recorded the eight songs featured on Friction, some of his pallies gave him a boost with lyrics and the studio performances. Tanner Schut handles drumming on the majority of Friction; McKenna Esteb, Logan Hyde and bassist Daniel Kerr also lent their talents.

Who Needs Touring Anyway?

Lewis revealed that he won’t be taking any of the Friction contributors on the road — because he isn’t going on the road himself.

Since his solo recordings are a pet project, Lewis is able to buck many of the obligations usually required for a professional musician. It could even be said that he revels in creating friction with music industry norms. 

“I do not really enjoy playing live anymore,” he declared. “It’s a little too vulnerable for me. When I record, no one sees me and I might be able to make someone feel a certain way without them ever maybe even knowing what I look like.

“I’ve struggled with playing live for the past year or two,” he said. “It feels like imposter syndrome. My ego doesn’t like it. It’s almost like I’m recognizing it and I’m like, pushing it down. I just enjoy recording songs and how they make me feel in that moment.”

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