Josh Dillard had to laugh.
He stood in his Cleveland apartment one winter morning in 2003, and while brushing his teeth, he began laughing.
In an hour or so, he’d be in the post office, and in the next couple of hours, he’d be delivering mail.
By the time he returned to his apartment, some 13 to 14 hours later, exhaustion would bar him from working on the one thing he had come to Cleveland to do: music.
The irony of it all hadn’t yet driven him entirely insane, but right then, Dillard couldn’t help but laugh at his situation, a time he recalls as one of the darkest in his life.
Dillard, today, is a soft-spoken 27-year-old CSU graduate with a degree in social work. These days he serves with Timberline Church and CSU’s Campus Navigators, yet finds plenty of time to practice his craft.
His weapon of choice is a Gibson 45, and when combined with his feathery-bare vocals, he has produced a coffeehouse acoustic sound that has defined his first album, “The Kate EP.”
While he says his sound isn’t original, “The Kate EP” has fared successfully for Dillard since its release a full year ago, drawing an audience and recognition from Fort Collins’ local music scene.
This Saturday, he’ll be appearing at Everyday Joe’s for a 7:00 p.m. performance.
While Dillard has enjoyed the emerging success, he says he owes much of it to those darker times in life.
“Sometimes, we don’t seek the things we need when we live comfortable,” Dillard said. “We need to be challenged before we realize it, before we look into ourselves.”
Running down a dream
Six months prior to his giggling-toothbrush revelation, Dillard had completed an unfulfilling freshman year at CSU.
“I had completely set my mind on leaving school to pursue music,” Dillard said. “We were young, na’ve.”
With his best friend Dan Graeve alongside him, Dillard dropped out and took to Cleveland, floating on dreams of bringing together a band and signing with a label.
There, he and Graeve conspired with Dillard’s cousins, forming Beggars & Thieves. Mere months into existence, Dillard’s group quickly fell apart.
“(Graeve) left pretty early. Probably three or four months after we moved out there, he went back to (CSU),” Dillard said.
It was the beginning of darker days for Dillard. Graeve’s departure, he says, got him thinking about his own existence, bounded to Cleveland by a year-long lease, taken up with the long hours of various odd jobs which included the role of mailman.
“After three months at the post office, it just got too hard,” Dillard said. “I was living by myself, not seeing anybody, working crazy hours . I decided I needed to get out.”
In the summer of 2003, Dillard made his way back home to Fort Collins, were he worked for a year and a half before returning to CSU.
With a degree in one hand and his Gibson in the other, Dillard said that he has turned his attention to the art of sharing.
“I try to use the small Gibson I have as a vessel to love people, to help people get into the music,” Dillard said. “When I’m playing an instrument to just share an experience, I just hope someone could grab onto a little bit of wisdom from a trial I’ve gone through.”
Dillard said he is also focused on his church and the Campus Navigators, sharing his beliefs with others. Cleveland, he says, pushed him closer to God, and he’s considering a future as a missionary.
“I’ve gotten a lot closer to Christ,” Dillard said. “I’ve had a greater passion to know him personally, to share him with others, and I’m continuing to see that grow within me.”
And while Dillard says his beliefs have influenced his music, he refers to various life experiences as his music’s foundation.
Sharing is caring
His folksy acoustic sound is influenced by the likes of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon, while his lyrics are born out of experiences of both light and dark natures.
The entirety of “The Kate EP,” for example, centers on a previous relationship of Dillard’s.But there’s a certain responsibility in writing about oneself, he adds.
“I think a struggle for a lot of musicians is, for a lack of a better term, self-clarification,” Dillard says. “It’s easy for music and art to be about the artist, when it might have much more value from sharing that experience with someone that might gain from it.”
Dillard is currently writing music for a future album, and hopes to start production by the end of winter.
As for the future, Dillard has some sense of where he’ll be heading with his music. All it took was a year in the heart of rock n’ roll.
“The winds have changed since the beginning, my focus has shifted,” Dillard said.
“Music is no longer a priority of making a label, no longer the end-all-be-all. I’ve found other things in my life that mean a lot to me, and I always want those things to be a part of my life.”
Music of Dillard’s album “The Kate EP” can be heard at Dillard’s MySpace page and is available for purchase off of iTunes.
News Editor Erik Myers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org