I’ve followed Green River Ordinance for some time now. I heard “Dancing Shoes” once—and haven’t been able to shake them since. I was fortunate enough to interview Josh Jenkins, lead vocals for GRO. An amazing human himself, Josh’s main goal is to connect people through music, highlighting that relationships are some of the purest art forms that one can experience. Sometimes we lose sight of that.
The Soul Dynamic: So you guys are from Fort Worth, Texas, how did where you grew up influence your music?
Josh Jenkins: Texas is actually very diverse. It is a large, huge state, but also culturally varied on all levels—especially artistically and musically. We grew up around a little bit of everything, you have the city of Austin, which is a little more on the edge, and then you have the down home country element, which is also it’s own unique thing. All of it provided a well-rounded experience growing up, musically speaking.
The Soul Dynamic: Who has been the biggest impact or influence pushing you to become an artist and make music?
Josh Jenkins: Man, that is a great question. I don’t know if there is one specific influence…My dad was a songwriter, so he definitely had a large influence on me from an early age, so I started writing songs, creating and telling my own unique stories. From a young age I was inspired by things like that. I grew up listening to James Taylor and Cat Stevens, that was the early stuff, then transitioned into more of a product of the 90s: the Third eye blind and Matchbox 20’s of the world. Those bands really gave us early inspiration to write and play music.
The Soul Dynamic: The creative process isn’t easy, but everyone needs a code, a process they follow and go through when producing and grinding out the work. How do you push through challenges in making music when it’s just not flowing? Do you lean on the other members of GRO?
Josh Jenkins: I mean the creative process is the coolest and one for the most mysterious things you’ll ever experience, because you learn that no real amount of technique can produce a good song. You can only position yourself to produce a good song, you can’t force one out. What works for us is not to think so much. There is a different art to writing and always being present and available to write. But also when it’s not coming up you start over thinking things or trying too hard. You learn not to try so hard, to just write and free write, say what you want to say and make the process not complicated. I think when you do that, you position yourself to make the most honest and real music. Those are the songs that people connect with. You can sense in a song when someone tries too hard, and you can sense when it happens naturally.
The Soul Dynamic: If you and I are sitting here together a year from now, celebrating what a great year it has been, what would you have achieved?
Josh Jenkins: You know hopefully making a great record. We’re on the forefront of writing and recording a new album now and hopefully I’m looking back and saying, “Wow. We wrote some great songs.” You’re always meddling into your identity as an artist. Especially now with so much pressure and weight for artists to be commercial. Like I don’t know if I am saying this correctly, but as an artist, as you grow and look at your business you think, “Ok, well maybe we need to be put it into one of these little boxes: like we’re a country band, or we’re a rock and roll band, or an Americana band,” but when you do that—I think you loose a little bit your uniqueness and you start writing to be this or writing to be that. So a year from now I want to be saying that we took chances from where we were and be confident in that. And also that we learned that our music isn’t dictated so that we need to write a country song or that, that is where we are supposed to be. You know what I mean?
The Soul Dynamic: Yeah, definitely.
Josh Jenkins: If you are writing music that is important to you and inspires you…if you can be fearless and think about what matters to you, all the other stuff will come. And a year from now this is something that I hope we would have accomplished.
The Soul Dynamic: Streaming music from services like Spotify and Soundcloud have become very popular these days. From a business standpoint what are the challenges with these services and what do you deem more important? Is it the awareness factor of the users or the monetary means?
Green River Ordinance | Photography | Lauren Lately
Josh Jenkins: It’s a hard thing because you do understand the importance of it and the value of getting your music out to a lot of people. Spotify has a discovery aspect to it where people discover new music and hopefully they come out to your shows. And that is kind of how they sting you too. I think they are trying to have it all make sense. I have a buddy that wrote a song that saw 4 or 5 million streams and he has only seen about $1,000 dollars. There is no way that that is right or correct. So I think there are aspects of Spotify that are awesome and changing the music business. By no means do I feel that they have gotten it right though, or are in a place where people can say that it ‘is there.’ I would hope in the next few years that there would be things that would help the artist make more money. You know to value the music and the time spent on it. I see the upside to it, but I think there is a lot of ground to be gained still to look at it as a fair exchange.
