Bullet Backstory with Josh Shilling of Mountain Heart

Josh Shilling

Josh Shilling of Mountain Heart is joining us for Yazoo on the Square on September 2nd. Yazoo Brewing Company and WDVX are bringing live music to the Market Square Stage this Friday, September 2nd! Live music will be provided by Mountain Heart, 6ix Mile Express, & rising 17 year-old blues guitarist Austin Crum of the Austin Crum Experience.

Free & open to the public, with festival seating! Music starts at 5:30 pm. Refreshing adult beverages will be for sale from Yazoo Brewing Company. The proceeds of these sales will benefit WDVX.
For more information send an email to info@wdvx.com.

Versatile singer/songwriter Josh Shilling boasts an impressive combination of experience and musicianship. Shilling’s musical forays have been diverse and considerable, ranging from jazz and soul ensembles to americana and contemporary country, jam-band, bluegrass and folk projects.

A Martinsville, Virginia native, he began playing the piano at a mere 7 years old. As a child he matured into a skilled pianist and Hammond B3 player whose voracious musical study allowed him to authentically portray the style and feel needed for nearly all genres. Shilling also developed steadily as a guitarist, while honing his natural emotional vocal ability, which has become his calling card.

As a teenager, Shilling fielded offers to tour nationally with professional bands, and at 17, he graduated high school one year early to begin his musical pursuits. He began traveling with successful regional groups from Roanoke, Virginia. The deceptively junior new member stunned audiences with his soulful vocals and confidence. Subsequent gigs soon followed with nationally touring artists including Cimmaron, country star Billy “Crash” Craddock and Chicago’s Bill Champlin, who proclaimed Shilling “has the potential to be one of the greats.”

Esteemed trumpet and trombone player Mic Gillette also enlisted Shilling’s services. Stints with members of group Tower of Power, along with crowd-pleasers The Embers, expanded his musical palate. His collaborations with Gillete prompted the revered musician to dub Shilling the “real deal.” Continually perfecting his sound and delivery, he began to perform at least 200 dates a year across the nation.

2007 found Shilling joining acclaimed americana ensemble Mountain Heart. His robust vocals, evolving signature piano stylings and nimble guitar work enhance the group’s rich acoustic sound. Noted music journalist Jon Weisberger praised Shilling’s addition to the band:

“He’s going to fit right in with Mountain Heart’s signature sound, while bringing some new dimensions to their music…there’s no apparent limit to the upper end of his range.”

Nashville’s own Craig Havighurst added:

“now the Mountain Heart sound is capped by a voice that echoes not of just the mountains but of Memphis or Muscle Shoals…one resists putting too much emphasis on any one guy in a band, but there’s no denying the transformation Shilling has enabled, with his multi-instrumental skills, his diverse musical background and most of all his gigantic, soul-stirring, southern rocking voice!”

The same year, Shilling wrote or cowrote all of the four new songs featured on the group’s live album, The Road That Never Ends, including project’s title track, which reached the forth slot on Billboard’s bluegrass chart.

Mountain Heart’s January 2007 appearance on the Grand Ole Opry introduced Shilling to an eagerly receptive crowd; after singing one of his original songs, he earned a standing ovation and encore that evening – a rarity and intoxicating distinction for any artist on that revered stage. Since that night, Shilling has played on the Opry over 50 times, toured as part of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 2008 summer tour, toured with artists like The Marshall Tucker Band, The Avett Brothers, The Lee Boys, The Traveling McCoury’s, legendary guitarist Tony Rice and many many more.

July 31, 2012 marked the official release of Shilling’s debut solo project Letting Go. After years of writing and recording for other acts, Shilling meticulously selected songs from his catalog and set out to produce and release a project of his own. Overwhelming reviews poured in as listeners and supporters downloaded and ordered the project, many of which say this in so many words:

“Before you click purchase, let me warn you; if you like your music synthesized, auto-tuned, watered down and brain-less, move along. But if you enjoy well-written lyrics and music and emotional vocal performances, buy this CD now. These are quality performances by real musicians. Just be careful where you leave this CD lest it gets stolen”

Now a full-time studio musician and songwriter in Nashville, Shilling continues to perform solo, with Mountain Heart, and guest appearances with artists who inspire him also line his schedule. He embraces music in its totality: His fierce immersion in one genre is enhanced by his passion for the others. Josh Shilling’s future promises both success and tireless innovation guaranteed to delight music lovers all over the world.

