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News Local Brotha Josh pushes through anxiety to perform

Brotha Josh pushes through anxiety to perform

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Recent Southern Miss graduate Joshua “Brotha Josh” Holt began seriously thinking about music during his freshman year of high school. Moving from the world of drawing to music, Holt picked up a guitar in hopes of recapturing the music he cherished from his childhood. In the end, he found a community and an outlet to express himself.

Holt’s band Brotha Josh and the Quickness quickly gained notoriety for its soulful sound and great performances. Though the band formed only a year ago, it has become a staple of the Hattiesburg local music scene.

Holt’s band recently performed at Best of the Pine Belt, an award show that showcases the best music and artists of Hattiesburg and the SGA sponsored concert Eaglepalooza. Holt and his band will also be playing in the Leaf River Fall festival, Soul Fest, Oct. 7.

Holt said balancing his music with his day job is a constant but inevitable challenge he has to face as a musician. Holt’s girlfriend and recent Southern Miss graduate Katelyn McCrory said she loves that Holt has an outlet for his creativity, but as an artist herself, she feels the pain of balancing work and creativity.

“I really like that Josh has something he is passionate about. I really love that about a person,” McCrory said. “You are passionate about something, and you actually make the effort to go out and do it. But it sucks because we all need to work to make a sustainable income.”

Senior music history major and bassist of Brotha Josh and the Quickness Phillip Tapscott said he enjoys performing with Holt. “We really click when we perform. The shared glances to show we know where each other is going. You know, the little things.”

Tapscott met Holt in January 2017 when a mutual friend introduced them to each other. Tapscott said he joined the band as a saxophone player originally, but in March of 2017, the original members slowly drifted apart. He became the bassist.

According to Tapscott, this discouraged Holt. Holt wanted to give up on the band, but Tapscott talked Holt out of quitting and reformed the band. “That was the moment I actually became friends with [Holt],” Tapscott said.

One may not notice Holt’s nervous habits on stage, but looking closely, he or she may find the ticks of social anxiety he harbors. Biting his nails, pacing the bar and staying clear of the stage unless musicians are playing or he is setting up.  

Holt stepped into the Thirsty Hippo, a music venue in Downtown Hattiesburg, at 8 p.m. for a show starting at 9 p.m. He knew he would not be the only performer that night. Two other bands came strutting through the band entrance only door, hauling in their gear while Holt ordered a beer.

Holt jumped from table to table, keeping his mind off of performing. He refused to let his stage jitters phase him. The first band started sound check at 10:30 p.m. They were waiting on a bigger crowd.

Holt bit his nails as he spoke to the patrons of the Thirsty Hippo. He feels he knows most everyone in some way. Tapscott said the Thirsty Hippo is the home of their regulars, and that he and Holt feel most comfortable playing there.

Holt listened intently as the first band started playing at 10:45 p.m. He said watching the other bands helps him forget about being a performer. Enjoying being an audience member, Holt stood clear of the stage and crowd, instead opting for a table away from the action.

“The first performance I had, which was at a house show, was really weird because I almost forgot I was the performer. I said, ‘Oh yeah there’s going to be a band playing,’ and then thought ‘Oh s—, that’s me,” Holt said.

After the set, the second band came up and began sound check. Holt hands his beer to Tapscott to make sure his performance is not affected. Tapscott said Holt has a light tolerance and refuses to play drunk.

As the second band played, Holt stayed in an audience mindset. He enjoyed hearing fellow friends and musicians show their skill, but he knew the time was closer. His anxiety built within. Though he is accustomed to the stage and performing, Holt cannot shake the pre-performance jitters.

Holt moved to the backroom, a second stage area rarely used by the venue, of the Thirsty Hippo and tuned his guitar. After it is sufficiently in tune, he goes through the chords to his songs to make sure he will not forget them on stage. The back room gave him the privacy he wanted before the show.

Hours had passed since he arrived at the show, and it was time for Holt to perform. He gathered the four other musicians in his band, and they set the equipment up. Holt stood on the stage, doing the sound check with the owner of the Thirsty Hippo as he looked at the crowd of mostly familiar faces.

“At the Hippo, it is the like the same audience every time, which makes it a lot more at home,” Tapscott said. “I think Josh is starting to feel that way too, but it’s only at the Hippo. Other places he will be a little bit jumpier.”

Holt smiled at the crowd and made jokes. He pushed his anxiety out of his mind and began the first song of the set to a whooping crowd.

“Your satisfaction comes from yourself,” Hold said. “Other people will say, ‘This is great, man,’ but if you aren’t happy with it there is no satisfaction.”

Caleb McCluskey
Caleb McCluskey serves as News Editor of the Student Printz.
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