Mr. Hot Damn
Singer-songwriter Joshua David crafts pop songs so soulful they helped to woo his girlfriend
Joshua David had just finished cleaning a parking lot when he talked to SN&R about his upcoming four-song EP, And And And And. An employee of a maintenance company started by his grandfather, David had good reason for both taking the day job and making the album: his special lady.
“After my first time meeting her face-to-face, I thought about stepping to her,” he said. “But I felt like she wouldn’t want to waste her time with me if I didn’t have some things together.”
They’re locked into a serious relationship now, but this original nervousness inspired the Stockton native’s first single, “Hot Damn,” for the EP that will be released at Fox & Goose Pub on April 29. Laid over meandering, then bouncy keys, David’s crisp vocals sell the emotion behind wanting to woo this woman with his self-improvement. He showed her the song a couple of weeks into their relationship, and she soon had it “on repeat.”
“She’s from South Africa, so all of her friends from South Africa were calling me ’Mr. Hot Damn’ for the next few months,” he said with a little laugh.
Lyrically, David likes the clever, thoughtful instincts of Motown, but he genre-hops sonically. On an earlier release, “The Temple,” he crafts a stuttering, then swirling orchestra. And on “Immeasurable” he channels the chilly minimalism of James Blake—showcasing the eclectic vibes that wiggle around the edges of his pop-soul sound.
Besides his parking lot gig, David teaches at The Zion Academy of Music and directs the music at The Congregation of Zion, both founded by his pastor father. He credits playing gospel and contemporary songs at church services for making him want to pursue music professionally.
“That’s where I really learned to play the piano,” he said. “You have a regular gig at least once a week, where you have to learn songs and play in front of people. You really get the chance to grow in that setting as a performer and as a musician.”
He prides himself on his production after studying composition at University of the Pacific’s Conservatory of Music. This education allows him occasionally to work on arrangements for horns, strings and orchestra for other artists. And when he writes songs, he usually comes up with the melody first, then finds where the words “fit in.”
As Stockton’s go-to soul act, he plays consistent gigs in the city’s growing downtown scene and has opened for names like Anthony Hamilton, who listened to one of David’s former bands in 2013. Backstage, after David’s set, the respected R&B singer asked him if he was signed (he’s not), then complimented his music.
“That, for me, was one of those life checkpoints,” David said. “[It was] confirmation I’m doing the right thing—that I’m on the right path and I got to keep going.”
To make money along the way, he’ll continue his family traditions. The maintenance job may reveal how “gross” people can be, but he appreciates the contrast to the mild ego trip he experiences onstage.
“It keeps me humble and grounded,” he said. “I enjoy it. I was having a good time today, just blasting music in my headphones, cleaning up stuff. It was cool. It’s not all about me all the time.”