Josh Kempen speaks with an unfamiliar accent, especially for a Jozi-born singer-songwriter. And it’s got something to do with having travelled the world, as far as I can tell. Having been nominated for a 2014 Wawela music award as “Songwriter of the year”, this guy’s obviously got something to say.
It’s not only his accent that intrigues me – Josh also has a very noticeable musical ‘voice’. Something that shouts “Jeff Buckley,” but doesn’t sound like a copycat act.
“I’m definitely very influenced by Jeff Buckley,” says Josh. “Specifically live, his Live At Sin-é recordings are probably my biggest inspiration in terms of live shows.”
“I also love earlier rock n roll when It was still quite tame and naïve and I think I capture that with a couple of my songs. Whatever I do, it’s important to me that there’s an edge to it, and that it’s in some way surprising. I think that’s the fastest way to get peoples attention and move them.”
“Love can save the world, and I guess music can foster love, so in that way it sure can.”
“I’m really just interested in a lot of sounds, so I’ve always been quite eclectic with my music. I also just don’t like the idea of playing the same sort of songs again and again. So I switch back and forth [between styles], but either way I hope there’s progress!”
This back-and-forth works well to not only keep his shows exciting, but also make him versatile enough to play both afternoon slots like OneSight Acoustics, as well as Saturday night rock parties.
“I’ve only lately found myself playing later time slots – the sort of ‘party’ slots where people are ready to move and make noise and I really love it.”
“But I’ll always play my full set, so you’ll be dancing and then I might play a really soft song or tell a story; I hope that’s okay.”
On Sunday, Josh is playing at The Good Luck Bar for OneSight Acoustics, helping raise funds for a global nonprofit which provides sustainable access to quality vision care and eye wear to those who cannot afford it or do not have access to it. Freshlyground, Bongeziwe Mabandla and DJ Half n Half will also be performing.
“It’s really important.”
“I’ve been thinking pretty hard about how pursuing music can serve people because sometimes it feels quite selfish, but I’m still searching and I know deep down that this is what I need to be doing, and it’s why I’ll keep doing it for a long time, maybe forever.”
“But things like OneSight, it just feels really good to directly help people out. So thank you so much for giving me that opportunity.”
Josh Kempen is a singer-songwriter from Johannesburg. He’ll be appearing this Sunday (27 November) at The Good Luck Bar in Johannesburg. The event is up on Facebook and you can get tickets right here.