While his career already includes performances on hundreds of albums, dozens of songs recorded by various artists, and touring internationally, 2015 is slated for even more.  A new Mountain Heart project will be released, which faithfully showcases Shilling’s incomparable songwriting and musical abilities on every track. Plans are also underway for his second solo album with hopes of a label release in 2016.

We are thrilled to have Mountain Heart performing at Yazoo in the Square. In the meantime, enjoy this Bullet Backstory from Josh himself. He was gracious enough to answer our questions for this regular feature on the WDVX blog.

  • Biggest musical influences? There are so many, but I’ll try to just list a few 🙂
    • Ray Charles – I have always been blown away by the unbelievable amount of emotion he poured into his music.
    • The Allman Brothers – Those guys taught me how to jam! Their music led me to other favorites within the group like Derek Trucks, Oteil Burbridge, Jack Pearson, Warren Haynes, and Chuck Leavell.
    • James Taylor – Tone. Pitch. Taste. AND incredible songs!
    • Stevie Wonder – I think he’s an unattainable musical force. He’s absolutely unbelievable!
    • Darrell Scott – He has it all. He literally plays everything on a pro level. He writes life-changing lyrics, and has an unprecedented way of delivering them with his emotional vocal.
    • Tony Rice, Michael McDonald, Billy Preston, and The Beatles are a few others that come to mind.


  • What made you decide to pursue music as a career? It was the only logical choice for me. I wanted nothing more growing up than to be on stage. I started playing piano and guitar super young, and by middle school, I was playing for money on the weekends. By high school, I was playing all the time, recording records, and traveling. During my junior year, I made the decision to work hard and graduate a year early. I juggled everything and did that somehow. Shortly thereafter, I opened a business, bought some equipment, and started touring full-time. Within a few years, I moved to Nashville and I haven’t looked back. The music business is very tough, but I wouldn’t take anything in the world for the memories we’ve made touring with our friends and heroes.


  • What advice do you have for young musicians who are trying to hone their craft? Practice…A LOT. Surround yourself with players better than you and steal everything you can 🙂 Learn to wear lots of hats. Playing multiple instruments, singing harmony parts or lead vocals, learning to drive a van or bus, and maintaining a great attitude and energy will keep you employed! Learn to read and write number charts efficiently. Reading notations will definitely come in handy as well. Practice with a metronome whenever possible. Listen to Alison Krauss if you ever wonder how to sing in tune 🙂 The music business consists of a small group of talented people…try to do right by them.


  • What’s your favorite thing to do in Knoxville? I absolutely love Knoxville! The people are the sweetest and some of my favorite musicians breathing live there. We love performing and seeing shows around town. The restaurants are insane! We always eat at the Tomato Head and hangout downtown. The energy from the young people around campus and the overall vibe of the city is great. I’ve always really dug WDVX also! We’ve actually considered moving to Knoxville many times over the years 🙂


  • If you could work with any musician (living or deceased) who would it be and why? It’d have to be Ray Charles. I’ve performed with so many of my heroes, but no one like Ray. I think backing up Ray would be reaching the top of the ladder for me!


  • Anything else you would like to share? Check out my solo CD Letting Go online at http://www.joshshilling.com/. Also Mountain Heart just released our latest project Blue Skies in May. Definitely check those out online or pick up a signed CD after our set September 2nd. I wrote and sang most of the songs on these projects, and I couldn’t be more proud of them!


  • Favorite WDVX memory, etc? It’s been way too long ago since we visited, but once upon a time back in 2009, we played The Bijou with Tony Rice. We performed on the Blue Plate Special that day, and I remember us having an absolute blast. It’s been years ago so I can’t remember what we played on air that day, but I think we auditioned some Rice tunes. WDVX and Knoxville have always been so amazing to me and Mountain Heart and we’re stoked to be coming back!