Josiah Mortimer: “My songs are a product of our times”

talks to the York politics grad, activist and singer-songwriter

Photo Credit: Sarah Porteus

Photo Credit: Sarah Porteus

 “We’re addicted to technology,” Josiah Mortimer tells me, apparently speaking for his generation. Josiah graduated from York last year and is celebrating the professional release of his first EP Luddite Ballads.

Josiah’s EP was launched via the crowdfunding website Crowdshed, on which he raised an impressive £3,000 to get it off the ground. The title Luddite Ballads comes from Josiah’s politics, but “also a general disillusionment with modern life – which sounds a little trite but is a pretty common thing for young people like myself I think.”

josiah mortimerThe idea of being a ‘Luddite’ is central to Josiah’s album – a distrust of technology, and the thrust of ‘development’ towards the solitary worlds of iPhones and computer screens.

There is, of course, a degree of irony in Josiah’s promoting of a record called Luddite Ballads on the internet. He describes his politically-charged acoustic tunes as “slightly tongue-in-cheek” in this sense.

“In some ways, that’s the core tension of being young – we’re addicted to technology but we find it kind of shallow at the same time. But I don’t think all is lost. There’s a lot of hope and drive for something better if we push for it.”

The process of writing political songs, Josiah explains, is varied. He’ll tend to start with a theme and a guitar melody followed by lyrics. “If something comes up in the news, a song can pop up pretty quickly depending on how angry, uplifted, sad, or upbeat I feel…”

Josiah received much of his political education from his undergrad degree, not to mention his extra-curricular activity – or more precisely, activism: “York has a pretty vibrant political scene,” he says. “I was very involved in the Uni of York Green Party, student protests like the student debt sell-off and Gaza, and writing for the campus newspapers.”

Through getting involved in activism both locally and more broadly, my music became more political and more radical

“It was a busy time as I was involved nationally in the Young Greens too. Plus trying to squeeze in internships, blogging, song-writing and so on.”

Josiah moved to London earlier this year, which should be conducive to Josiah’s range of interests. The Big Smoke boasts a few more music venues than in old York, but he’s a keen advocate of the town he’s leaving behind. “York has a great music scene, especially for acoustic music. There’s so many pubs and my time there was fantastic in terms of exploring these places. York changed my music – through getting involved in activism both locally and more broadly, my music became more political and more radical.”

And it is this local influence he’ll take wherever he goes. “I’m going to miss York and the people. [I’m] looking forward to seeing lots more acoustic music and activism coming out of there though.”

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