Josh Christina to reignite clas­sic rock and roll rhythms in Port De­posit

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“One of th­ese days I’ll pass away, but in your mem­ory I’ll stay,” sings Josh Christina on his lat­est sin­gle “Old Pi­ano,” a sweep­ing, bluesy bal­lad told through ag­ing ivory keys. Christina’s mu­sic re­cap­tures the clas­sic rhythms of mid-cen­tury rock and roll, re­vi­tal­iz­ing a genre that may sound fa­mil­iar to older folks and re­fresh­ingly new to younger au­di­ences.

A Mary­land na­tive born in 1995, Christina has played hun­dreds of shows in the last decade. To­mor­row, he’ll add one more — an out­door gig at Lee’s Land­ing Dock Bar in Port De­posit.

Christina heard the hits of Elvis Pres­ley nearly a half­cen­tury af­ter the rock and roll icon achieved leg­endary sta­tus. It was Dis­ney’s Lilo and Stitch that in­tro­duced him to “Heart­break Ho­tel,” “Hound Dog” and other tracks. From there, he im­mersed him­self in the genre, dis­cov­er­ing stars like Lit­tle Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry who he now cites as in­flu­ences.

It was the raw en­ergy, he said, that sparked his pas­sion.

“Th­ese artists just had some­thing that they just wanted to ex­press,” Christina said in an interview. “They were just hav­ing a good time and re­ally just do­ing some­thing that hadn’t been done be­fore.”

He started play­ing pi­ano in his teens af­ter see­ing the Broad­way musical “Mil­lion Dol­lar Quar­tet,” which fea­tures Elvis and Jerry Lee as well as Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. Grow­ing up in a musical house­hold — his mother sang in clubs up and down Mary­land, from D.C. to Philadel­phia — he was en­cour­aged to fol­low his dreams

While ev­ery­one knows the names of the rock and roll greats, Christina keeps the flame of the genre burn­ing with his orig­i­nal mu­sic.

He thinks the style is due for a come­back be­cause the sound of­fers some­thing new to younger gen­er­a­tions.

“Peo­ple younger than me and peo­ple my age, up to maybe their early thir­ties — a lot of them don’t re­ally know rock and roll,” he said. “For me, it wasn’t like I was do­ing it be­cause I was try­ing to tap into a mar­ket. It was just what I like to do when I write. I al­ways had it in me.”

Christina counts El­ton John among his more re­cent in­flu­ences, and brings

ROCK

el­e­ments of the su­per­star’s flashy stage pres­ence to his own live shows. Fans of all ages crowd to­gether for El­ton John, some­thing Christina has seen at his own per­for­mances.

“It’s a whole range of peo­ple,” he said. “That’s re­ally cool, be­cause I don’t think there’s a lot of musical gen­res that can do that.”

In 2015, he cut his al­bum “Good Old Love” with Dolly Par­ton pro­ducer Kent Wells, which served as his de­but in Nashville. He went to Mem­phis to record his next record, “In­stincts,” in 2018. He has toured around the world and around his home state, and said he loves to per­form in front of a crowd.

Be­ing on stage, clears his head.

“You’re up there, you’re into the mu­sic, you’re into what you’re do­ing, you’re into the en­ergy,” he said. “With a good en­ter­tainer, they can cre­ate en­ergy or elec­tric­ity be­tween them and the crowd.”

He pulls from his in­flu­ences to craft his per­for­mance style, bor­row­ing the en­ergy of Elvis and the over-the-top out­fits and mid-song stunts of El­ton John. He said it took he said, him years to fig­ure out what he brought to live shows to make them unique and let him ex­press him­self.

“Ev­ery artist has some­thing they do that might take them a while to fig­ure out, but peo­ple like it and peo­ple want to come back and see that artist do it again,” he said. “For me it’s just re­ally just rip­ping up the keys and do­ing the stunts — putting my leg up on the pi­ano, lay­ing un­derneath the pi­ano play­ing, stuff like that.”

He says he hopes au­di­ences leave feel­ing ex­hil­a­rated.

“It’s my job as an artist to do the best job I can so that those peo­ple can leave that show feel­ing pumped up and charged and in a good mood,” he said. “If peo­ple have a long week and they’ve had a rough time they want to come to a con­cert and just let loose and be kind of taken out of them­selves for a while.”

In the mu­sic busi­ness, per­se­ver­ance and hard work are the keys to suc­cess, Christina said. It takes many per­for­mances to set­tle into the rhythm of what works, what gets au­di­ences ex­cited and what feels nat­u­ral.

To up-and-com­ing artists, he has three words — keep truck­ing away.

“Re­ally learn to trust your gut and be con­fi­dent in your­self,” he said. “In the mu­sic busi­ness, you don’t re­ally know what makes a hit. You don’t re­ally know what makes an artist pop and be that next big thing. The big­gest thing is you just have to stick to who you are.”

Amid the COVID-19 pan­demic, many of Christina’s plans for the year ground to a halt in the spring. He’s been play­ing more lo­cally, stick­ing to gigs that are out­side. He’s been play­ing more solo shows, some­thing he said he’s not used to — typ­i­cally, he has at least a bass player and drum­mer on stage to back him up on the pi­ano.

“It’s been dif­fer­ent,” he said. “It’s a new thing that I’ve just kind of adapted to with quar­an­tine just to at least find an ex­cuse to play.”

Au­di­ences are usu­ally dis­tanced and masked up — but still crave the live show ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Peo­ple want to get out and see live mu­sic. I think the longer the COVID thing went on, peo­ple were crav­ing that,” he said. “Peo­ple love the com­mu­nity, peo­ple love be­ing there in per­son.”

With the stress of his tour sched­ule in­ter­rupted, Christina has found more time to fo­cus on his so­cial me­dia, as well as to work on up­com­ing projects. He plans to put out a new al­bum next year, and hopes to head­line some casi­nos and other venues af­ter he can hit the road again.

And while he dropped his sin­gle ‘Old Pi­ano’ last month, he has found it harder to write re­cently. He said that he’s miss­ing his usual in­spi­ra­tions.

“I’m al­ways around peo­ple in dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments, and that’s how I write — it’s some­thing I might see or hear or ex­pe­ri­ence. With COVID, I haven’t re­ally had that,” he said. “It was kind of like Ground­hog Day there for a lit­tle bit. It was the same day over and over again.”

Still, Christina is ex­cited to get back on stage and break his au­di­ences out of that never-end­ing cy­cle. For rock and roll lovers in Ce­cil County who may be sick of stay­ing at home, he hopes they’ll turn out to see his pas­sion for per­for­mance.

De­spite the flashy cos­tume, Christina said, the core of the mu­sic is raw and real.

“All of my mu­sic and who I am on stage is all au­then­ti­cally who I am,” he said. “The im­age is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. I’m ob­vi­ously not walk­ing around in se­quined shirts when I’m not on stage. I do try to play it up on stage, but the mu­sic is def­i­nitely me.”

Catch Josh Christina at Lee’s Land­ing Dock Bar in Port De­posit to­mor­row, Septem­ber 26 start­ing at 1 p.m.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF JEREMY RYAN

Josh Christina re­leased his sin­gle ‘Old Pi­ano’ in Au­gust.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF JOHN BOW­ERS

Af­ter hear­ing Elvis Pres­ley’s leg­endary tracks ‘Heart­break Ho­tel’ and ‘Hound Dog’ in Dis­ney’s Lilo and Stitch, Christina knew he loved rock and roll.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF JOHN BOW­ERS

Josh Christina pulls in­flu­ence from El­ton John for his vis­ual look on stage, and does sim­i­lar stunts dur­ing songs.

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