“Music has always been the thing that I went to bed thinking about. I [wake] up, singing,” Joshua Henry tells American Songwriter.
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For Henry, an acclaimed Broadway actor, melodies and soundscapes have been constant companions in his life. In fact, the musical polymath has been writing his own songs for almost 12 years, quietly penning tracks in his free time between shows. Yet his roles in productions like Scottsboro Boys and Hamilton (as Aaron Burr in the first U.S. tour) kept Henry’s solo musical career shelved. Until now.
Today (September 10), Henry is releasing his first solo album titled Grow, after releasing an early version of the record via his EP Guarantee. “This moment, and by this moment I mean last year when all my performances were paused, it was just a perfect moment to really get back to the thing that was my first love,” Henry says.
Finding the silver lining among the chaos is characteristic of the artist— it’s why his new album is packed with eager energy. Henry did clarify that this musical leap didn’t occur without a friendly shove. “Cathryn [Henry’s wife] was like, ‘Listen, you’ve been writing so much. You’ve been doing concerts here and there but when are you going to really give this album thing your all?’”
Now completed, Grow stands as a whirlwind of bold triumph and delicate emotion all packaged into nine tracks. “This album is completely from me, from my heart, and what I think about family, love, life, politics, and positivity. It’s completely Joshua,” the artist states.
Standout tracks from the record include the pop-infused soul anthem “Hold Me,” and Henry’s moving cover of The O’Jays “Stand Up.”
“As soon as I heard [the ‘Stand Up’ demo], I called my manager. I said, ‘I want to do this,’” Henry says. “It just lined up with who I am and who I wanted to be. The idea of if you have a heart, stand up. Do something to make your community a better place, your world a better place. And for me, that means looking at my life, and seeing what do I do well, and how can I serve with that.
“It made me think about the incredible artists and activist organizations in my Broadway community— organizations like Broadway Theatre United and Broadway Advocacy Coalition who are just doing incredible things for fairness and diversity and inclusion in my community. So it made me just look at my life and think about what are the ways in which I can serve.”
Other tracks on Grow match this level of passion. Henry describes “Love Me” as a “love protest song” inspired by the music and life of Curtis Mayfield. “Awe Of Her” is an ode to Henry’s wife and “Take My Breath Away” is a tribute to Henry’s first son, Samson, whose voice is featured on the track.
Overall, this record dives into every corner of love and how it appears in our lives. Henry also captures how love grows throughout different phases of life, hence the album title. “I’m just kind of obsessed with growth,” Henry says. “It’s what I talk about a lot on my social media and Grow seemed like the perfect title for this album because it’s the first time that I’ve talked about some of these subjects openly.”
Despite Henry’s pensive and careful approach to his debut solo album, the singer wants his listeners to know that he has a fun side, too. “Guarantee” is Henry’s moment to kick back and goof off with his listeners as the track swings with an upbeat tempo and a splash of rap verses. All in all, Henry reveals that his record is one that he can see being played anywhere— from “a SoulCycle class to a church to the club.”
Listen to Joshua Henry’s debut solo album, Grow, below.