Singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist Josh Kramon is a go-to musician who has played for several bands and released a pair of indie albums as a solo artist. Kramon also boasts a number of impressive credits as a composer and writer of TV theme songs, including the cult hit “Veronica Mars,” for which he composed music for three seasons and which continues to generate fans of Josh’s work to this day.
His new album, Say It Now (to be released on March 9th on Soul Shout Records,) is about being honest with who you are and living your life true to yourself so that at the end each day you’re left with no regrets. Touching on the spiritual, but also the joys of the material world, this is a set of songs that is both introspective and celebratory, a paean to living and surviving in these perilous times. In other words, carpe diem… Seize the day. Just what Josh Kramon has done on Say It Now.
“I think that the ultimate challenge in life is stripping away the layers of illusion to get to that one ultimate truth and part of the reason that I made this record was to strip away some of that illusion to get closer to the truth.”
Kramon recorded the songs which make up the new album in his home studio, recreating much of what he loved about the records he listened to growing up as a kid in L.A. Those influences include classic-rock like the Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Band and the Stones, as well as ‘70s singer-songwriters Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor and Jackson Browne, with elements of James Brown funk, Curtis Mayfield soul, OG hip-hop acts De La Soul, LL Cool J and Dr. Dre and even the lilt of old-school reggae from Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff thrown in.
“One of my the biggest songs that changed the way I looked at songs was when I heard Beck’s “Loser” back in the 90’s. I loved the way he mixed Hip Hop loops southern slide guitar and Dobro. Kid Rock has done that pretty well too.
After a pair of indie releases, Forward and Big World, Say It Now is Kramon’s most accomplished work yet.
“I’ve kind of blocked everything else out to focus on this album,” he says. “I felt I had a group of songs that deserved more than just throwing them on iTunes to see which ones would stick.”
From the urgent declaration of the opening track, “I’m Alive,” and the plea to speak your mind in “Say It Now” to the sing-song, tongue-in-cheek critique of the modern rat race in “End of the World” and the religious entreaties of “The Maker,” Kramon touches on all the things that affect every one of us in a world that is more fragile, yet interconnected, than ever.
“The songs are about finding peace of mind and solace from the hustle and bustle of modern society,” he says. “I’m trying to look for the best in things, offer a positive vibe, hope and optimism. And it’s also about finding truth and meaning in our lives.”
Kramon says, musically, the new album is based on “acoustic guitar, melody and groove,” ranging from The Band-like R&B funk of “Soul,” the Latin-gospel flavor of “Say It Now” and the Springsteen circa Greetings from Asbury Park lyricism of “End of the World” to the loping reggae beat and playground chant of “Beautiful Lady,” the sensual Beatlesque Rubber Soul of “Lipstick Mama” and the horn-punctuated, elemental blues of “Shout Out.”
“It’s a very different process writing songs than it is composing themes and scores for TV,” explains Josh. “I have to concentrate on either one or the other at any one time. Ideas for songs come to me all the time, so I carry a recorder to get them down. Making songs happen is a much less rushed, methodical process than scoring. Sometimes I have just three or four days to write 35-40 minutes of music for a TV show. Creating songs isn’t as cerebral. It’s a more instinctual, subconscious way of working.”
“For television, I really have to strop out of myself to serve the project and in making records I have to step into myself, it’s a totally different experience but I love them both.”
Kramon’s TV credits include composing the themes and scores for network shows such as UPN’s critically acclaimed Veronica Mars, ABC’s Cupid, October Road and Big Shots, MTV’s Making the Band and, most recently, the noir-ish ‘40s jazzy main title song to Starz’ Party Down. He has also had several of his original songs licensed for use on both Veronica Mars and October Road, but he feels Say It Now, for which he wrote every track and played every instrument, deserves to be heard as a coherent whole.
Kramon has been working on the new album for over a year. “I go into this tunnel vision,” he says about his songwriting and recording process. “Sometimes it’s hard to see what I’m doing. When the individual songs start coming together, that’s when I switch hats to become more of a producer and editor. That’s the cognitive part.”
Tracks like “I’m Alive,” “Say It Now,” “Good Times” and “Shout Out” are about living life to the fullest and being true to your own passion, no matter what anybody else says.
“They’re not only about accepting who you are, but having the people around you accept who you are, also,” explains Josh.
“End of the World” tries to make sense of what’s going on in society with a grain of salt, while “The Mask” is about the various guises and personalities we hide behind, “becoming who you really are and not pretending to be who you’re not,” according to Kramon.
“Beautiful Lady” and “Lipstick Mama” are unabashed love songs and paeans to sensuality and romance, the latter in particular “a composite of different women I have known,” acknowledges Josh.
“The Maker” speaks to his spiritual yearnings with a Dylanesque ambiguity. “Like any type of religious text, it can be interpreted in different ways,” he explains.
With Say It Now complete, Kramon is ready to play his material for audiences, and is currently putting together a band to accompany him on live dates.
“I’m very comfortable with these songs,” he says. “I want to share them. I want them to be heard. There’s a great deal I feel I can do with them live. I’m confident they will connect with people because they deal with things everybody’s experiencing and going through right now.”
On “Shout Out,” Josh Kramon sings, “I want to show you that I’m here.” Say It Now does just that.