Sam Hunt, Cole Swindell and Josh Mirenda. What do these three artists have in common? They have have written chart topping hits for some of the biggest names in country music before taking off as a massive solo artist themselves. If history has taught us anything it’s that it repeats itself. With that said, you’d be wise to keep an eye on Josh Mirenda. He’s the pen behind Dierks Bentley’s smash and ASCAP’s 2017 Song of the Year “Somewhere on a Beach” and the title track off Jason Aldean’s last album “They Don’t Know“. Now Josh is stepping out on stage himself and already has a hit on his hands. His track “I Got You” has racked up over 9.5 million streams on Spotify and is still climbing! I caught up with Josh right before he was hitting the stage at the WME Speakeasy to a packed crowd at Nashville’s 3rd and Lindsley:
Let’s talk about your writing first. Do you have an ideal writing environment?
Josh: As far as a place I like to write, I normally write on Music Row, and I love writing there but I really enjoy getting out of town for writers retreats. Getting out of the “Nashville bubble” as we call it with all the distractions. I get my best ideas and songs from the beach. My family and I go down to Destin, Florida as much as we can. I normally go down before everyone else early morning to set everything up. I just sit by myself drinking my tea, looking at the ocean and listening to some music. That’s my favorite place to write.
Where was the weirdest place you thought of an idea for a song?
Josh: Oh gosh, as a writer your mind never stops. It could be literally anywhere. The men’s bathroom [laughs]. Some dude will say something, and obviously I won’t talk to him [laughs], but I’ll be like “note to self, don’t take out the phone right now to write that down [laughs].” I’ll be with friends sometimes and have an idea so I’ll remove myself and lay down a voice memo melody. When I come back I’ll be like “sorry I had a phone call’ [laughs].
You were one of the writers on “Somewhere On A Beach”. Where did the idea come from for the track? I’m assuming you were somewhere on a beach?
Josh: 100%. Michael Tyler, Jaron Boyer and myself drove down to Destin. That first night we got there we went to this little spot called The Whale’s Tale. We were sitting down there having dinner and I just said “boys if I ever go missing you can find me somewhere on a beach.” We all just looked at each and thought it was cool. We tried to write a little of it down there but it just wasn’t right. We knew the idea was way too cool of an idea to waste on an average song that would just sit on a shelf so we decided to wait. We ended up coming back to Nashville a couple months later and hooked up with Alex Palmer. Him and Dave had worked out on a track out in LA before they got to us. Alex rolled in with this track for us to listen to. Michael Tyler looked at us said “boys that’s Somewhere On A Beach.” So we wrote it and our lives changed from that moment on.
What was it like finding out Dierks Bentley was not only cutting your song but releasing it as a single and then finding out it went number one?
Josh: It was my first cut ever. The publishers were kind of joking with me. I was at Peermusic with Jaron and MT writing the day Dierks was cutting it. We knew he was supposed to cut it that day and so we were trying to write a song but it was my first cut and we were all nervous about it. I don’t even know what we wrote that day [laughs]. We were so distracted with everything else that was going on. I walked into Kim Wiggins office on my way out to ask if he cut it. She has us come in and said, “Boys they tried all day and the magic just wasn’t there. They passed.” So I was like “Shoot. Man it’s all good, it’ll find a home.” And then she told us she was joking and that they actually cut it! I said to her “Don’t ever do that again” [laughs].
When I found out it was a single I was washing my truck at my, then girlfriend, now wife’s, house. My publisher Nate Lowery called me and told me we got the first single off the record. I was at the same house when I found out it went number one. We were going to go with Outback that night with my in-laws. I logged in and it said number one. I literally took off running out the front door and ran down the street [laughs]. Then we went to Outback and celebrated [laughs].
You also wrote the title track for Jason Aldean’s last album “They Don’t Know”. What was the story behind that song?
