Jozie's Josie Field
By Robert Laing
Here's a hot tip for magazine editors trying to attract 15-year-old readers. Today's teenagers don't want wire copy on Madonna and Britney — at least not the thinking ones. They want to know who Josie Field is.
Johannesburg's kids only know Josie via one song, Every Now & Then, which is on Highveld's and 5FM's playlists. Teenagers have flooded these radio stations with SMS and e-mail votes lodging Josie's song at the top of their local hit parades. That this has happened is, to quote a line from another song in her 15 track debut album Mercury, "a kick in the ass" for the powers that be in the local radio and music industries. Josie's sound wasn't radio-friendly according to them.
Some wanted to make her songs more pop, others more rock. But this 22-year-old singer-songwriter tenaciously got her album out with her music exactly like she wanted it, radio-friendliness be damned.
This youthfull idealism and unyielding artistic integrity is somehow picked-up by teenagers listening to her radio hit. I discovered local kids are so keen to find out about the creator of Every Now & Then, they're willing to stay up to 1AM on a school night to listen to a radio interview with her.
Josie was my inaugural guest on a radio show I started on community radio station 1485AM. As a radio newbie, my slot is Monday Midnight when I assumed nobody would be listening. I gave advance warning on the Internet, and subsequent e-mails indicated most of my listeners were 15-year-old girls starved for information on their heroine, Josie Field.
Labeling Josie isn't easy.
Paul E. Flynn of Sugardrive and Absinthé fame introduced her as "a female Morrissey" when he did a solo gig before her in Norwood's 88 Lounge. It was a sincere compliment from a huge fan, but Josie didn't get it.
"What did Morrissey do?" she asked me.
"Pommy whingeing set to music. Very big around the time you were born," I explained.
"But I don't whinge to music!"
She certainly doesn't. There's adolescent angst and introspection, but no whingeing in her lyrics. The line in her song You always get what you wish for, "you always get a little piece of your dreams" underlines what Josie is all about: ultimate triumph over adversity. The reason her music resonates so strongly with teenagers as well as cynical forty-something hacks like me is it strikes a chord with what's best in the new South Africa.
Polling Josie on her views made me think of the market research done for Nova, a failed attempt to start a new Joburg newspaper a year ago. The market research revealed Josie's generation don't have their parent's obsession with race, crime and grime, or politics. Josie entertains and is entertained by her fellow Joburgers. She's a vegetarian, anti-firearms, a gym goer, positive about the future, proudly South African... pretty much the exact opposite of Daily Sun supremo Deon du Plessis under whose stewardship Nova ignored all this market research and pitched itself at a tiny niche who found the Citizen too left wing.
In Josie, South Africa's healthily optimistic youth have found a voice, and what a beautifully strong voice.
A theme that keeps coming up both in Josie's lyrics and conversation is honesty. She dropped out of an advertising course after school because she couldn't stand the idea of lying to people.
During the radio interview, she said: "My first rule of songwriting is: stay honest. If you're not honest in your writing, the public will notice. People are not stupid and they can spot fakes. If you are honestly yourself, you can do no wrong."
While Josie was doing a soliloquy on artistic integrity during the radio interview, I as an old cynic was thinking: "Yeah, yeah you little 22-year-old, wait until the pimps who run media in this country force you to prostitute yourself, and let's see if you still have these ideals."
But Josie really is different. She has got to the top of Highveld's hit parade without yielding an inch to the arbiters of radio-friendliness. Under that soft feminine exterior is one tough cookie. She has demonstrated radio listeners don't want what the so-called experts think they do.
Her musical career started at around 15 when an uncle gave her a guitar and taught her a couple of chords.
"Because I didn't know how to play anything, I started writing with those chords and it kind of progressed from there and it's been a major outlet for all kinds of feelings and frustrations, so being able to write songs has definitely been an important part of my life."
One of the tracks on Mercury, White Girl, she wrote when she was 17. "I've lived in Jozie my whole life. That song White Girl I wrote when I was in school about being a white girl in this beautiful country we live in and talks about a fork in the road. It sums up when you're young what path you want to take in life and what you want to do in your life."
