Josh Kelley on Awakening Journey to ‘New Lane Road’
“I think I’ve finally grown up,” says 36-year-old Josh Kelley, comparing his current musical mindset to that of his 23-year-old self: the singer-songwriter who catapulted to pop stardom with 2003’s “Amazing.” “When I first started out, I had a big hit single and I felt like I pulled one over on everybody, like I didn’t deserve it. So I just kind of retreated.”
What came in the years after “Amazing” was what the Georgia native calls “boot camp”: a long period of personal and musical growth during which, with each sequential album, he gained a greater sense of security in his career. That maturity manifests itself in the introspective lyrics, the throwback grooves and the intricate, homemade production of Kelley’s eclectic eighth studio album New Lane Road, out April 22nd.
“This is the first time I am not just putting out a batch of songs that I like,” he explains, sitting in his publicist’s Nashville office. “These songs mean something as a whole; they’re all born out of the land we live on in Utah and the last three years of our experiences there.”
“We” is Kelley, his movie star wife Katherine Heigl and their two daughters, Naleigh and Adalaide. The family moved from Los Angeles to a ranch about an hour outside of Salt Lake City several years ago to get away from the traffic and back to nature. Kelley made most of the new album in his studio at their ranch — passing horses, pigs, goats and a majestic landscape on his way to make music every morning. “There’s all this beauty,” he says, “it’s impossible not to want to create.”
The album’s title track is named after the road that runs alongside their sprawling property – but was actually penned in Los Angeles. “I wrote that when I was yearning for home. It was a rainy day in L.A., and the lyrics were pouring out,” Kelley recalls. “I was thinking about [the ranch] in the morning when the sun glistens on the stream, and the blue skies. . . It’s one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and I love raising my babies there. This song is about being very thankful to live where we live.”
That love letter to home is accompanied by several songs inspired by Heigl — most of them romantic, like the strings-and-steel-laden ballad “The Best of Me” and harmony-heavy “Rock Who Found a Rolling Stone” — but one of them a heart-on-sleeve account of a huge fight they had at the beginning of their marriage. “It’s your move,” Kelley recalls saying to his wife during a heated yelling match. “And I was like, that’s a great song title, so I got out my phone. [Laughs] Well, that did not go over well!”