By Tracy Dietlin
Since moving to the desert from Memphis, Tennessee on his 26th birthday, back in May of 2001, Josh Heinz has become a fan favorite, a driving force and integral part of the CV music scene. I remember the first time I heard Heinz perform; I was so impressed with his passion for singing and his soulful grungy vocals, but most of all his lyrics. To this day his song “Sunburn in the Shade” is one of my Top 5 Favorite Songs from any performer ever.
Back in Memphis he performed with his band Wyndom Earle. A few years after moving here to the desert in 2004, he connected with Nathan Marchi, Dave Virginia and Greg Lesenjak , to form the band Dufreign. Then in 2009, he formed Blasting Echo with Mondo Flores and Jeff Fortson. Later, his future wife Linda Lemke, would join the band in 2011. Moving forward, Josh also became part of the band 5th Town with his wife Linda, Chelsea Sugarbritches, Troy Whitford, Martin Barrera and Mondo Flores.
Heinz was performing on a regular basis at venues across the CV with both Blasting Echo and 5th Town until the quarantine happened and he and Linda started doing virtual concerts on FB live to keep their fans involved and happy.
Heinz along with all of his bands have been nominated for numerous CV Music Awards over the last 7 years and in 2018 he took home the award for Best Live Music Event for his Concert for Autism Benefit. Heinz started and has been producing this popular and very successful benefit every year for the last 12 years along with his wife Linda, as it holds a very special place in both of their hearts. The couple have been together for 10 years and met because they both have autistic sons. They are raising Linda’s teenage son Jimmy and her son Christopher who has autism and together they have a young son Jack.
Heinz was also one of CV Weekly’s Top 10 Men in 2015. He has released the following albums: Wyndom Earle- Out of the Garmonbozia /Dufreign – Far Too Long/ Blasting Echo – The End is Still So Far/ Blasting Echo – Uso-tsuki Mendax/ 5th Town – Road to Nowhere
NOW, Heinz is releasing his first solo album, Made in Memphis 2003, which is available Thursday, June 11 on several musical platforms.
Listening to the album, you can hear in his older music where Blasting Echo was born; remnants of grunge swirled with alt garage rock. It is truly vintage Josh Heinz; early 2000s raw alternative rock at its finest. The track “Bottle it Up,” which is the only track that made it on to a Blasting Echo CD, this version is more raw and stripped down than the Blasting Echo version.
A few of my favorites are: “The Same,” with the lyrics: The past is dangerous cuz that’s where I want to be. It’s melodic angst with a Weezer-ish feel.
“Under My Skin,” I love the electric guitar and Josh whispering some of the lyrics.
Heinz took some time to answer a few questions about the new CD and the CV Music Scene.
CVW: Tell us about your early years in Memphis with your band Wyndom Earle?
Heinz: “Like any young band, we were trying to discover ourselves and what we were together as a band. We were suburb kids trying to break into a world that we had no experience dealing with. We had a lot to learn. But for a time there we shared an intensity and belief that what we were doing really meant something. I think that our best performances were in practices, where we tried to figure out life together, with no outside influences.”
CVW: What made you move to the CV?
Heinz: “My first wife had family out here. Her daughter was about to start school and we made the decision that we would rather her be raised in an environment that wasn’t so racially divided – which unfortunately the Memphis area has a problem with. Wyndom Earle ran its course and it was time for a change.”
CVW: Talk about your early days here in the CV trying to break into the music scene and what it was like back then?
Heinz: “It took me a while to start playing here. Since I didn’t know anyone and there wasn’t any social media to connect with other musicians, I had no idea what and where the music was. I didn’t play out for the first time in the valley until sometime in 2003 at Frankie J’s, which was at the corner of San Pablo and 111, where Angel View is now. Through Frankie J’s I met Mike Mozingo’s band, Pause for Beer. They asked me to open up a show at Frankie’s with them and The Hellions. But it wasn’t until I played your Mystic Avalanche showcase in 2004 that I really got exposed to the scene and met the guys that started Dufreign with me.”
CVW: Who were some of your first allies in the music scene here as I do know back then it wasn’t that easy to connect and be part of if you weren’t “desert rock”?
Heinz: “I wouldn’t use the word allies, because that gives the connotation that it was competitive – and I feel like most of the musicians in the desert really pull for each other. For sure, you were one of the first people that really encouraged me. I would say that my biggest supporters in the early days were the guys that started Dufreign with me – Nathan Marchi, Dave Virginia and Greg Lesenjak. They lived here before me and for them to be into what a complete stranger was doing was a big encouragement. Certainly Ming Bob was supportive. The guys in The Hellions, Wiseman, Vega and Fateful Day were also super supportive.”
CVW: How was the music scene different in Memphis compared to the CV?
