My Neighbor, the Pop Star

Photographed by Malcolm Lombardi

I first met jxsh on June 8th, 2018, online. Well, a lot of people first met jxsh online. The definition of met may change depending on who you ask, but in this day and age I would say it is appropriate to say we met before we could shake hands in real life.  I followed him on Instagram after seeing he was planning on going to Drexel University, the same as I was in the fall. I remember seeing an ad he posted for wanting videos of people across the internet “doing anything that isn’t talking.” So, I sent a clip of myself skating up a quarter pipe and he replied with “oH SICK” (if you have ever texted Josh you would find he is a fan of random capitalization.) A few weeks later, jxsh sent me the link to his new music video for “POMEROY,” an internet-inceptious montage of the people he has befriended through his DIY music.

I wondered if I would ever meet jxsh, from Cleveland OH, in real life or if he was even still planning on going to Drexel with his rising popularity. We didn’t talk for the rest of the summer, but I kept up with his music, blaring it as I drove down the Jersey rt. 22 highway. As September approached, perhaps the latest school to start was Drexel and I found myself moving my childhood bedroom into North Hall on Race street in West Philly. After getting situated, our RA called for a floor meeting. As the freshmen living on the East side of the fourth floor shuffled into the common room, I noticed a pair of yellow Golf Le Fleurs under cuffed dickies and a dark green Golf bee print collared shirt from my criss-crossed position on the floor. Then, I looked up to see jxsh’s signature grown out bleach blonde hair. This boy I followed over the summer, child of the internet, Loverboy, lived 2 doors down from me. What are the chances?

I ended up becoming good friends with all of his roommates who I would occasionally cook with, watch movies with and do stick-and-pokes with in our cinder block living room. That’s when I came to know him as “Josh,”  and now, after a bold but slight name change, you will all know him as “Josh Maison.” Although he is an incredibly friendly guy, I would usually find him in his room with headphones on, hunched over his computer. I didn’t need to ask what he was doing, just his stance showed the determination and avidity he was putting into making his own music. While I would be hanging out with his roommates in his living room, I would occasionally pop my head into his bedroom to just talk for a few minutes and I always found the same thing: his headphones on, laptop out, microphone positioned and working– always working on music. I decided to follow the process of his new single to figure out how a young DIY artist in 2018 does it.

Getting updates from Josh was always something different. He would either say “nah this is trash” and completely remake the project he was working on, or eagerly lead me to his desk and play me demo after demo. That is the respectable thing about Josh- he is humble. He needs to like his own music to release it, something that is so rare amongst the ever growing population of sell-outs in the music industry. However, after a few months of following his process, there was one night where we sat in his room and listened to demos he and his two best friends Dom and Riley, professionally known as Ghost Boy Sora and Riley the Musician, were making together. It was interesting that all of these unreleased skeletons of songs already had names. I questioned Josh as to why and he revealed to me that the title is the beginning of the song… before lyrics and production. The listener can feel this in the tracks, as the music these three make together engage the mind visually. Listening to the dynamic production style paired with Josh’s experimental lyrics and vocal sounds creates a song that transforms the room the listener is in into a complete sanctuary of experiential music. With most of his songs having four layers of vocals, the concentration and dedication to the making of a song is truly art created by three young visionaries.

Walk the Talk by RILEY THE MUSICIAN, Ghost Boy Sora, and Josh Maison

https://open.spotify.com/album/4wJEJ9UM8AQuBM0WHk4PRC

Josh’s latest song, U&I, paves a path going through the gates of heaven, as Josh requested this to be the plot of the production, saying “when we made U and I, I sent Riley some stuff me and Dom made and I said I wanted to make something heavenly electronic. My heaven, my happiness.”

The production plays with bright metallics, soft vocals and abrasive contrasts. U&I has a progressive sound about it, like something good is about to happen. It sounds like you’re going into heaven. His heaven and happiness is something that only seems to be attainable through the trio that is Josh, Riley and Dom.

I got to speak with Riley The Musician about his process as well. We face timed, closing the distance between Kansas City and Philadelphia, another reminder of how important modern technology is to DIY artists in this millennium. After creating “Walk the Talk” with Josh and Dom, Riley explained to me that he and Josh just clicked. They now make music together non stop, going through dozens of demos together Riley produces before creating a song. Along with this process, Riley was open about how if Josh believes the production of a song could be better, he tells him, something important in the trusting process between two creators. Riley ended the interview by telling me, “Josh just has good ideas,” something simple yet incredibly accurate.

Josh against the Philadelphia Skyline, photographed by Malcolm Lombardi

Spending my time with Josh Maison made me feel as though I was viewing something bigger than everything around me; like something inevitably large is going to happen and the thrill is not knowing when, but hopefully soon. Everyone around him believes he will blow up and are humbled by the possibility of their friend becoming a real, breathing pop star. Interviewing him in his small room showed me how anyone with a determination and a deep love for anything could make something beautiful.

All speculative fame aside, at the end of the day, I know Josh Maison as Josh from room 408, a kid who loves heaven, striped shirts and making good music. But throughout his rising popularity, he is still humble enough to sit down in a tiny dorm room with his friends, suck down boxed passion fruit juice and say, with a smile, “Guava is my shit, dude,” as the demo of a future hit plays softly in the background.

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