Arts and Culture

Josh Harty offers fellow folk artists respite from the music biz 'rodeo'

Harty promotes fellow musicians on national stage

Given Josh Harty's mission to share folk and roots music from Wisconsin with the world, it made sense he would be calling from Dundee, Scotland, last April. He and his wife, Jess Parvin, started their four-week overseas trip in Turkey on their honeymoon. Then the couple toured Germany and the UK, where Harty played 14 gigs in pubs and other small venues.

Harty says he has gone across the pond every year since 2011. But he hasn't toured abroad as ambitiously as in 2015 when he did 78 shows in 14 countries over four months. "I seem to do best in the north of England, around Sheffield and Birmingham," he says. 

That's not to say he isn't in demand back in Madison, the place he calls home. His group, Josh Harty & The Big Tasty, play the Crystal Corner Bar every second Tuesday of the month. 

When Harty isn't globetrotting and playing his own music, he's promoting fellow Wisconsin musicians on a national stage and bringing musicians he meets on the road home to Madison. 

Now in its second season comes The Wisconsin Room Presents, a Madison concert series that's a spinoff of The Wisconsin Room. Harty has co-organized for five years now The Wisconsin Room as an after-hours showcase at the Folk Alliance International Conference in Kansas City, Missouri.

"Anyone involved in the music business is there. It can be pretty overwhelming, but I tell people they have to go before they're doing only open mics and wishing they were doing something else," Hardy says. "It's kind of like a rodeo and you just have to hang on. But the Wisconsin Room is like a respite from that."

At the conference, The Wisconsin Room has served as a space for nightly live performances after the panel discussions and workshops conclude each day. One example from a couple of years ago was a joint performance by Wisconsin musicians Willy Porter and Peter Mulvey. "We didn't have to convince them to play. They were already there," Harty says.

Other Wisconsin Room performers have included Harmonious Wail, Madison Malone and members 
of Lost Lakes. Helping Harty organize the conference shows are Anna Vogelzang, a former Madison singer-songwriter, and Sarah Lou Richards, a Wisconsinite/now Nashville recording artist. 

Wisconsin Room Presents, the local concert series, will bring South Carolinian folk musician Jack Williams to Threshold, a community performance space on Atwood Avenue, on July 19. The local concert series will then host husband-wife duo Ordinary Elephant at the North Street Cabaret on 
Oct. 13 and Mulvey at Threshold on Dec. 13. Harty says local artists will open the shows. 

"It gets them here and in a space with an established crowd to hear them," Harty says. 

For more information, go to joshharty.com and wisconsinroom.org/concerts.

Joel Patenaude is associate editor of Madison Magazine.


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