Heinz: “Much different. It is a big city. You have blocks of the city that had more live music venues than what we have in this entire valley. I can’t speak for the way it is now, but at the time you had North Memphis that was Metal/Hard Rock, you had Midtown Memphis where it was more punk and alternative. There was downtown where you had Beale with the Blues. The north end of downtown had venues with different types of music. Here, we have very few venues that will support live original music, so you go to any show – regardless of genre. In a big city, you can find whatever genre you want every weekend. Is that great to appease your tastes? Sure. But does it limit you from experiencing other great bands that play different things? Yes. So I feel like I’ve been exposed to more diverse music and people here in the desert than I ever would have been in Memphis. And that’s not because it wasn’t there. It’s because I had so many opportunities to listen to bands similar to my tastes, that I didn’t broaden my horizons. Here we have much more of a close knit music community.”
CVW: Let’s talk about this particular album and why you’re releasing it now and what it means to you?
Heinz: “These recordings have never had a release. Ironically, the title, “Made in Memphis 2003” might make you think I wrote the material there. But all of these were written here in the desert between 2001-2003. I just had no way of recording them here. I knew no one with a studio. I contacted Wyndom Earle’s producer, Robert Picon, to see if he could help me out. He is a fantastic and encouraging person. He agreed to do it on a shoe string budget, so I went back there in the spring of 2003 to record. We hired the drummer of his band, Dawayne Gaspard, to play the drums. Then my good friends and former bandmates from Wyndom Earle – Michael Spann and Von Ralls – came in to do leads. It was meant to be a calling card I could give to musicians here in the valley. That worked in a way. But once I got into a band, we started writing about what we were at the time – not what I was a few years before. Dufreign performed a few of these songs, but only re-recorded one of them. That is the same for Blasting Echo. Of the ten songs on the record, all but two of them have been played at some point. Most of them I’ve done acoustically.
“With digital distribution becoming more affordable, I figured why not put it out there? The pandemic provided me with time to focus on it and Michael was happy to master it for me. He has been super supportive of the project and I couldn’t have completed it without his help.”
CVW: How does this CD differ from the ones you’ve made since you moved to CA with your current bands?
Heinz: “The biggest difference is one word: collaboration. What I made in 2003 was primarily a singular vision, which was ok because these songs were written alone without a band. Fortunately, I had Robert, with Justin Short and Spann assisting, to give me some ideas during recording. Though with certain songs I want that singular vision, I appreciate the collaborative effort with bandmates much more. Certainly you want your bandmates to be into what you hear in your head, but you also want your bandmates to take what they hear and pull it in a direction you wouldn’t go. More often than not it makes the song better. You want that trust with the people you are making music with. And everyone gets more excited to play that song because they were a part of it; even if it is a tiny bit.”
CVW: What is your favorite track on this CD and why?
Heinz: “They all have special meaning to me, but I would have to say “Closure”. I think we’ve all had a moment in our life where we didn’t get closure with a certain person or situation that we probably needed. It was the first song I wrote after 9/11 and started out as a song addressing what 3000+ families and friends might have been experiencing after their loved ones were taken away from them so suddenly. Then part of the song became about my own personal need for closure. The song allowed me to have it.”
CVW: How does it feel to have this rich arsenal of songs over the years that fans love to hear?
Heinz: “I appreciate anyone who shows up to the shows – Blasting Echo or solo shows – and asks for a song that I created or had a hand in creating. I’m grateful. There is nothing like having a group of people at a show singing along with your lyrics.”
CVW: What are your favorite songs to perform live?
Heinz: “Right now my favorite songs to play are the newer Blasting Echo songs that will be on our next record: “Look Around,” “It Breaks,” “Cynic,” and “Make It Right” – amongst the others – these are songs that really excite me every time we play them.”
CVW: What do you feel are the best 3 songs you’ve ever written in that order and why?
Heinz: “I think that my ‘best’ songs depend on the listener. I appreciate the question, knowing full well that some people may not like any of them. And knowing that there are many more musicians than myself that deserve that question, and I’d love to hear their answers. If I had to pick 3 that I hope the message resonates the loudest, I would say “Closure,” “It’s Not My Time” and “Begin Again.”
CVW: You are a very active and passionate performer. How has it been for you doing the virtual shows versus the live shows?
Heinz: “I miss playing with the full band for sure. I miss the moments we share with each other when the music feels right and the energy in the room is powerful. I miss the volume and intensity. I can’t wait to get back in the room together. But these are challenging times, and I’m glad we have the virtual medium to play music together and share it with our family and friends.”
CVW: You and your lovely wife Linda perform in 2 bands together. How does that work for you?
Heinz: “In our household it works very well for us. We support each other’s passion. Playing music is a healthy outlet for us.”
CVW: Where are we with the Autism benefit for this year?
Heinz: “Right now we are in a holding pattern as far as the benefit. We’d love to have it, as long as it is safe. And I don’t believe we know enough about what is going on to commit to it. It seems like info is changing all the time. Do I have dates reserved for it? Yes. Will it happen? We just don’t know.”
The new album Josh Heinz Made in Memphis 2003 is available now at Apple Music, iTunes, Spotify and Google Play and is coming to all major streaming services shortly.
Go to: joshheinzmadeinmemphis2003.hearnow.com to preview and purchase.
For physical CD’s, contact Josh directly on FB.
To watch a short video go to: https://youtu.be/Zvrn38ExsHc