Busking, bands and being Josh Wheatley

Four days after Nottingham’s Dot to Dot Festival I had the pleasure of having a chat with one of the local acts. Josh Wheatley is humble, inspiring and extremely talented. And he’s only 18.

We met at NGY, a creative space in Nottingham dedicated to young people. As well as winning the YMCA’s Battle of the Bands competition in December 2013, Josh has done quite a bit of work at NGY with the Young Creatives. Through this he was given the opportunity to record 3 songs from his EP in their studios- “These guys do phenomenal work. I couldn’t afford to actually pay for studio time… it was great.” Before age 11, Josh played ukulele but had never sang. He was “forced” into it by his primary school when everyone had to audition for a leaver’s assembly. His debut was Close Every Door from Joseph and His Technicolor Dream Coat. Things have changed quite a bit since then…We got talking about busking, local influences and Battenberg cake.


You’ve just played Dot to Dot festival. How was it?

It was so much fun. That’s my favourite place to play (Rescue Rooms, Nottingham) -I was so chuffed to be asked to play there. The stage I played on started at 12, the others started at 2, but there were still loads of people there. Absolutely loads.

I saw some phenomenal acts. I’m a huge fan of Sivu and Luke Sital Singh so I was right at the front. For The Future Sound of Nottingham I posted a cover of one of Sivu’s songs and when he played it live in his set he actually dedicated it to me. In front of all those people. That was really really cool.

So Rescue Rooms is one of your favourite places to play, what about your worst?

I’ve played in Derby. My first gig there was very very bad. I was with a friend, Jamie Moon, who if I’m allowed to do a shameless plug, has a got an EP coming out on 21st June. People should buy it. Anyway! That’s not the point… We did a gig in a park in Derby and I got shouted at whilst I was playing. It was really awkward. When I was busking I got used to the abusive stuff, though.

Really? That’s something you had to get used to?

That’s why I stopped [busking]. Some kids smashed my mic. I had no idea what to do. So yeah, I got shouted at whilst I was playing this gig in Derby. It wasn’t an awful gig but I don’t think it was my favourite that I played…

Where did you used to busk?

I used to go by H &M, but across the road because it’s in the shade. Actually, it was Xylophone Man’s old spot. I went outside Hugo Boss as well, where all the posh shops are…

Did it make a difference; did you get more money near Hugo Boss?

(laughs) I actually think it did!

And now you’re gearing up to play Rock City with The Future Sound of Nottingham. How do you feel about that?

Rather daunted…I had a rehearsal with the band yesterday and I’m really bricking it. I’m up against some really tough competition. I’ve met most of them and I’m really good friends with Field Studies who went straight through [via the judge’s vote]. They play the Bodega loads so I think that they probably know more about playing the bigger venues than I do…

Have you ever been in a band?

I’ve played in bands before. The thing is… no one ever really wants to be in a band with me. I do prefer playing by myself though. There’s a different dynamic you can get with the slower, more emotional songs. You can get into the zone with it. With a band you’re always on your toes.

When I started I was going out and doing my own thing by myself. I was the teenager in the bar that teenagers shouldn’t have been in. I guess I always prefer my own company…I’ve started dragging friends to gigs now though.

What about your family?

The first ever real step I took, at the Acoustic Rooms [Rescue Rooms] on December 3rd 2012… I distinctly asked my family not to come. It sounds really harsh but they know the origins of quite a few of my songs… when you play a song live it’s like wearing your heart on your sleeve and I didn’t like exposing that to my family.

Do you feel like you’re up against a lot of competition, in Nottingham, and in general?

Nottingham has such a huge music scene but in such a small place. I think one of the guys I was most mesmerised by when I started in the Nottingham music scene was Mark Reeves. He really knows what he’s doing when it comes to writing music. I don’t think he gets the attention he deserves. He’s one of those guys. I think people have underestimated us [solo artists] a little bit. There are a lot of bands who can shout louder than us but for me it’s always been about the music. When I listen to songs I like to hear the emotion. Sometimes [at a gig], the bass is so loud that you leave the venue in a state of shock, there’s birds and stars swimming around your head.

What are you working on now?

I’m always writing. Always. Not that all of it is any good! I don’t think I’m going to release another EP for a while – people are like ‘yeah I’ve already planned my next EP’ but my next fully planned EP is probably not ’til the end of next year. I wanted to release a single but I like to leave people wanting more. I mean, some people don’t care…but I think it’s nice for people to get a surprise at a gig sometimes.


Josh left us at NGY to go straight to Confetti where he’s working on a B-tec Level 3 in studio based music. He’s also working on a single with the producer of Dog is Dead and helping with Confetti’s open days. Josh and Percy (his guitar) are due to play Rock City on Sunday 22nd June with the final of The Future Sound of Nottingham. He’ll post details nearer the time from his Facebook and Twitter pages. Go along and show your support because he’d “quite like to win” and entry is free, although he will accept donations of Battenburg cake.

You can download Josh Wheatley’s current EP – Follow The Smoke – on iTunes and listen on SoundCloud. Aside from the fact that he is a genuinely lovely character, he has a beautiful folky sound that leaves people tingly.