After the radio pre-record, Josie offered to take up my lunch invitation. She ordered something both vegetarian and cheap. I've been doing way too much male bonding since my divorce, where the only vegetarian part of the diet is beer, so I ordered the same thing.
Josie tried to insist on paying half the bill. Being number one on Highveld doesn't translate into commercial success, and like most local musicians, Josie barely scrapes by.
I wish I could say I have lunch dates with beautiful girls half my age all the time, but I'd be lying. I told Josie it was my pleasure to pick up the tab, and it truly was.
She's not just a heroine for Joburg's teenagers, but for cynical forty-something hacks like me too.
Author: sam, 6 August 2007
wow! i just got a copy of Josie's album and its been playing in my cd player ever since. its a masterpiece! i cant believe shes only 22 and wrote the whole album! rock on!
saw Josie live at the bluesroom
Author: Eric, 26 August 2007
I also have the Mercury CD spinning continuously in my hifi since I got it Thursday at at her Gig in the Bluesroom... was really awesome... and no I'm not a 15 year old Jozi girl... some of us 20-something's men can appreciate good music too :-) what an amazing voice... Just a pity the rest of Joburg is so lazy to go out and support local music... these gigs should be packed! people should get their asses out of franchise "cafe's" and into our local music bars!!
Biggest fan ever
Author: Jodi, 31 October 2007
Hi Josie My soon-to-be husband, Ryan Marshall from Libido, says im being a silly fan cus I just want to meet you so badly, I am crazy about your cd, out of all the bands i have heard in this line of music you go way over the top, you kick every band in the RSA and I dont care what anyone says, never once have I heard a bad comment about your stuff, I really think your great girl, the sun, she shines out your ass in this album!
Author: nicole, 14 December 2007
heard bout you a lot and when i heard that you were going to woodstock...i got in my car and drove.....
i'm a muso myself.....but shit girl...you rock!!!!!
keep up the good work
x x x
Author: Lappies, 16 February 2008
I am a 40+ GOOD music fanatic-- I have seen EVERY musician/band in this country since the 70`s-- even had a few big concerts (organized) myself. Always believed Karma Swanepoel would go right to the top internationaly--disappointed.Sad---I thought she had THE voice that will put our SA ladies on par with Sinead,Bjork,Edi Bricetc. Till I heard Josie Field.I`m prepared to bet ALL my money,my wife, my life on this incredible talent-- she has THE BIG VOICE WE`VE WAITING FOR (and the songwriting to go with) I`ve been listening to Mercury 24/7 since I bought it 6 weeks ago.I`m extremely delighted and excited-- the WHOLE world MUST hear her.
Getting better all the time
Author: mrfixit, 18 April 2008
Lappies You right she is the one to put SA on the map big time!!!!!!!!!!
Author: Rakes, 26 May 2008
Hi Josi, Really enjoyed your music at the dome. Have ordered myself a copy of Mercury and and cant wait till its delivered. Great stuff. Keep it up and cant wait for your new album in September. Go Girl, Make your dreams come true. :)
Josie Field Rulez!!!
Author: Bev.D @ dbn, 4 June 2008
Watched u wit James Blunt in Durban damn girl u can sing!!! i hope i get to meet u one day!!! xoxo rock on!
:) Maybe my dream can come true too!
Author: Bev.D @ dbn, 4 June 2008
my number is 0791358140 if u ever read this maybe ul make my dream come true and say hi !!
hey you rock please help me out...
Author: jess, 22 July 2008
hi im jess and heard you for the first time in durbs at the james blunt concert..and just bought your CD..its amazin.. but i also play guitar and do a bit of singin and song writin wanna record soon but its just soo dam expensive but maybe someday.. anyway ,but i cant seem to find the chords for every now and then and jus too dam lazy to figure them out myself... wel hope i can fine them sometime.. jess le grange
Proud of you
Author: Riaan, 3 December 2008
When I heard Josie for the first time I - I am afraid to say...um...It was part of a bunch of music I downloaded off of a friend of mine's flash drive. Was hooked first time. At first I thought she was an American 30 - 40 year old world wise unpretentious artist with a lot to say and no pretensions. Loved her! So I scoured the internet foe a few minutes and found out (incorrectly) that you are actually Jane Arden (one of her songs had the same title). So for a week or so I thought you where Jane Arden, sorry Josie. When I found out she was a 19? 20 something South African my heart swelled with pride and I have been queueing Josie up with KT Tunstall's drastic fantastic and the new Coldplay Viva la Vida to wind down after a day of slog. Josie, if you ever read this, you are AMAZING. Keep singing untill you are 125 years old if you don'y mind very much. Please?