The Soul Dynamic: It is interesting because the company still has a start up feel to it. It is unfortunate that the artists and the music are the ones that get caught up in them trying to figure everything out. I hope they figure it out, because it is an intriguing company providing a great service. I think the mass audiences you can reach with it is incredible.
Josh Jenkins: Yeah, absolutely. There are a lot of factors to it that are great. I think they will figure it out, I think everyone has to be willing to work together. We will see.
The Soul Dynamic: Music is best experienced live. What’s the most memorable performance you’ve had or seen?
Josh Jenkins: Oh gosh, we had the opportunity to play Red Rock a few years back, which was pretty ridiculous. It was fun, pretty historic. We got to play the Grand Ole Opry this year about a month ago. Which was pretty incredible as well. They had the 40th anniversary of the Opry which was insane. They had Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert and Clint Black perform, all these traditional Country legends and we got to be a part of it. It was like going to church—the church of country music. Super emotional and super impactful. So I would say those two moments are at the top of the list for us.
The Soul Dynamic: If you could hang out with anyone, dead or alive from any era for one night, who would it be and what would you do?
Josh Jenkins: gosh, so many people. That is an impossible question… there are so many musical people that I would love to hang out with but also just regular people. This is going to sound lame, but Mother Theresa or someone like that who has made a profound impact on the world. Bono of course, for someone who is living today and has done amazing things like that, on all levels. Musically and from a personal standpoint, I would like to hang out with James Taylor I think he would be incredible. John Mayer, I would like to hang out with him as well.
The Soul Dynamic: Those are good answers! It is a hard question; there are so many possibilities.
Josh Jenkins: There are so many people! There are so many great, brilliant people. The people that we look up as artists, that not only make great music, but are purposeful with the art they create. I think that is a whole other level. That is what we hope to be as a band. And when you see artists that do that, you get inspired by it. Any artist that does that is one that I would like to learn from.
The Soul Dynamic:
Who’s your favorite artist out now? Someone that has caught your eye, or ear, for that matter.
Josh Jenkins: Jason Isbell’s Southeastern record is one of my favorite records I’ve heard lately, play it all time. Have you heard of Jason Isbell?
The Soul Dynamic: No I haven’t.
Josh Jenkins: He’s awesome, more of a singer songwriter. But his record is ridiculous. Southeastern—it is just ridiculous for song writing. If I had to suggest a song on it I would suggest “Elephant.” So that record has been a go to for me, just listening and learning and trying to take notes.
The Soul Dynamic: I’ll definitely check it out. Three more questions and you are free to go! If you could create art in any form outside of music, what would it be?
Josh Jenkins: I mean I like poetry. I could never be a painter- I‘m not concise enough for that. But I like poetry, the writing. As far as the things I would paint, it would not be anything that anyone would want to buy.
The Soul Dynamic:
What is the one thing you want people to take away from your music? What story are you trying to tell?
Josh Jenkins: I think that one of the coolest things about music is that everything is about people. I think if you are a baker, or a musician, or you write for a blog, it is really always about the people. You have your bubble of people that you get to encounter on a daily basis, a monthly basis, or a yearly basis. Maybe it is just via the Internet or face-to-face, but you have the opportunity to get to know people to impact them, to relate to them. I think what we do that is the most joyful is when we get to know people and tell our story…I think the artist that speaks to the humanness of the great days and bad days, knowing some songs are fun and some songs aren’t; people relate to that. They come to our shows and leave feeling that they are not alone and that other people are going through the same thing. There is hope in it all. I think the best music, the music that we strive to create, is the music that does that. Simply human. There is a level of ‘hey we understand where you are coming from and you are not alone.’ If people can leave with that, then we feel that we have done our duty and purpose.
The Soul Dynamic:
Alright and the last question, what inspires you?
Josh Jenkins: Other art life. You live in a bubble, I’ve thought about this on a daily basis, trivial things don’t matter. I think you really need to capture the beautiful things: seeing a fiddle or something that inspires you, or hear your story, or going to a show, or being with a group of friends and really realizing that those experiences are life giving. Those are all inspiring to me. You can make much about the objective of being successful, or making money, whatever, but you kinda lose the heart. It’s not about some trivial thing that isn’t going to provide you any sort of freedom. So for us, well for me personally, inspiration comes from the pure things like relationships—the human experience.
NOTE: I was able to catch their show on Monday night. One word: Inspiring.
Interviewer + Writer | Cassie Farley