The Voice's Josiah Hawley on His Rocky Amy Winehouse Cover and Misheard Coldplay Lyrics
Josiah Hawley knows some viewers dismissed him the minute they heard the term “male model” during his Blind Audition on Season 4 of The Voice, but he doesn’t let it bother him.
“The show only has a minute to tell your story,” Hawley reasons. “I grew up doing concrete construction. That’s what I’ve done my whole life, but I’ve done some modeling, too, more recently.”
More important than how he’s paid the bills in the past, though, is how Hawley’s been striving to make a living as a musician — in Nashville for more than seven years, and the last year and a half with his band in Los Angeles. “We were gigging around, starting with open mics, and then on to different clubs like the Roxy and the Viper Room Lounge.”
TVLine caught up with Hawley to dish his attempt to put a unique spin on an Amy Winehouse tune, his coach’s sometimes tough love and the misunderstanding that accompanied his performance of Coldplay’s “Clocks.”
TVLINE | During your Battle Rounds rehearsal, your opponent Jeff Lewis messed up a little and chuckled, and Usher responded very sternly: “What’s so funny?” Was it stressful being in your first face-to-face meeting with your coach and having him be so tough and intense?
It really wasn’t that stressful. It was more of a “Boom! Wake up!” thing. We both had some screw-ups, so it was a nervous laughter, “Oh, man, that was not good.” Usher was showing us, “This is business, guys. When you come in here and you’re in front of me, I expect you to already be familiar enough with the song to sing it decently.” It taught me from that point out to make sure I was always as prepared as possible. That way I could walk in showing him that I was taking myself seriously, that this is what I love and want to do full time.
TVLINE | For the Knockout Rounds, you switched up Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” into more of a rock number. How did you cook that up?
I didn’t want to sing it just like her and have people be like, “Oh, man, you’re trying to be like Amy.” I was like, “Look, I’m just going to flip it enough to make it me.” And that’s really the most important part every time you’re performing a song: It has to be true to who I am as an artist. Otherwise, I’m just doing karaoke. That’s not how I choose to do my music. That’s not how I perform. And that’s why I played guitar, made [the arrangement] just a little heavier, a little more rock-driven. I love jazz. I’m influenced by jazz, but it needed to be me as well.
TVLINE | And “Starlight” continued that harder-edged sound.
Absolutely. I love Muse. I’m very influenced by them, by Queen. And a Muse song had never been cleared before [on The Voice], so it was a big honor to be able to do that. And that’s definitely more toward the direction of where I want to go as an artist: Bigger rock songs with cool, moving, sometimes even haunting melodies.
TVLINE | Tell me about going from Muse to The Script’s “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved” the following week.
Usher wanted me to be vulnerable on stage, so people could really see who I am. The prior performance, on “Starlight,” I was way back with the band. Usher was like, “I want you right up in front with the people, so they can see into your eyes and you can really connect with them. We’re going to dress it down. We’re going to have you just in a t-shirt.” My only concern was the song was kind of wordy. Most of the songs that I write aren’t that wordy, so that was the tough part. I was like, “I want to make sure I’m pronouncing all of the words and I want to make sure I’m not throwing away any of the lines.”
TVLINE | Was it weird being out on that “peninsula,” surrounded by the audience as they’re clapping, and not always with the best sense of rhythm?
Well, that’s why they give you in-ears. That way you don’t have to worry if they’re on rhythm or not. You can still hear the band. I can hear my guitar. I can hear my voice in my ears. It’s definitely nerve-wracking because you’re so close to the audience. They’re going to be able to see every little detail of your face, of your body language, and because the music was stripped down, if there were any mistakes, it would be very obvious to everybody. That left me feeling vulnerable, but that’s what needed to be done and I think it went over really well.
TVLINE | Do you have any regrets surrounding your last performance on the show, Coldplay’s “Clocks”?
No, I don’t. “Clocks” was a great song choice. I love that song. I really connected to the lyric, but it might have been misconstrued a little bit. It was said that there were a lot of “oohs and ahhs,” but actually it’s just written by an Englishman, and the “ooh” is a “you,” and the “ahh” is “are.” So the lyric is “you are.” If you’re not familiar with the lyrics, you might’ve thought I was just doing oohs and ahhs. The next night, Usher came up to me and goes, “Dude, I thought you sounded great last night. I even watched it back just to be sure, and I thought you even sounded better on playback.” I was like, “All right, cool. Thanks.” If Usher’s happy with it, I’m happy with it.
TVLINE | Now that you’re off the show, where should people look for your music?
I have a three-song acoustic demo from before I was on the show, and it’s on iTunes and Spotify. It’s “Josiah Hawley Live Unplugged Demo,” so I’d love for people to check that out for now. And I’ll have more soon!
Were you a Josiah Hawley fan during Season 4? Looking forward to his post-show career? Sound off in the comments!