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Premiere: Joshua Dylan Balis - 'Lydia'

By Jof Owen

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"'Lydia' is a song for the perfect summer day”, Joshua Dylan Balis says, painting the scene. “You’re driving down the highway with the windows down, daydreaming about the excitement of new love. It's meant to transport you to a magical moment or happy memory, and a similar feeling of being in love."

If that was his intention, then it’s mission accomplished a hundred times over. Even on first listen, ‘Lydia’ is the kind of song that immediately takes you back to another time; a blissful slice of breezy heartland Americana cut through with a delicate wistfulness and longing. It’s the kind of song that plays while the credits roll on a coming-of-age movie; the soundtrack to the end of something, but hinting hopefully at the beginning of something else even greater in its wake.

Leaning into the stadium-sized grandeur of War on Drugs and Tom Petty, as well as the lyrical brilliance of John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen, it’s the next taste of his highly anticipated debut album We’re On Fire, joining the title track and the beautiful ‘Stories’ ahead of the album’s release on May 13th.

Listen to ‘Lydia’ premiering exclusively at Holler below.

Although he lives in Nashville now, his heart is still very much in Dallas, where he was born and raised. The son of Danny Balis – a well-known bassist, producer, radio personality and club owner in Dallas - it was his father who gave Joshua his first guitar and, as he got older, pushed everything from Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen to Coldplay and Weezer into earshot of his musically inquisitive son.

Motivated to write songs as much by poetry and Eastern philosophy as he was by Springsteen and Mellencamp, there is a profoundly existential depth to his lyrics. “The burning question in the background of our lives,” Balis says, “is ‘What will remain once the ashes have blown way?’”

Like the songs on his 2016 six-song EP, Modern Gospel, it’s this drive towards understanding something bigger than all of us that gives ‘Lydia’ and the other songs on the new album their emotional power and resonance. Recorded at OmniSound studios in Nashville, the songs touch on grander themes of spirit and form, the duality of existence and other philosophical matters, which gradually reveal themselves as considerations of how time, or love, alter our perspectives.

“Ultimately,” Balis explains, “I just wanted to explore the world of spirit, which seemed far more tangible than the one we live in.”

We’re On Fire is released by State Fair Records on May 13th.