“He is humble…he is grateful…he is talented…and he has a story all his own. These are qualities that allow for great things to occur.” -Justin Peters, President, ABET International Music Group/Songs For The Planet
“Joshua Morningstar is a young man with astonishing musical talent and a personal story thats downright inspirational. A self proclaimed ‘hoodbilly’, this singer/songwriter has earned the right to sing his songs that reflect true and often sad stories…yes, its hard to be objective about a guy like Joshua Morningstar-but its easy to admire his music and celebrate his journey.”-Elizabeth Rowland, Associated Press
Struggle. Pain. Sorrow. Addiction. Heartache. Death. Each one of the words above are emotions/situations all too familiar to Joshua Morningstar. Raised in the small town of Hagerstown, MD (pop. 24,000), Joshua discovered his love for music at an early age. Like so many before him, he grew up in the church choir, singing the hymns taught to him by his mother and great grandmother. At the tender age of 9, he received a guitar as a Christmas present, thus sending him forth on the journey that would consume the rest of his life. He learned the standards: “Your Cheating Heart,” “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” and many others, as well as more contemporary songs by artists such as Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Stone Temple Pilots. He’d spend countless hours locked in his bedroom: his creativity his refuge, the guitar his best friend; blending all of his influences while writing his first songs.
At the same time Morningstar was maturing, so was hip hop. The nursery-rhyme rap of the 80′s was now giving way to lyricists who explored turns-of-phrase and “flow”; gone were the simple rhymes of rappers like MC Shan and Sugar Hill Gang; in their place stood artists like Nas, Biggie Smalls, and Tupac Shakur, modern day poets who put their poetry to music. Joshua engulfed himself in the hip hop culture, going as far as starting a rap group with his best friend Bobby called IL Duce (pronounced ill-doo-chay; some of Morningstars hip hop music can still be found on the internet today if you look hard enough). However, no matter how far into hip hop he got, Joshua always came back to the stuff he grew up on, the old country music and southern rock of days past. THAT is where his heart truly lay.
Mixing all of his influences together like one big bowl of gumbo, Morningstar began recording his own albums and touring the east coast. His first album, the appropriately titled Contradiction, showed off both sides of his musical spectrum: half the album was radio-ready hip hop, the other half tear-in-your-beer honky tonk. Contradiction spawned the moderate hit “Home”, which was put into regular rotation on several stations in the Mid Atlantic region, including legendary rock station DC101. During this time, Morningstar continued to tour the east coast, both as a headliner and as an opener for national acts like The Kelly Bell Band, Rehab, Better Than Ezra, and Craig Morgan. Morningstar has also shared the stage with Bret Michaels, “Little” Jimmy Dickens, David Allan Coe, and Marty Stuart. In August 2013, it was announced that Joshua would be doing shows with acclaimed songwriter Billy Don Burns.
Shortly after the release of Contradiction, Morningstar began having seizures. To help with the pain he felt when coming out of the seizures, the doctors prescribed him the narcotic pain killer Vicodin. This would send Morningstar off on a three year battle with opiate addiction, culminating in heroin use and an overdose in a Baltimore gas station bathroom. “It was horrible,” Joshua said. “I wasnt myself. I lied, I stole, I did anything I could to get the next shot. I broke the heart of everyone I love. It cost me friends, relationships, and it almost cost me my life. I was very sick for a very long time. It got to a point where it was either get clean or die. So, on October 18, 2011, I got clean, and I havent touched an opiate since. If theres one thing I want people, especially someone currently fighting that devil, to take away from my music, its a sense of hope. Yes, alot of the songs are sad. Some, like “The Grip Of The Devil”, are very graphic in their description. But, look for the message inside the message. And I pray the message you find is one of hope. If I can beat it, so can you. Take it a day at a time. But you gotta want it. You have to do it for yourself. You cant get clean for anyone but you. And I hope you do.”
Since getting clean, life has been a whirlwind for Joshua Morningstar. He’s continued touring, and is currently in the process of writing and recording the followup to 2012′s critically acclaimed “Hymns For Heartache.” This time around, his instrumentation is a little different. “Have you ever heard the Neil Young song ‘The Needle And The Damage Done’?” Morningstar asks. “Theres a line in that song, ‘I hit the city and I lost my band;’ the singer lost his band bc of his struggle with the needle. Well brother, that line hits home. I lost my band bc of my addiction. So I had to figure something else to do. Thats when I started doing the one man band thing. If there was one good thing that came out of my struggle, it was that.” The “one man band thing” of which he refers to is a set up a little different than most people are used to seeing. Joshua sits on a kick drum, playing that with his right foot, while also playing a tambourine with his left, allowing him to keep a drum beat going while playing the guitar and singing. “Its cool, its different,” said Morningstar. “When I start my show, people are drawn into it bc most havent seen anything like it before. So their curiosity sucks them in. After that, hopefully the musics good enough to get them to stick around.”
In May of 2013, Joshua was approached by Justin Peters, President of Nashville-based music publisher Songs For The Planet. That same month, Joshua signed on as a songwriter with ABET International Music Group/Songs For The Planet. So far, the pairing has worked well for both parties. “Justin has helped me sharpen my writing, sorta ‘trimming the fat’ so-to-speak. I’ve learned alot from him in a short time, and hopefully the learning doesnt stop,” Joshua said. He also is an avid supporter of Sheree Spoltore’s Global Songwriters Connection, a songwriters assistance group. “Sheree is an amazing lady, and shes helped me out so much, not just as a writer but as a friend. If youre a songwriter and you wanna go to the ‘next level’, I highly recommend GSC. Tell her I sent ya.”
Struggle. Pain. Sorrow. Addiction. Heartache. Death. Joshua Morningstar has been there, and his music reflects his journey. Luckily, he’s on a different path now, and the road ahead looks wide open. “I’m just happy to still be here. I could’ve died several times, but for some reason, I didnt. I guess someone up theres looking out for me. I’m glad they are. Its changed my outlook on life. My music is my life, but its not my reason for living. That would be my kids and my wife. Ive got an amazing family. So, anything that happens career-wise is just icing on the cake. If I never have that ‘big hit’, thats ok. I’m still gonna wake up every day with a smile on my face, next to a beautiful woman that loves me. I’m still gonna walk downstairs every morning and see the most beautiful smiles in the world on my kids faces. And thats whats important.”