Josh: We were going through some country towns driving down to Destin. It was the dead of summer and this dude was on a tractor just busting his ass. It was one of those places where you think to yourself “if we run out of gas I don’t know where we’re going to get gas” kind of situation [laughs]. I just wrote down the title “They Don’t Know”, with me being “they” at that time not knowing what this guy does for fun, how long he’s lived out here, if the farm has been passed down. We wrote that song from that farmer’s perspective.
What is it like getting to see that song played live?
Josh: We got to go out on the road on the We Don’t Know tour to hang out with Jason and all the guys. Jaron and I would go out in the pit to be a fan for a little bit. There’s all these people singing it and they have no idea who we are [laughs]. Hearing arenas every night singing a song that me and two of my closest friends wrote in a small room in Nashville about a dude on a tractor in the middle of nowhere….it’s the coolest feeling ever.
Let’s talk about your own music “I Got You” and “I Can’t Lie”. What about those tracks stood out to you that you needed to record them for yourself as an artist?
Josh: I’ve always wanted to be an artist and didn’t want to take all my buddies’ songs so my friends and I started writing our own. I feel like that’s why I’m here on this Earth. I want to do what’s me and as an artist I don’t ever want to put out something that may work and is not me and have to sell that. I’d rather be me and epically fail [laughs]. There was no real intention for these two songs when we wrote them, especially for them to be my songs. “I Got You” and “I Can’t Lie” both had been on hold with Jason Aldean and Dustin Lynch for a while at one point. I felt like those songs were me and they were too good not to be heard. They were just sitting there so I decided to put the artist hat on and see what happens. It got to a point where I wanted to be the guy on the stage.
What do you have coming up next?
Josh: The EP will be out within the next couple weeks here! There’s three more songs that I think are great. We’re super excited about these new songs. I’m gonna through a curve ball at y’all for sure. There’s one on there called “He Said She Said” that’s pretty cool. It starts out with a song conversation between a guy and a girl. It’s kind of vibey. There’s another one, “Raise One”, I wrote years back with Jaron and Alex Palmer about how I grew up here in Music City. About my buddies and I and the ruckus we’d get into now and then. That one has more of a hip-hop feel to it. The EP is a little sample platter. There’s a little bit of everything in there but that’s who I am as an artist. I listen to everything from Drake, to 21 Savage, to Jason Aldean, to Kenny Chesney.
If you had to pick your musical mother and musical father who would they be and why?
Josh: My musical mother for music industry purposes would be a woman by the name of Hazel Smith. I’ve known her since I was probably four or five years old. My aunt was trying be a country singer and she was her manager. She was a huge publicist/manager. She’s kind of like my Godmother in the country music industry.
As far as a father Dan King, he’s a professor at Belmont University, he kind of discovered me. He brought me in and showed me songwriting is a thing and what a music publisher is. Michael Martin at ASCAP was there from day one as well with Dan. I can go to Michael Martin for anything from personal stuff to music stuff to advice to just hanging out. Those two guys and then obviously Nate Lowery and Brett my publishers, Michael Knox (Jason’s producer). Those are all guys I can call at anytime with anything. Those are the Mommy and Daddies of the music industry for me [laughs].
Let’s play a quick game of this or that for the readers to get to know you a little better
Coffee of Tea: Tea! I quit drinking coffee awhile ago so I drink tea all day every day now. I love me some earl grey black tea.
Ocean or Lake: Ocean! Ten times out of ten!
Football or baseball: Football, every Sunday. Sunday’s are for Jesus and football.
Whiskey or beer: Whiskey
Writers room or stage: Stage
Christmas or Halloween: Christmas! Oh my gosh I LOVE Christmas! I joke with people that I’m the guy that decorates for Christmas way too early. If I could decorate before Thanksgiving I would and just have Thanksgiving be a time to take a snack for Christmas decorating [laughs].
Take a listen to Josh’s playlist. He describes it as ” a little what I grew up on, what I listen to now, pre show…all that good stuff!” I’ve added Josh’s tracks and some of the hits he’s written on there as well!