He calls Cincinnati music a “wild dog.” Although Josh Eagle (vocals, guitar, harmonica) spent time in Hawaii last year, he’s back in Northside, living like a poet in a house in the woods where he creates. With a fresh album out (Show Your Teeth), he seems serious and engaged.
Tall and wiry, he kicks back on a picnic bench, wearing new glasses, new shoes, a new haircut. Above him, the trees hover in the strangely hot, fall air.
Whenever I run into Eagle, the interaction is always startlingly different. Sometimes, he’s light and airy, a shifty butterfly speaking of lost love. Other times, he quietly mentions gardens or his old, nasty moccasins.
One day, he drinks wine, talking of all-organic meals and family. Another day, in a visionary mood, he smokes, drinking cheap beer and planning a CD release show, pot-luck-style. When he plays, he takes his glasses off; only seeing silhouetted faces.
Studying poetry at the University of Cincinnati, Eagle brought his lyrical focus to the immediate details. On his site, Eagle writes tales of everything from Reading Rainbow to whiskey and offers nuggets of wisdom like, “Things that make us feel uncomfortable are there for us to become strong boys, powerful girls.” Although he speaks of strong home roots, Eagle is always on the move, and his music reflects this wandering quality. A raspy people-watcher, Eagle studies scenes, telling often aching, poetic tales through song, as in the spacious ballad “West Coast.”
In 2008, when his solo album, Truthful Beginnings, came out, Eagle played a slew of gigs, and lead guitarist Jeremy Smart soon approached him, drawn to his emotional Rock. Soon after, two mutual friends signed up — drummer Mark Becknell and bassist/recording artist Tommy Cappell, who worked on Eagle’s first record.
On the new album (the first credited to the full band), time spent in Hawaii had both a calming and inspirational influence. Showering in waterfalls, he worked on an organic farm, learning the value of putting his hands in the dirt every day. When Eagle returned from Hawaii, he and the band finished the album, touring through Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina.
Show Your Teeth is about “seeing a new sky, seeing a new mountain.” The influence of Neil Young and early Wilco creeps in, along with a strong taste for ’70s Rock. On background vocals, striking talent Beth Harris (local actress and vocalist with The Hiders) adds a rich, deep soul kick. Throw in an open, Americana vibe, and add the pure Folk of Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie in the mix.
“A Winter’s Dream” and “Silver Locket” show a full, passionate heart, along with smart guitars and dynamic intensity. It’s music from the era “before all that crazy stuff happened in the studios when cocaine was readily available and you couldn’t tell what was going on with the frequencies,” Eagle says. “Cranking stuff louder and louder kinda took away from the simplicity I think.”
On band chemistry, he says, “It’s easy. Those guys are my best friends. I love each and every one of them. We want to make this thing work. It’s really hard to do. You can’t stop. You always have to be in the state of becoming.”
Eagle writes something new every day.
“I love a lot, I really, really do,” he says. “There can be a lot that goes against that in our world, but I never for a second think that I’m being naive in loving the world.”
On his site, he writes, “Music can save a life, ya know.”
Cappell runs two local studios and, come November, the band will be back to recording.
“You’ll see a lot of Hawaii in the next one,” Eagle says. “(Cappell) knows how to get the sounds, that’s for sure.”
Currently, they’re hitting the scene hard, after experiencing success with several packed shows on the bill with The Hiders. And WNKU (89.7 FM) has been spinning the disc “a friendly amount.”
On the music, Eagle’s words say it best: “I love it so much that it’s difficult to find words to say … it.”
JOSH EAGLE AND THE HARVEST CITY (www.josheaglemusic.com) play Teller’s in Hyde Park Oct. 21. Every Wednesday in November, the band will be the “Artists in Residence” at the Southgate House’s Juney’s Lounge.