Joshua Burnside songwriter

Joshua Burnside

Joshua Burnside's curious brand of brooding alt-folk has earned him well over 3.5 million Spotify streams and bagged him some seriously impressive slots at SXSW, The Great Escape and BBC’s Biggest Weekend. We caught up with him ahead of the release of his next EP.

  • By Alex Rusted
  • 20 Jun 2018
  • min read
After signing a worldwide publishing deal with BDi Music and earning the Northern Ireland Music Prize in 2017 for his debut album Ephrata, Joshua Burnside has been on something of a roll.

His curious brand of brooding alt-folk has earned him well over 3.5 million Spotify streams and bagged him some seriously impressive slots at SXSW, The Great Escape and BBC’s Biggest Weekend – proving that the singer-songwriter has the chops to hold his head among the genre’s best.

We caught up with Joshua as he prepares for the upcoming release of his newest EP, which will be marked by a massive launch show at the Belfast Empire on 29 June.


What was the first song you developed an obsession for?

It was probably something from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, as I was often found sitting in front of the stereo listening to it on repeat when I was about three or four years of age.

What’s the first gig you went to?

I used to go to under-age gigs at a place called The Warehouse in a small town near where I grew up. I actually played my first ever gig there in a punk/grunge band called ?Indecisive?. The question mark at the end is supposed to be upside down but I don’t know how to do that on my keyboard. It was just guitar and drums… so in a way we were way ahead of Jack White.

What’s the first instrument you ever got hold of?

The first instrument that I actually enjoyed playing was a Yamaha keyboard I got when I was 10 for Christmas. It taught me how to play Greensleeves, which in hindsight may have had a subconscious influence on later music making.

What is your worst musical habit?

Talking too much before shows, or the night before, thus tiring out thon vocal chords.

What’s the best piece of musical advice you’ve ever been given?

That’s a hard one. If I had remembered all the good musical advice I’ve been given over the years, I would probably be a better musician. But, when it comes to songwriting, I always think about Kurt Vonnegut’s advice about writing in general, which is to write for one person only, whether it is for yourself or for someone else. If you try to please too many people your art will suffer. Or something like that.

Where do you discover new music?

I trust certain old pals for their recommendations and I would discover a lot of stuff accidentally on YouTube (now that it auto-plays forever and ever until we’re all dead, Amen).

What’s your favourite venue?

I dunno, they’re all pretty great I guess. My favourite bar is the Old Killowen Inn, Rostrevor. Pints of Guinness are still only £3, there’s a decent pool table that no one’s ever on, and the regulars are sound.

Who is your current favourite band/artist?

I’m currently obsessed with a song called Short Ballad for a Long Man by Seamus Fogarty.

What inspirations outside of music impact your songwriting?

I read a lot of history, and local history, which comes into the songs a bit now and again. I'm currently writing a concept album that centres around events and people from the Warrenpoint/Rostrevor area between 1850 - 1916.

What track of yours best represents your sound?

I think my sound is pretty varied, so it’s a hard one… Maybe 26th St or Little Blind? I think I would be doing something wrong if there was an obvious choice for this question.

What’s next for you?

Releasing a new EP at the end of June then it’s festival time. Record a second full length. Lots of touring in the autumn, winter and into next year, repeat this cycle for another 50 years then I’ll see where we’re at!