Author: Carmona Dreyer, 15 December 2008
The first time I ever came across your music was at the Splashy Fen Music Festival in 2008. I was immediately drawn to your stage presence and the inner beauty you displayed on the outside. I was in awe. Both my fiance and myself have been talking about you ever since. My fiance gave me two of your cd's, Mercury and Leyland, as a surprise gift. Needless to say, every time he gets into my car one of your CD's is in my CD player and I sing a long without skipping a word. He asked me how often I listen to your music....well, everyday since he gave me your CD's as a gift. He just looks at me in surprise and smile.
Personally I have had a very very challenging year and your music resonance what it is life has to offer and what me make of it. I can truly relate to your music. Your music is honest and from your soul. We allow society to form us and narrow down our own beliefs and talents. You certainly do not allow this, which I highly support.
You have made an impact in my life by the honesty, sincerity and deep love you portray in your songs.
May you be ever blessed!
Author: Nattaley, 26 December 2008
I first heard about you when you did that colaboration with tto other local artists a few years ago, one of them was TWEAK, I thought to myself one day i'll work with you...
I'm not a singer, I'm a songwriter and i think you have a truly awesome voice!!
If you need new material just drop me mail at Nattaley@gmail.com
I think i've got some catchy stuff that will suite your voice quite well
Congradulations on the success of your latest album
PROUDLY SOUTH AFRICAN
Have a great holiday
WOW - AMAZING VOICE
Author: LINDA, 13 January 2009
I heard Josie Field on SABC 3 between programmes and was absolutely blown away!!!! Law of attraction should be every womans 'rule for living her life'! Now if we could only get the radio stations to play the GOOD SA music this would definitely increase sales and put them on the map throughout the world! This song had my hubby and myself close to good emotional tears - I can only say to those of u who bad mouth SA music - go home and listen to sakki sakki - JOSIE FIELD ROCKS!!!
Author: morgan barnard , 15 May 2009
Hi thanks so much for coming to my shool you signed my check. from morgan
Author: jeremy, 2 September 2009
Now that's funny. Yesterday I wrote a straightforward but slightly negative review of Josie Field. It was published, but this morning seems to have been deleted. So the question is....is this a slavish Josie Field appreciation society or a genuine forum for people to express their vieews? For the record, my review was based on a performance of hers I saw at Tanz Cafe a few weeks ago. I complimented her on her voice but commented that she seemed self-obsessed and arrogant on stage, barely acknowledging her band members. There was also no doubt that she was nowhere near as popular with the Tanz Cafe crowd as the band that followed - Voodoo Child. Read this review quickly. It probably won't be up for more than a few minutes!
Why I censored your last post
Author: Joe Blog, 2 September 2009
Hi Jeremy. Your post was admitedly only mildly negative, but I happened to see it among a crop of typical South African negativity and whining, and my hobby website here is all about trying to get Jo'burgers to appreciate what they have instead of constantly wishing they were somewhere else.
why you shouldn't censor posts
Author: jeremy, 3 September 2009
Hi Joe Blog, Well it's your blog I guess, so you're entitled to do as you please. However, I would suggest you restrict your censoring to blatant hate speech rather than well thought-out and considered comments. Just for the record there are plenty of negative comments in other of your features - and this one does invite me to "add a review or comment on Josie Field." Which I did, quite politely. Reviews, by their very nature, aren't always positive. Maybe Josie's your girlfriend????
Author: Aimee Le Roux, 10 January 2010
Im in search 4 ur music's chords, I absalutly love ur music!!!
Author: angeline, 4 October 2010
where are the lyrics
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