a young man's take on old man's music
By Spencer Brown
On paper, Joshua Cockerill is a study in contradictions. He’s a young kid playing an old man’s music, an Albertan walking the streets of Toronto. Why would someone in their early twenties write songs that befit someone in middle age’s life and losses? And why the hell would you move to a city where every gas station has its own suburb?
Joshua Cockerill was able to combine each aspect in sincere songs. He doesn’t sound like a kid trying hard to learn daddy’s records and he doesn’t put on a faux-Albertan accent (because there isn’t one) in order to Westernize himself amongst the throngs of the Big Smoke.
“I got into music because my older brothers moved away to University,” reflects Cockerill. “They both moved away at the same time and to escape being the only kid in the house, escape my parents, I picked up my older brother Greg’s guitar and taught myself to play. I taught myself John Lennon songs for a year.” Like many musicians, Cockerill owes his existence to an old guitar, the Beatles and his older brother.
Eventually, the youngest brother himself felt the pull of post-secondary and moved to attend Humber College. He took a degree in music, but rather than the usual classical or jazz training, Cockerill chose to study Contemporary Music, a new program at the Toronto-based school. “I kept my head down and did the work, but I took what was applicable to me because I had a clear idea of what I wanted,” Cockerill recalls. ith the right balance of the studious and the rebellious, Josh was able to take both a degree and a direction with his education.
Outside of school, Cockerill spent time learning tricks of the trade from fellow musicians. “The best way to learn is to spend time with them. So, I hung around Luke Doucet, David Baxter (who co-produced Cockerill’s record), Justin Rutledge, Dustin Bentall and other Canadian roots musicians.” He also took inspiration from other musicians’ music, including “Hank Williams, Neil Young – he’s a big one for me – and Leonard Cohen.” It’s safe to say that studying the accessible allowed Cockerill to understand the unavailable.
Surprisingly, Cockerill is far younger than his experience would suggest; “I’m in my early twenties, but I’ve been doing this for eleven years. It’s not a lot of time, but it’s a good start.” In addition, Cockerill credits “strokes of luck here and there. When I moved to Toronto I got lucky, I got a Monday night residency. No one came because it was a Monday but I knew I had a pretty big learning curve, so I was taking practice and putting it to good use.”
Cockerill also credits his home town for developing his style. “I love the music that’s made in Calgary; it’s a huge influence on me and is much different from what I get in Toronto.”
In the face of his first tour, Cockerill is optimistic. “I’m taking a power trio and even then it takes a long time to get (my music) out there but if you put on a good enough show you win people over and then next time and the next time. It’s numerous tries but you have to start somewhere.”
Like much of himself, Joshua Cockerill sums up his music in a wise-beyond-his-years manner: “I think there’s an appeal in seeing a younger person play roots music. To younger people it’s a new thing and to older people, it’s refreshing.”