UK-to-Nashville transplant Josh Doyle was recently named the Grand Prize Winner of the inaugural “Guitar Center Singer Songwriter” competition. In this special guest blog, the former Dum Dums frontman shares the inspiration behind his upcoming album.
How “The Hunger Games” Influenced My Debut Solo Record
Alicia Keys claims her new album had nothing to do with the best-selling novel/blockbusting movie, The Hunger Games in spite of its title Girl On Fire being heavily associated with its heroine.
I want to give credit where credit is due. The Hunger Games, first as an audio book and later as a movie, kinda spoke to me while I was writing and recording my eponymously titled debut album.
In February I was the Grand Prize Winner of the very first national “Guitar Center Singer Songwriter” competition. In the space of a whirlwind 6 months, I have gone from being a server in an Italian restaurant in Nashville, to performing my single on Jimmy Kimmel Live and making an album with producer and hitmaker John Shanks (Van Halen, Keith Urban, Sheryl Crow, Goo Goo Dolls). In fact, while I was recording at Henson Studios (with heroes Leland Sklar, Matt Chamberlain, Dean Parks and Patrick Warren as my band), I was getting the red eye home on the weekend to make it back for my weekend shifts! I guess even this corresponds with the Hunger Games‘ story, a kid gets thrust into the limelight, removed from their natural habitat with only their survival skills (three chords and the truth?) to get them through. Though I wouldn’t have made it far in the cornucopia with a Martin D18 and a G7th capo to defend myself against rabid teenagers with samurai swords.
I listened to the audio book of The Hunger Games on my way to and from work for several weeks (the audio book being 8 glorious hours long and my drive to work 20 dull minutes). It was in a lot of ways the highlight of my day, my escape from the savage brutality of the restaurant industry into a less frightening dystopian future where random children are forced to fight to the death. The theme that I really engaged with on those trips back and forth was the struggle to keep your dignity, humanity and the “real you”in a savage world.
I have a song on my record called “The Meaning Of Life.” On your debut album you dont want to get too ambitious, right? “The Meaning Of Life” goes through life from getting out of school to pretty much when you die and tries to make sense of it. The song touches on the fact that we live in a savage world and the powers that be, The Capitol in The Hunger Games, or whoever the leaders are in our part of the world, want control. In fact, the perfect citizen would be a mindless consumer, led by their base instincts to buy what they want, satiate their needs however they want within the limits of the law. It’s all to drive the economy and keep the powers that be in power. Of course, there really isn’t room for the individual when talking about the “powers that be” and the “masses that lead lives of quiet desperation”. In spite of that, you have to try to keep your dignity, humanity and the “real you”in tact. That is what gives you your integrity and your unique fingerprint on the earth. I feel like that message is the same in my record and Suzanne Collins’ novel.
In my record I write about love, loneliness, searching for meaning, suicide, ending relationships that were supposed to last forever. My song “Figured The World Out” has dystopian lyrics that could have come right out of the Hunger Games‘ universe, “I get so angry at this space age, this flesh-meat hit parade, this bargain bin filled to the brim of used up yesterdays. Weekdays under flourescents, in our favourite office chairs, while they tear down the old buildings, sucking memories from the air…” As a songwriter a dystopian universe is far more appealing to an “everything’s great” world. Because, let’s face it, everything isn’t great, and you have manufactured boy bands to tell you to be happy. As a singer songwriter, I want to get to the bottom of myself, and hopefully you will figure things out about you to help you get through life.
During the recording of the album, on one of our lunch breaks (which had involved the greatest first hand stories about everyone from James Taylor to Kurt Cobain – seriously, google my band members) I got the chance to say “hi” to Liam Hemsworth who played Gale in The Hunger Games movie. I texted a girl or two back at the restaurant to see what kind of abuse I would get thrown at me as I take it he is seen as one of those pin-ups now. Well, as part of the conversation, someone mentioned Hunger Games in the same breath as Twilight and I jumped on that one. Come on, man! Twilight is about twinkly vampires and a girl trying to hold on to her virginity… thats the entire plot!