Local singer-songwriter makes his next big move with a new record
By Barbara Manning
Josh Funk has an affinity for creative self-promotion. Last year, while working at the local Kmart, Funk managed to talk his boss into letting him play in the store's jewelry and watch department. He maintains his professional Web site himself, and his MySpace page has received thousands of hits. He's played in front of thousands of people at Beale Air Force base for a Boy Scouts event and played at his high school graduation celebration, which Funk described as "surreal." Now, almost 25, the singer-songwriter is ready to celebrate the release of his third full-length solo record, The Face You Show Your Enemies, Feb. 24.
Although Funk is currently studying studio and electronic art at Chico State and working full time, he still manages to maintain a musical career that continues to expand. Regularly selling his songs via downloads on iTunes, gaining fans worldwide and organizing the packaging and distribution of his albums, he manages to do it all from the tidy little apartment he shares with his fiancée, Jenny. The new album features some “really excellent musicians that are living in L.A. now.” Working at home on his Pro Tools setup, recording basic tracks to a click track, and sending the music to Los Angeles for drums and bass has been a convenient way to record for Funk. “It is so nice collaborating with other people,” Funk says. “I got a lot of feedback over the two years while working on this album. This album is a mix of rock anthems and quirky, mellow songs.”
Funk’s music is a direct reflection of his own experiences, or how he imagines they could be. His lyrics focus on relationships, breakups and friendships, although he admits that his current stable relationship poses a challenge to his songwriting. The song “Silhouettes,” off the new album, takes a bit of a different approach, exploring what life after death might be like. “It’s about floating to heaven as if you were a paper cutout,” Funk explains. “Once you get there you’re waiting in line, surrounded by all these people--rabbis and priests and everyone--talking about what it’s going to be like, just waiting in line like you do in Disneyland. I don’t describe all of that in my song, but when I sing it, that’s what I picture.”
The only musical exposure Funk had as a child was listening to oldies stations in the car during family road trips. His mother would point out songs and tell him stories they reminded her of. “Every time a certain song would come on she would say, ‘I remember the first time I heard this! It was at a dance … ’ ” Funk recalls. “ She would associate them with memories and I learned songs from picturing her memories.” Funk fell into playing music in seventh grade after not making the cut for his school’s basketball team. “I wanted to be a sports guy so bad. I just didn’t have it. I think I cried.” Buying a guitar off of a neighbor for 10 bucks and taking six months of lessons, Funk realized he could figure out how to play songs he heard from records by ear. He quit the lessons and started playing Green Day songs with some friends. They practiced in a garage, preparing to play their first gig at a junior high assembly. But it was still undecided who was going to sing.
Each member took a turn at the microphone, trying to sound like Billy Joe Armstrong. Funk won out. And at 12, he was the lead singer of his first band, the Porcelain Tutus. “This was probably the most pivotal moment for me in my life,” Funk admits. “Had I not tried to sing then I would not be doing what I am right now.”
From there Funk played in several bands as members came and went. Just as he was starting college he joined Farewell Letter. Throughout his involvement with bands Funk continued a solo career, soon developing a devoted audience and eventually drawing standing-room-only crowds to his regular nights at the now-defunct Chico café The Daily Grind. After he sent his 2004 release, A Jukebox Envy, to an L.A. recording studio for mastering, the engineer, so impressed by what he had heard, told Funk that he wanted to share the finished CD with managers of acts like Melissa Etheridge and Maroon 5. It was after that when Funk was invited to record at Hollywood’s Swing House studio for four days on a track featured on their in-house compilation, which included the Goo Goo Dolls and Concrete Blond. But Funk’s big break came from a friendship he forged with a Chico magician, Wayne Houchin.
Funk and Houchin tied for first place in a talent contest in high school--Pleasant Valley--and now Houchin’s instructional and highly entertaining “illusion” DVDs sell by the thousands. Houchin requested that his friend’s music accompany two of his recent DVDs, which sold so many that servers crashed in the first hour. Now a whole lot more people have been exposed to Funk’s sound. But he doesn’t mind if his music is described as commercial. “I can tell you what my goal is as a songwriter: I want to sound commercial on the surface so that you can listen to it once and think it’s good. But I want there to be something not quite right about it,” Funk continues. “The listener should think ‘something is different here,’ whether it be in the lyrics or the way I sing them.”