Currently on a co-headlining tour with electronic music trio Autograf, Los Angeles-based music producer Josh Legg is a USC alumnus whose sun-soaked beats embody laid-back West Coast vibes. Known by his stage name Goldroom, Legg has recently released his highly anticipated debut album West of the West after the success of his four-track EP It’s Like You Never Went Away. In an exclusive interview with the Daily Trojan, Legg spoke about his new project and current tour.
Daily Trojan: In what ways did attending USC influence your career and your music?
Josh Legg: Music was always something I did on my own. I never thought it would become my profession. It was always something that was very private for me, but while I was at ’SC I started to record. I was writing sort of on my own, and my friend Kyle, who was in the music program, had gotten a copy of Logic, a digital audio workstation, and we bonded over that. So suddenly I had a much more powerful recording tool, and I started to write and record a lot more. It just so happened he was the guy I started a business with, a record label that took me down the path of becoming Goldroom. So without being at ‘SC and without Kyle working in the music program, I don’t think any of that stuff would’ve ended up happening.
DT: Can you tell me a little bit more about your record label Binary Entertainment?
JL: Yeah, it was an important time in my life. I think I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. The fact that Goldroom exists is a testament to that. Kyle and I started Binary Entertainment because we thought that electronic music was going to become a big deal around the world, which ended up proving to be true. But, we attacked at the wrong time, and I don’t think that Los Angeles or the rest of the world was ready for what we were trying to do at that time. I have a lot of memories from 2009 of trying to throw shows on the Eastside. People would laugh us off the stage because the band we were working with had laptops and all this stuff, which at the time was weird. They just weren’t ready for it. However, we worked really hard and I learned a ton. Everything I learned led me to approach Goldroom from a prudent, smart perspective. Though the label never totally clicked, it was a great learning experience.
DT: Are there any musical influences in your life right now that have been affecting your recent work?
JL: It’s funny because when people ask me that question I answer in two ways. Half the time I just say flat out no because I like to think that usually the people that I’m going to for influence are from a long time ago. My heroes are classic songwriters like Tom Petty or Curtis Mayfield or Bob Dylan. These are the people that I really want to influence my songwriting the most. One of the most dangerous things you can do is chase trends and to think about what your peers are doing. But the funny thing is, I was a blogger for a long time. I love finding new music, and I’m a total digger. So I’m always finding tracks that inspire me and make me excited. A lot of my favorite new music is stuff that my friends are making. The Classixx album that came out earlier this year is fantastic. The list kind of goes on and on.
DT: How did this current co-headline tour with Autograf get put together?
JL: Essentially, it came together because we are both represented by the same agency. I wish that I had a more romantic story about it. We knew that we were going to be doing a tour this fall because I recently put out an album. I spent three years putting this record together, and it’s a real statement for me. I knew I needed a tour this fall, and the Autograf guys wanted to go on tour, so our agents played matchmaker and put us together.
DT: What do you want people to take away from your show?
JL: When we play music and present ourselves in a live setting, it’s a full band show. There’s no mystery going on up there about where the sounds are coming from. We’re playing what you hear and singing the songs I wrote for everyone. There’s a lot of live electronic music DJs that are a dude behind a bunch of stuff, and it’s hard to know necessarily what’s going on. With us, I’m standing with a guitar in front of a microphone singing the songs. I’m really proud of the musicians I get to play with everyday so I hope people take away that it’s possible to play this kind of music in a live setting. It’s more meaningful and emotional to see somebody really pour their heart out with the music they’ve written themselves.
DT: In the past you’ve worked with Snapchat and created the full-length film It’s Like You Never Went Away. Do you have any plans to do something similar with the new album?
JL: Yeah, I’d love to do more stuff like that. One thing I did for this tour actually was I partnered with Bacardi and made a music video for “Lying To You.” But, I’m always interested in the technology aspect. We did a one-of-a-kind thing where we gave away tickets to the tour on my website. But, they were hidden in a way that no one had ever done on a website before. You could only access the secret page on the website if you were in HTML mode on Google Chrome. After we launched that, people spent a few days trying to find the hidden tickets and eventually people were able to. I like trying interesting technological things to go along with the music, so that was our little foray into that.
DT: Do you have a dream collaborator? Is there anyone specific you’d like to work with in the future?
JL: I would probably say that my dream collaborator is somebody that the world doesn’t know yet. I’ve always taken a real pride in finding up-and-coming singers that nobody has heard of. I get the opportunity to work with somebody who’s really hungry and introduce them to the world and help their career out. When I’m thinking about who I’m excited to write with next, I’m always daydreaming about the undiscovered gem. I’ve gotten the opportunity to work with some bigger names along the way, and that’s cool. I’m sure that I’ll to continue to do that as well, but my dream collaborator is a person I haven’t met yet or don’t know about.
DT: Do you have any advice for young musicians and music students that want to break into the industry?
JL: Years ago, everybody understood that you have to spend 10,000 hours learning an instrument and perfecting your craft, but now there’s the belief that if you have a laptop and learn Ableton, all you have to do is make one song. If it’s good enough, you can launch your career, and everything goes from there. But, my biggest piece of advice is to understand that what you’re going to make is probably going suck. It’s going to take you a long time to make something good. Even at this point in my life when I’ve made thousands of songs, for every 100 ideas I start, 99 of them suck. One of them is OK, and then, if I’m lucky, that turns into a finished product. You need perseverance and understanding that hard work is really important. Secondly, people should know that style and sound really don’t matter as much as good honest songwriting.
DT: So what’s next for you after the tour finishes?
JL: The muscle in my brain that really wants to songwrite is telling me to get back into the studio. I’m actually really excited to come off the tour and get in the studio right away, because there are remixes I want to work on. I’ve finished this record, so now I want to figure out what the next thing is. I also really want to start DJing again, because we’ve been playing live so much. DJing has always been super meaningful to me. When I started Goldroom the point was that I could DJ more, which is funny, because now it’s so much more than that.
Goldroom will perform in Los Angeles on Nov. 3 at The Novo.