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
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.
Josh Christina released his single ‘Old Piano’ in August.
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.
Josh Christina pulls influence from Elton John for his visual look on stage, and does similar stunts during songs.