“Paramore was great, it was awesome for that season of my life, but I just wanted to start something new. Something fresh,” reflects Josh Farro as he opens up to Already Heard backstage in Leeds at the second night of Farro’s first ever UK tour. “I don’t want to make it sound like I wasn’t happy in Paramore, it was just time for a change,” he continues, doing his best to underline there are no lingering hard feelings. And the change in question, quitting what was rapidly becoming one of the biggest bands on the planet in favour of pursuing new creative endeavours, was about as ballsy a decision as it gets. But it’s clearly one Farro’s not looking backwards on:
“It’s different but it’s awesome. It’s almost a freeing experience,” he states, adding “It was liberating for sure, it feels liberating. It was like man I’m making music again. It’s a clean slate, I’m starting over. It was a good feeling”.
As we chat that word freedom keeps cropping up, and it quickly becomes clear that creative freedom was a major factor in his decision to change his career path as well as what makes his new venture so enjoyable. Not that it has become entirely without it’s downsides. “I like it a lot and there is a lot of freedom in not having to make collective decisions. I can say ‘hey I want to do this’ or ‘I want to do that’. But there have been times where I’ve missed having that band interaction. Like in the studio for instance. It’s just a different world. I don’t think either is better than the other, but it is what it is and I’m enjoying it,” he admits candidly.
Although in the early stages of Farro and the recording of their debut album ’Walkways’ he did at least temporarily have the familiar presence of brother Zac to work with. “He played on my album for all except two songs. So he was creatively involved in that aspect of it as far as the drums and coming up with the drum beats. Which I think is a vital part of an album,” Farro explains.
For now Farro has got used to writing, recording and touring without his sibling. Even if it created one of his new band’s first dilemmas. “It was like ‘man, how am I going to find a drummer as good as my brother?’ Now I don’t really think about it as I’ve got Tyler and he’s such a great drummer. Once I get on stage I’m not thinking ‘man, I wish Zac was here’,” he says.
Touring internationally for the first time has given Farro the chance to really cement his relationships with all the members of his new outfit, and get back the bandmate interaction he had missed. “It does help having the band guys with me. They’re a bunch of my friends from Nashville that love to play music and they love my music. They’re great players and singers and I think that helps. It feels like a band to me, it doesn’t really feel like just my thing. They’re all working just as hard as I am,” he observes.
But putting a new band together hasn’t been Farro’s only challenge, so was adjusting to his own vocals being the focal point of the music and finding his own style. "I think I’m still finding it. With all singers; like this is kind of a strange example, but John Mayer sounds so different on his first album then he does now. Because he’s grown so much. It’s a journey, I’m finding my voice and its really fun but challenging at times,” Farro admits.
Finding his voice was just one piece of the puzzle. Farro happily waxes lyrical about the processes involved in finding the other areas of his sound. He goes on to reveal “I still feel like my stuff is pretty simple, but leans towards more experimental textures. That was from having freedom to do that and being like ‘oh man, I can do what I want’. If I want to put pedal steel guitar on something and make it really vibey and ambient I can do that. It can sound cool and not country. If Bon Iver can make it sound like that, then so can I. The guy that played it isn’t playing all twangy slides, it’s real smooth swells and ambient sounds. Almost like a pad, so it gives a really cool ethereal sound.”
Despite all the experimentation, Farro still maintains a very direct philosophy to his songwriting – and one that continues to serve him well: “I write what I love and I feel songs generally write themselves in a sense. You just need to pick the best parts. There are so many options for chord structures, but you pick the ones that feel best to you,” he explains, the passion for his craft resonating from his words.
It isn’t only in the studio where Farro has had to adjust to new environments. Building his new project from the ground up has seen him back playing the sort of smaller intimate venues his previous band had long since left behind. “I know it’s awesome! I prefer to play where I feel like I can really interact with people, I don’t like being miles away. It’s cool and it’s refreshing” he enthuses, relishing the return of the personal touch of the shows he’s now playing.
As well as giving Farro and his band the chance to strengthen their relationships, being on tour overseas has also given them some distance from the political turmoil left behind Stateside when they departed. “I was talking to my wife about it,” he recalls. “I was like ‘I’m going to be leaving right after the election and it’s not going to be a fun one either’. It was weird, but once I was on the plane I was focused on the UK and it was kind of nice actually. There is so much drama tied to all of this political stuff. I feel it’s kind of nice to get away and be in another country and let it all settle. Let the dust settle and then I’ll come back… Oh who am I kidding it’s America it won’t be like that!”
The politics of the music business and being in a band can get as heated as any election, something which if the rumours are to be believed Farro knows only too well. But Josh seems entirely happy with his current lot and his future prospects. He even refuses to rule out sharing stages with his former bandmates in the future. “I’d definitely tour with Halfnoise. If Paramore wanted to tour with us, I’d tour with them too,” he says with a wry smile.
’Walkways’ by Farro is available now.
Words by Dane Wright (@MrDaneWright)