Josh Shilling of Mountain Heart tells this year to shove it

Though most parts of the US have ended the most stringent of the COVID restrictions, many people are still unable to work. Of those just back to their jobs, lingering debts from several idle months are causing serious headaches, especially with children still out of school in some communities.

Of course the music industry has been hit hard by the cancellation of nearly all performances this year, and the city of Nashville in particular has endured shutdowns even more severe than the rest of Tennessee, striking many of our friends and favorite performers right in the pocketbook.

Josh Shilling, lead singer and primary songwriter with Mountain Heart, used the frustration and anxiety this has caused to put together a song that conveys precisely the sentiment shared by so many people right now, working people most especially. He cuts right to the chase in the title, (Go To Hell) 2020, which Josh said he was a bit worried about at first, until he checked with his most honest critic.

“Mom taught me not to cuss, especially in songs, but she approved this one,” he said with a smile.

The song is arranged quite simply, with just a guitar and voice, and an organ in the background. Josh’s vocal captures the anger lots of people feel right now, cursing the year and all the challenges it has brought.

Shilling says that it conveys his genuine feelings, put to music.

(Go to Hell) 2020 wrote itself one morning back in the early part of summer while waiting to collaborate on a Skype songwriting session. I’ve written hundreds of songs over the last decade, many of which were for other artists, and I thought this was going to be another one. I sang a demo of it and had every intention of finding the song a home with some other singer.

I then started to realize just how personal it was to me and my family. I realized it was my song to sing. In spite of what the title suggests, I’ve had some amazing downtime with family this year that I would’ve never gotten without a total shutdown. I’m very thankful for that, but the fact remains that this time has been so painful for so many. For everyone.

I’ve sung this song on stage, and I’ve seen the crowds go from a rumble to silent. Sometimes people tear up and sometimes they shout out.

The chorus gives a hopeful message that I think we need to focus on right now and that is, it is going to get better. It has to. The song is where I am; it’s where I think we all are right now. No tricks, no big production. This was a live studio performance, 3 chords and the truth … the truth for everyone, I believe.”

In the few weeks it has been available, Josh says the song has touched a great many folks.

“The reaction people have had after hearing the song performed live is what pushed me to record it. I’ve sung it at Mountain Heart and solo shows over the last few months, and the crowds have leaned in every time. Some nights they’ve yelled out after I sing the title, and at other times, I’ve seen them wiping away tears. This song seems to really impact people on a personal level regardless of their differences. I believe we desperately need things like this that bring us together right now.

I went into the studio with Mountain Heart guitar player Seth Taylor. I wanted to keep the production simple and focused on the song and message. He was in one booth and I was in another when we recorded this. We played through it a few times to find the right vibe. A half hour later, the song was done. The end result is a live take that really captures the emotion we were hoping for.

While we knew the song had an effect on people, I think we still underestimated the need for it. The song was released on October 9th, and it has been shared all over the internet thousands of times. It’s amazing to see something so simple released without a team or label in place take off and make its way around the globe.”

Let’s hope it can bring us all some healing and hope. No doubt, it’s a powerful testimony.

(Go To Hell) 2020 is widely available wherever you stream or download music online.

Like everyone in the music business, Josh says that the band will be back next year, and is chomping at the bit even now to be back on stage.

“While almost all of Mountain Heart’s shows were canceled from March to the end of 2020, we have played a few dates and we plan to play live next year. There are definitely safe ways to have live events. We’ve been part of a handful of shows that went amazingly well, without issues.

The audiences and us musicians are so hungry for live music! The shows we’ve played have been a blast and we can’t wait to do more.”

From your lips to God’s ear!

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.