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Josh Doyle

Josh Doyle


In addition to winning a $10,000 cash prize, a $600 Converse gift card, and gear that included Taylor 814ce and Fender American Stratocaster guitars, a Fender Princeton '65 Reverb amp, Shure KSM 42 and KSM137 mics, Shure SRH940 headphones, and a $5,000 accessory package from Ernie Ball, Doyle also won studio time at New York's Rubber Tracks Studio and a recording session with acclaimed producer John Shanks (Van Halen, Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow). His success in the contest also helped him hook up with manager Danny Nozell, the CEO of CTK Management, and touring agent Neil Warnock, CEO of The Agency Group. This impressive industry backing all came from Josh's simple decision to enter the contest on a whim to see how he would do.


Doyle thanks his strict parents for inspiring him to become a songwriter. "When I was 13 my mum and dad got rid of the TV," says Doyle, who grew up in England's southeastern county of Kent. "Before that I was a couch potato, but then I had to find something else to do. I played football-or soccer as it's called in the US-and learned to play guitar. I would sit in my room, play guitar, and write songs about whatever. By the time I was 18 I had written probably a thousand songs. I was just non-stop crazy."


Doyle started playing in bands when he was 15 and formed the Dum Dums about a year later. "We were a punk pop band, like Blink 182," he says. "We put out an album and had a run that included four songs that charted in England. We got a record deal in America, but then we wrecked the whole thing and broke up."


The Dum Dums' first single, "Everything," reached #21 on the UK singles chart. Their debut album It Goes Without Saying came out in September 2000, and the band played at festivals and performed as the opening act on Robbie Williams' 2000 arena tour. However by August of 2001, while the band was in the midst of recording its sophomore effort, everything came to a halt when the band members and their record label feuded over the direction the band should pursue. Doyle was only 19, and already his first taste of success in the music industry had come and gone in an instant.


After dropping out of the music industry, Doyle and his wife sold all of their possessions and relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, in 2003. "I moved over here to find a new direction," he admits. "My mum is American, but we didn't know anybody over here. I was just trying to make a new start after the end of my band. I took a job working as a waiter in a restaurant and spent nine unsuccessful years in Nashville until the contest brought me back out again."


One of the keys to Doyle's resurgence was the fact that he never gave up trying. Early on he set up a MySpace page and aggressively reached out to anyone who he thought might be interested in his new musical direction. "I would look up the pages of artists who I thought were similar to me," he explains. "Then I would send personal messages to all of their friends who I thought might like my music. I'd be like, 'Hey, I notice you like Damian Rice. Maybe you'd like to check this out.' I did that day after day and built a little underground independent fan base. That led to a few people buying CDs of my first EP, which brought in some money. For my second EP I did a Kickstarter type of thing where I got people to put money towards helping me make a record. Those who donated got different levels of stuff based on how much they paid. That paid for the record and a tour in England.


"But there was a limit to how far I could go doing that," he continues. "I still needed to have a day job to support my family, and I couldn't devote as much time as I needed to my musical career. Eventually I hit my ceiling, and I was just hoping to get some kind of break from somewhere."


While in Nashville, Doyle maintained his usual furious pace of songwriting. "I'm writing all the time. Whenever anything comes in my head I'll write it down on something-a napkin, little pieces of paper, envelopes. At work I was always scribbling ideas in my waiter wallet. I have probably 600 bits and pieces of songs that I carry around on my iPod. I often go back and listen to them to see if anything jumps out at me, and then I'll develop it further."


One day Doyle noticed an email in his inbox announcing Guitar Center's 2011 Singer-Songwriter contest. "I saw that and figured that I had nothing to lose by entering the contest," he says. "I decided to give it a shot. My mate made a decent video for me that I submitted. I thought that I had enough fans that would vote for me so I could make it past the first round, but after that I knew it would be entirely up to me to win over the judges. I just had to get on their radar first."


Doyle entered the contest, but then he says that he completely forgot about it until he received a phone call informing him that he made it through the first round. "They called while I was at work," he laughs. "I had to run and answer the call in the closet because I wasn't supposed to have a phone at work. They told me about all of the stuff that I had won, which was very cool because I needed a good guitar and new equipment. I'd worn down the frets on my guitar and didn't have enough money to get it refretted, so I was borrowing my mum's guitar at the time. I won a Taylor GS Mini, which I played at the finals."


Soon Doyle worked his way past 17,000 entries into the top 10 for the finals held at Hollywood's famous Hotel Café. "Getting into the finals was a big deal. Everyone in the top 10 was really good, and they all came from different backgrounds. I always thought that a singer-songwriter was someone like John Mayer, but it encompasses all sorts of music, like Bruno Mars, Alicia Keyes, Jason Mraz, Eddie Vedder, and Keith Urban. So many different styles were represented. It was very nerve-wracking for me. I came all the way out to Hollywood and I had only one shot. You've got three minutes to sing your song and actually do it as well as you can. When you can make it to the top 10 out of 17,000 entries you know you're really doing something good because so many other people also tried to get there. Even more satisfying was the fact that so many industry people in the know who were judges actually thought I was good."


Doyle says that winning the contest was a surreal experience, but what happened after the contest was an even bigger surprise. Before he was scheduled to enter the studio with producer John Shanks and an all-star band of studio pros that include guitarist Dean Parks, bassist Lee Sklar, and drummer Matt Chamberlain, he received a text message from Shanks asking if he was interested in recording an entire album. Although the first prize package specified recording a three-song EP, Shanks was so impressed with Doyle's work that he opted to record a full album instead.


"I had never recorded a full solo album before," Doyle explains, "but that was what I really needed to do. We went in the studio and the band learned my songs very quickly. Before I knew it, we had completed ten songs in four days. We had a lot of fun jamming and playing, and the songs have a wonderful live vibe. After I left the studio he worked on the mix and added a few things, like some keyboard parts played by Patrick Warren. Guitar Center flew me back out again for a couple of days so I could finish up some vocals and a few more guitar tracks."


With the album completed, Doyle put together a band and started searching for a manager and touring agent. A friend who saw Doyle's Facebook page announcement about his contest win contacted a few managers on Doyle's behalf, and Danny Nozell responded.


"I didn't want to be this competition prize winner that no one ever hears of again," admits Doyle. "When I announced on my Facebook page that I had won the contest I also asked if anyone knew any good managers. A friend who has played in a bunch of bands found some managers for me, and Danny was really into it. Danny and his management team are entirely focused on me, and Danny is lining up some more television appearances."


After years of struggling on his own, Doyle has finally received the best possible break he could have hoped to earn by winning the 2011 Guitar Center Singer- Songwriter contest. "So many good things have happened to me since then," he says. "Guitar Center has been incredibly generous and supportive. I finally have all of the music gear that I need now. Getting an entire album produced by John Shanks was amazing. I have a management team and a business team. Everything is in place, and I'm working with people who really love my music.


"I definitely encourage anyone who is a songwriter to enter the contest," he concludes. "You've got nothing to lose. Just make a good video and maybe you will end up in my position with everything right there for you. For me, all of this happened at the right time. I quit my job at the restaurant, and now I'm able to completely focus all of my time and effort on my musical career, which is what anyone really needs to do to be successful."


 
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