Bridges Café is a hallowed McMaster destination for thoughtful conversation and inspiring performances. On Oct. 16, Toronto singer-songwriter Josh Taerk continued both of these traditions by bringing his musical storytelling into the space as part of the Coffee House Tour for his latest album, Beautiful Tragedy.
The tour will take Taerk and his band to university towns across North America where he’ll play stripped down versions of his rock-influenced music in campus coffeehouses. He was inspired to tour coffeehouses after playing shows at universities in the United Kingdom.
[spacer height="20px"]“Really it was a matter of getting in front of the right people…[U]niversity students really loved the music and they were getting behind [the] stories and they could connect with the things that I was saying and the experiences that I was presenting to them in the songs,” Taerk explained.
Taerk uses music as a communication tool. As a songwriter who writes from his own experiences, the connection to the stories in his songs is important. He wants his audiences to feel the full range of emotion that drives his songwriting and life itself.
There were a lot of experiences and emotions that were poured into Beautiful Tragedy as Taerk underwent changes in the three years since his debut, Here’s to Change.
“[D]uring that time it was… more of a self-discovery process than it was a musical discovery process… I learned so much more about the kind of artist that I wanted to be and the person that I wanted to be… The songs on that album and specifically the title track [were inspired by] that change of thought and that change of approach,” said Taerk.
One of the milestones from Taerk’s first to second album was his involvement in production. This provided him a chance to put forth his specific vision for three of Beautiful Tragedy’s tracks.
Like any new undertaking, this role came with challenges. Going from the perspective of an artist making music that he likes, Taerk found that the role of co-producer forced him to look at his songs collaboratively and feature multiple interpretations and skillsets.
Taerk also approached this album with the desire of paying his respects to the music that inspired him growing up. Some of his earliest memories consist of his parents playing their favourite records from artists like Hall & Oates and Bruce Springsteen. These musicians inspired him to start playing guitar.
“I'm a really big believer that everything happens for a reason…[T]he first guy that ever taught me how to play was more interested in teaching me the fundamentals of structuring chords before he taught me how to solo… I realized very quickly that in order for people to know what song I was playing… I would have to sing over it,” Taerk recalled.
“I started to write my own lyrics… [T]o to be able to take experiences that I was having and people very close to me were having and be able to put them into these little two, three minute stories and send them out into the world, it was just the best feeling in the world. And so I just knew that I had to keep doing it.”
By continuing to tell stories through music, Taerk has had the opportunity to travel to cities across the United Kingdom and North America. One of the stops still on his list is the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey. He would love to play the venue where Bruce Springsteen made a name for himself in his hometown as an homage to his father’s love of Springsteen.
For now, Taerk will keep writing, playing and singing in coffeehouses and bars across North America. Plugging himself into these various cities and cultures only fuels the creative and lyrical storytelling that Taerk produces.