Chicago native Josie Dunne left the Windy City two and a half years ago to become a professional musician in Nashville. Growing up in a home where Stevie Wonder, Etta James and Ray Charles were regularly rotating records, Dunne crafted her sound around what she heard: Motown. She made it her own, fusing soul rhythms and pop melodies to create her debut EP To Be the Little Fish, which is scheduled to be released later this year. The Hustler got a chance to talk to Dunne about her goals, French fries and her newest single, “Old School.”
Vanderbilt Hustler: Can you describe yourself in 3 words?
Josie Dunne: Fun-loving, nerdy and creative.
VH: When did you get really serious about pursuing music, trying to meet people in the industry and playing your own shows?
JD: The first show I ever played was in middle school. It was in 7th grade, and it was all covers at a family block party. From there, I just reached out to a bunch of bars and clubs around where I grew up in Chicago. Then I started booking things on my own. Every week I’d book a show just to start getting used to playing my guitar and learning covers. Now that I have original music, it’s great to play my own stuff. It’s so rewarding. I feel like I’m putting a face to the song and breathing a new life into it.
VH: Why Nashville?
JD: To me, different from L.A. or New York, Nashville is so community-oriented, especially from a songwriter and an artist’s perspective. I think there’s a deeper sense of mentorship in songwriting. The writers I’ve written with here are just so invested in me as a person and the core of who I am, and writing songs around that. It’s been a great place to have creatively grown up. It’s such a unique place; I adore Nashville.
VH: I got to see your set at The High Watt. It was amazing. And the way you setup your band was very unique. How did you put the group together?
JD: I think my label [Inspire Records] really helped me put the band together. They found my keyboardist, who’s our band leader and he has really put together all the other players. I’ve gotten some good guidance with that. But when I was thinking about setting up my band, I really wanted a different structure than what people are used to. A lot of my music is based in soul so, for example, I really wanted a drummer that has a mad pocket and could really deliver a stank face. You know?
VH: What’s your wildest dream for where you want your music to take you?
JD: I think touring would be really cool. I’m really excited to book one and get out on the road. Living in a van and all that stuff would be so awesome. I mean, I have all those big dreams of playing Madison Square Garden, and winning a Grammy would be amazing. But, I think there’s so much fun in the journey of it and all the little things I get to do along the way. I try to celebrate all of the little victories.
VH: When are you going to release your EP To Be The Little Fish?
JD: So the single is “Old School” and that comes out tonight [Feb. 5] at midnight with the video! I’m freaking out because it’s my first song ever out. The rest of the EP will follow later this year.
VH: Do you have any more concerts planned in the city?
JD: I play acoustically around Nashville all the time. My big show is coming up next week at Schubas in Chicago. It’ll be my first sold out show ever. I’m super excited. It’s going to be like a family reunion, just a super fun show. But I’m definitely hoping to book a tour and get on the road later this year.
VH: I know you have a major record collection, so what is your favorite record?
JD: Back to Black by Amy Winehouse is hands down my favorite record. I have 3 different versions of the same record. One is just on display, one is in the actual collection, and the last is right by the record player because I love it so much. Another honorable mention is Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life.