Nebraska’s own genre-bending funk-fused outfit aims for an enduring classic with their fourth studio album, Natural Born Hustler. The five-piece band—comprised of Hoyer (keyboards/vocals), Blake DeForest (trumpet), Mike Keeling (bass), Benjamin Kushner (guitar), and Harrison ElDorado (drums)—boasts an eclectic sonic palette that transcends race, gender, or generation to deliver contemporary messaging through deeply-rooted musical tradition. (Read our review here).
Since their 2012 advent, Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal have continuously sought a community to embrace their original R&B jazz-funk sound. Being thrown into the blues circuit felt limiting, so when Hoyer was connected with a mutual friend and producer Eddie Roberts of Color Red, the band felt like they finally found an artistic home.
“Josh is a soulful powerhouse and a complete gentleman,” says Roberts. “Working with Josh and the band was one of the best musical experiences we’ve had at Color Red and encapsulates the label’s vision—collaborating with world-class musicians and making soulful music is the name of the game.”
With the help of Roberts as a producer, Hoyer achieved his long-time goal of translating his raw and authentic live sound into the studio format. The live show is where the band shines and the vision was met in the studio to capture the record straight-to-tape in an analog format on the studio’s Tascam 388. Recording live with minimal overdubs, the album evokes a natural feel that captures the band at their peak.
“I listen to records—I don’t do singles,” says Hoyer. “I look for cohesiveness and something that can be listened to on a road trip.”
After three full-length studio albums, including the 2016 release of Running for Love produced by Ken Coomer (Wilco, Uncle Tupelo) and recorded at Nashville’s historic Sound Emporium, Hoyer appeared as a contestant on NBC’s The Voice. With attention garnered from the show, the band embarked on their first European tour; a 27-city stint capped with a live album release from their show in Brussels, Belgium. In 2019, the band released Do It Now recorded at Silver Street in Ashland, Nebraska, and Make Believe Studios in Omaha, Nebraska.
Although Natural Born Hustler was penned pre-pandemic, much of the music seemed to prophesy the upheaval, allowing space for the listeners to heal. Songs like “Hustler,” resonate in their current context as a “go get ’em” anthem. “The Night” challenges listeners to let go, surrendering to the freedom of the unknown. “Automatic” references the steadfastness of family and loved ones during hard times.
Hoyer wielded his creativity as a haven through the madness of 2020, but he doesn’t fault those who had less fruitful experiences. “I understand wanting to have more destructive escapism,” he says. “But as a parent, you’ve got to maintain that positivity—shine a light for your kids even when you’re feeling frustrated.”
Though many of the tunes groove-oriented, “Ring the Bells” displays a more crafted approach. It nods to a range of Hoyer’s influences including The Band, The Staple Singers, and Tedeschi Trucks.
“I’m really proud of this one,” the artist admits. “The recording came off well, it encapsulated that traditional soul vibe we were going for. But it also feels fresh to me, not just repeating what’s happened before. Lyrically, it’s important to me, because it’s me coming to the realization that thankfulness is the root of happiness. Instead of worrying about the things that could go wrong, there is much to be tethered to and rooted in.”
Hoyer has been admittedly aggressive in his approach to political content in the past. “Sunday Lies” is his attempt to put forth thoughtful criticism of his personal perspective of the political world, creating constructive conversation rather than doom or disdain.
“I’m trying to make an inviting space for people,” Hoyer explains of his mellowed approach. “Usually I’m singing to people who are like-minded, and always reminding people of how shitty things are can be too heavy. So I’m trying to be more artful. Not to say there is not more work to do, but it requires unity.”
The album encompasses the myriad of experiences that are uniquely American, using varying sonic approaches to tell each story. Hoyer explains the album title does not refer to “the street hustler.” Rather, it’s “the independent artist that has to get out there and make things happen, the working single mother, someone who is not privileged who has to get out there and make things happen for themselves.”
Currently, the band is preparing old and new material alike for the upcoming 2021 tours once they can get back to work and is poised to lift people up and bring people together with their live show.
Hoyer adds, “This project has been shelved for so long, we didn’t tour on some of these tunes, so I’m looking forward to sharing these live in combination with some new material we will be recording with Eddie to release in the fall.”