Josh Levi Showcases His Artistic Evolution In Debut EP, ‘Disc One’

The musician talks about his artistic inspirations and quarantine-induced creativity amidst the release of his EP.

Josh Levi is your classic triple threat: he can act, he can sing, and he writes his own music based on his style and experiences. Of course, these strange times brought on by a global pandemic have served as the ultimate inspiration to show off these talents. The 21-year-old’s debut EP, Disc One, is a highly personal set of songs that will ultimately give fans a look into his life, thoughts, and perspectives as the world rapidly continues to change.

Born in Houston, TX, Levi got his musical start at age 14 as a contestant on the reality TV music competition, The X Factor USA, where he was selected as a finalist for the show’s third season. Since then, he’s been exploring a more individual, mature sound that truly encompasses his biggest influences in the realm of pop, R&B, and rock.

His latest single, “If the World,” released back in April along with a quarantine-inspired music video, is a direct response to the Covid-19 era. The video, which was shot on an iPhone and filmed in Levi’s own room, perfectly captures the isolation felt around the world while also showing the creativity that can stem from it. Edgy and expressive, Disc One manages to represent emotions and experiences that each listener can relate to in some form, whether through pressing current events or subtle nostalgia.

We chatted with Levi to discuss the new EP, the inspirations behind his sound, and what his plans are in a distant, safer future.

V MAGAZINE What have you been up to during these strange times?

JOSH LEVI I’ve been getting in touch with my emotions, that’s what’s been happening. [The emotions] just loaded on top of each other and tackled me and it’s caused me to just really be vulnerable, which I usually run away from. But I’ve tried my best to turn it into something beautiful and productive and put it towards my music.

V And congrats on the EP coming out on July 1! What does this project mean to you?

JL What I love most about this EP is it represents me better than anything I’ve ever created and it was totally unplanned. I did not set out to make a body of work. I went to a studio and just put my heart out there and pushed myself. I was trying to create stuff that I really felt was undeniably a representation of my point of view as an artist. So, I hope people get to know me better after this project. And I also was intentional about creating an experience and an escape in a world that people can escape to and feel every emotion in the book, and maybe even things that people have never felt before or haven’t felt in a long time.

V You had an Instagram poll for the name of the EP, which was between “Disc One” and “No Sleep.” What made you choose “Disc One” as the final title?

JL It was so hard! I literally am the king of insomnia, and that’s not a title that I’m so happy to have. [laughs] And I still felt like the music reflected that – it has high energy and it also has a hustle energy about it where it just seems like you’re constantly after something. But Disc One… I think I just woke up one day and I was like, This one, Josh. To me, that title represents an introduction, and it also represents the past and the future. I’ve always loved CDs, I used to burn my own CDs with my sister and we would have competitions on who made the best album. And what’s so funny is like, all of the CDs that we made, it was nothing but Nickelodeon and Disney songs. [laughs] But yeah, this one just felt more like me. It felt like the beginning.

V What songs are you most excited about on this album?

JL The really special thing to me about the EP is every song is so different. I feel like I was intentional about making something for everyone on this project. There’s a love song, there’s a high-energy song, there’s a club song, there’s a vulnerable song, there’s a controversial song. My single “Know Better” I am super excited about because I shot the video, so that one’s gonna be special. And then there’s a song called “White Leather” that is a little controversial and addresses what it feels like to be a Black person in today’s society and environments, but it’s in a non-aggressive way. It’s a little risky, and I pushed myself on that song by making something that people will really love.

V That’s very powerful. Do you expect to include that message and the Black Lives Matter movement in more of your songs?

JL Yes. The specific song that I was mentioning where I address what it’s like from a black person’s eyes in today’s society, I say the things that I’ve been scared to say but in a way where I hope people could listen without knowing and, as they dive in, they’re like, Oh, wow, I think this is more of a serious thing than what it sounds like. But yeah, I realized that my point of view as a writer is always talking about real-life things.

V And you mentioned the “Know Better” music video, can we expect that to be released soon?

JL Yes! I’m extremely detail-orientedit’s like my favorite and least favorite part about myself as an artistso there are still things I’d love to get done for that video. But the plan is to release that as soon as possible. I’m also a visual artist, and I’d love to have visuals to complement and back up the music. I’m already driving everybody crazy.

V When it comes to songwriting, do you have a specific process that you follow when creating your music?

JL For me, it varies. I try not to stick to one formula and it really depends on the day that I’m going into the studio. For Disc One, I brought in an idea or I brought in just a lyric or a photo or a melody. And it’s cool listening back to my project in hindsight because I can hear those songs where I brought something in. And then there’s also the records where I just came into it blind with no preconceived anything. So I really just have a conversation or dialogue with myself that day and just try and be as inspired as possible going into the studio. Whether that means bringing in specific experiences or emotions or relationships or just watching a movie or concert that has me fired up going into the process.

V On your Youtube channel, you do a lot of covers of a variety of artists. Who are some of your biggest musical inspirations and what is your dream collab now?

JL Dream collab now without even thinking about it would be Beyoncé. I think she’s the epitome of someone that you would want the approval of or just any sort of collaboration from. And then the people that I’ve been inspired by – I love rock stars in every sense of that word. So I love, obviously, Michael Jackson, Prince, Lenny Kravitz, Stevie Wonder, Brandy, that’s an artist that I’ve always loved and one of the first artists I ever discovered. I love Gnarls Barkley and traditional rock artists like Nirvana. Rap, hip-hop. I’m inspired by so many things. I would say, if anyone had access to my private Spotify, my playlists on there are all over the place.

V So, what are some of your plans for when things get back to some semblance of “normal”? Whenever that may be.

JL It’s sort of hard to tell whenever that is. The first thing I’m going to do whenever everyone feels comfortable and safe is perform somewhere with real people. That’s my favorite part about what I do and being an artist. A studio is cool, it’s okay. But the human to human experience of performing and just giving everything that I have is my favorite part. So I really can’t wait to get back to that, go on tour. And also go to church. I miss my church, I’ve been listening to it online.

V And finally, you were on X-Factor at such a young age, how do you think you’ve evolved musically since those days?

JL I think the best way to evolve as an artist and just as a human being is getting to know yourself as much as possible. I think that’s the answer to confidence. That’s the answer to other people believing in you, when you believe in yourself and when you understand who you are, what you want from the world, what you want to say to the world, what you want to give to the world. And that’s the best way that I could explain my growth from the X-Factor. And as I’ve answered those questions, I feel like it’s reflected in my music and my performance.

V We’re so excited for Disc One and finally getting to hear the new music you’re putting out. Is there anything else that you’d like to add for our readers?

JL To all of my generation, Gen Z and Millennials, I’m proud of our generation for using our voice and fighting for what’s right, and putting pressure on our nation and on systems and on the government to recreate a country that is in favor of every color, every background, and every type of person. Black Lives Matter, I want to continue fighting for that and putting that at the forefront of conversations.

Listen to Josh Levi’s new EP, Disc One, below.

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