Young Folk, aka Josh Lovelace, speaks with a warm Southern twang and is quick to laugh. His personality is akin to his children’s music: comforting and witty. Lovelace is known worldwide as the keyboardist for the Grammy-nominated rock band Needtobreathe but over the past five years, he’s made a name for his solo work as a children’s music artist. His kids’ albums “Young Folk” and “Growing Up” possess a folksy sound that parents will find pleasing but the sweet and relatable lyrics connect with kids.
With songs about road trips and walks in the woods, his music (now under the name of Young Folk) is the perfect way to kick off the summer at Wolf Trap as the first artist in their Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods series. Josh chatted about his family band, his friendship with ’80s children’s music icons, and why his dad may be the perfect audience for his children’s music.
Will this be your first time performing at Wolf Trap?
Interesting enough, this will be my first time performing at Theatre-in-the-Woods, but my other band Needtobreathe, we’ve performed on the big stage at Wolf Trap about four or five times. I’d always heard about Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods and always thought that would be a fun thing to do. I do love the [Wolf Trap] property. Every time we’re out there, I love just walking around and getting lost. It’s just a really beautiful place. So I’m excited to be back.
Take me back, your children’s album “Young Folk” was released in 2017, what was your inspiration for doing an album for kids?
I have two young kids and I tour all the time. I’m always with my grown-up band. I’m always on the road touring and playing shows. Originally [creating children’s music] started as writing songs and recording little things to send to my kids so they could remember what their dad’s voice sounds like while I’m on the road. That kind of turned into a love of sharing [the music] with other families. We had some friends we shared it with.
Now my kids are getting older and I’ve put out two more kids’ records and I’m about to put out a third. It’s fun to go back and hear them sing songs from the first record, and I can hear their voices on there because they sang on the record. It’s a fun thing for our family to share together.
Will your kids be singing on the new record too?
They are. They’ve sung on all my [children’s] albums. The first record, my daughter was only about a year old, but now she’s five and my son is eight. Now they’re able to sing on pitch which is fun. For a while it was “Ok, we’ll get what we get and I promise I’ll give you some ice cream when we’re done” but now they’re wanting money.
What do your kids think of your job? Do they come on tour with you?
Right now they’re in school so they can’t but they like to come out as often as they can. My wife is a singer, too. We’ve done festivals here and there and my wife and kids will come up and sing with me. It’s a family affair. It’s a very musical house. There’s more guitars in our house than anything, just laying around, and my kids love picking them up and playing and they know they can. I think they think that my job is cool but they also think it’s something we can do together. It’s not like “Oh, dad’s going to work” it’s more like he’s doing something we do at home just in a new place.
Where do you get your ideas from for your children’s songs?
I get them from all over. I try to put myself in the mindset of a child and how they might see the world and then just try to explore it from there. I’ve got songs that are about how things look through a child’s eyes but I’ve also got songs that I think a kid might think is funny. My kids think they’re funny. I’ve got a song about a bear eating underwear (“A Bear in the Woods”) and it makes people laugh. Even if you’re having a bad day, it’s hard to hear that phrase and not think it’s a little bit funny.
What do you see, if any, the differences between performing in your group Needtobreathe and your solo adult work and your children’s shows?
[Needtobreathe] is a rock band so we come out with a lot of energy but I definitely try to come out with a lot of energy when performing for kids as well. I’ve been a professional musician for almost two decades now which is crazy and the music is different but I get both sides of it. I just had a Needtobreathe show and I come off stage and there’s these two little kids and they said, “We love a bear in the woods ate my underwear!” which is really awesome. The flip side of that is I’ll play a kids’ show and they’ll be Needtobreathe fans there and they know they can bring their kids to it and they get to share that with them. It’s different but it’s really from the same heart. I’m just trying to [create] something people enjoy and think it’s engaging. It definitely makes it fun when people appreciate both things.
It’s also great that your children’s music is music that kids will want to listen to over and over but that feels like enjoyable music for adults to listen to along with them.
That’s a big part of it. I grew up with great music that didn’t want to make my parents pull their hair out. I definitely didn’t want to make a record where your kids turn on my record and the rest of the house wants to turn it off. I know that can happen.
What kind of music did you love as a kid?
I loved a lot of different kinds of music. My mom was a piano player and my dad is a pastor so we grew up singing in church. I loved gospel music, blues, and a lot of pop music too. Whatever was on the radio I would love. I remember getting a cassette tape of Elton John and thinking “Wow, this is the greatest thing I’ve ever heard.” That’s kind of what inspired me to play piano. The ’80s was such a great time for children’s music; so I listened to Sharon Lois and Bram — that was kind of my favorite group. I had all their records, videos and tapes. They were really the reason I wanted to do music professionally. I could see them doing it and I thought that I could do it too. It’s been really fun because over the years I’ve become friends with them. It’s a really unique thing to be able to reach out to your musical heroes and tell them you appreciate what they do.
How did you connect up with Sharon Lois and Bram and get them to collaborate on your song “Sing a Song for Me”?
I was touring in Canada and I just reached out to [Sharon Lois and Bram’s] management. They’ve been slowing down a bit, they’re a bit older, in their eighties now. But I reached out and sent them a message saying I appreciate what they did and invited them to the show. I thought maybe their grandkids might want to come to the show. They got back to me and I got coffee with Sharon. That was 2011 and since then I’ve gone to their houses and we’ve gone to dinner and done shows together. I consider them great friends and almost grandparents to me and my kids. We FaceTime. It’s awesome. Anytime I tell anyone that knows them their mind is blown because we grew up watching them on TV. It’s really special.
How does it feel to be back on the road after being off for so long because of the pandemic?
It’s been good. We did a couple weeks of shows in the fall last year which was great to be back out. This year [Needtobreathe is] as busy as we can be. We’re doing six weeks of shows and then another tour in the summer for eight weeks straight. But it’s great. I think music is healing and I think people want to be out and going to shows and hearing their favorite songs live. We see that every night—just that relief in some ways. Just being able to do this again. It feels like home.
When will your new children’s album be out?
We don’t have an official release date yet, but the album title is “Moonwalking.” It’s a fun album about exploring with my kids. There’s a lot of silly songs and a lot of heart to it. I’m actually going to be going by the name Young Folk now [for my children’s music]. That’ll hopefully allow it to stand on its own a little bit.
One last question, in honor of your song “Eat Your Vegetables,” what’s your favorite veggie? And is there a vegetable you hated as a kid that you love now?
I actually really love Brussel sprouts. I could eat a whole bowl of them. Any style. However you want to cook ‘em I’ll eat them. Honestly, I didn’t really eat that many vegetables growing up. I kind of grew up on Kraft macaroni and cheese and McDonald’s happy meals. So now I love all vegetables. My dad still won’t eat vegetables. So maybe I wrote the song for him.
Young Folk (Josh Lovelace) kicks off Wolf Trap’s “Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods” on Tuesday, June 21 at 10:30 a.m. For tickets and more information, click .
Wolf Trap Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods: 1551 Trap Road, Vienna, VA 22182; (703) 255-1868
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