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After some unforgettable sets at the summer festivals, former Lift To Experience singer, Josh T Pearson, hits the road again to play a couple of gigs in the South West as part of a short UK tour. But life on the road sure ain’t easy for a tee-total musician. Laura Williams finds out more…

Josh T Pearson’s solo album, The Last of the Country Gentleman, was written from the ashes of a fraught two-year relationship and Josh says he almost didn’t finish it. While most artists profess their break-up albums help them get through, as you’ll see from this interview, Josh isn’t ‘most artists’.

“The whole process was pretty painful,” he said. The middle and the end was pretty painful. And the beginning was most painful. This really took it out of me. It didn’t help like I thought it would. I started playing with no plan to really record but was thinking could it help me, and normally it does but with these songs, the only real help I got is what it does for other people.” But it’s not all hopeless, he said: “Time has been a good healer. And moving is good.”

And he hasn’t been ‘home’, in Texas that is, for almost a year – living a nomadic life on the roads of Europe. He was in London when we spoke to him but he’s spent the last 12 months staying on various couches and in hotels and it’s taking it’s toll as he continues to steer clear of the booze.

“I’ve been clear from alcohol for a three long years now,” he said. “I tried for a couple of years before that to regulate it but when I drank, I really drank. If I could drink in moderation it would be OK, but there’s not a lot of that in Texas. A switch would go off in me and it was a real problem – I would just get angry. I went cold turkey. I had a couple of buddies who had gone before me. I spent two years before that trying to slow it down, doing two days a week or just drinking liquor, wine or beer but if I have any of it I just go off the rails. I’d have a beer and go onto whisky, it’s like an old faithful friend. The first year was pretty difficult. You have to get a whole new set of friends and people have to learn that you mean it when you say no. You just gotta stay alive.”

He cuts a lonely figure on the stage but here is a man who needs no gimmicks, his undeniable magnetism, distinctive style (though he spent much of Green Man festival telling people he wasn’t Iron and Wine) combined with some of the most heartbreaking songs you’ll ever hear makes him one of the most powerful and moving live acts you’ll ever see. His gigs are a fantastic array of light and dark. You get these heavy, emotional songs accented with some endearing humour – a deliberate effort by Josh to ensure he doesn’t sink into a dark, melancholic hole he can’t get out of.

He said: “It’s partly deliberate, to keep the right head space. If I get too low on it, I would just freeze there. It makes people feel good but it’s mainly just to keep my own head from getting too dark. The music jokes are always a hit (What’s the difference between a musician and a pizza? A pizza can feed a family!) but I’ve been telling them for too long. I’ll have to come up with some new material.” He added: “I’m a pretty funny guy, it’s just when I get alone I get pretty depressed.”

Josh is a big fan of some of the UK festivals he plays – particularly Green Man in Wales and End of the Road in Dorset. He said: “All the bands that played there were great and that’s why I like these small festivals, they’re small enough to really feel it. Though there’s nothing wrong with the bigger festivals.” He also fessed up to stealing a mirror from the backstage area at End of the Road and hoped they’d have him back despite his thieving ways! Hardly very Christian of him hey?! He said: “I’ve had plenty of battles with Christianity. It’s still a struggle sometimes, that’s why they call it faith. It’s a love/hate relationship.”

Josh T Pearson plays Cardiff Globe on Thursday November 24 and Exeter Phoenix on Friday November 25.