A tour manager does whatever it takes to help an artist put on a good show. In the case of Desure (full name Josh Desure), that meant becoming a performer himself.
Desure recently wrapped a series of dates opening shows for BMLG trio Midland, including a stop at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville—but before he was opening shows for the band, he was their tour manager as the band made their way through the Texas honkytonk circuit and beyond. During one performance at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, California, Desure filled in as an opening act.
“I think it was [Midland’s Mark Wystrach] who said, ‘Do you want to just get up and play some songs?’ They knew I had been writing songs and singing for a while, so I got up and played and they were like, ‘Yeah, you should probably sing instead.’” Desure recalls with a laugh. “The manager of the place said it reminded him of like in the ‘70s when bands would put their tour manager onstage to open for them, like a family affair.”
Desure has known the members of Midland for over 15 years, meeting Jess Carson, and later Mark Wystrach, through playing in Los Angeles bands. Desure grew up a childhood friend of Harper Smith, who later wed Midland’s Cameron Duddy. Desure had been working in photography and production in Los Angeles, until the guys in Midland asked him to try his hand at tour management.
“I quit my job and packed my car in like five minutes,” he recalls. “I drove to Texas the next day, got on the tour bus and left with them. Just left all my stuff baking in the car.”
Having no prior experience with tour management, Desure said the new gig came with some memorable learning curves.
“I rented an RV for us to travel in. An RV is meant to go from A to B and stay there. We were going all over the place in it. Everything was breaking, all the paneling was coming off, but we were playing smaller, more intimate shows and we were just having the best time.”
By the time he got onstage at the Crystal Palace, Desure may have been short on tour management experience, but he was more than ready to take his place on the other side of the mic. He had grown up listening to records by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, which proved a potent influence on Desure’s confessional style of songwriting. By his early teens, he was playing guitar and singing in bands of varying musical styles.
“I’ve tried to count how many bands I was in during high school,” he says. “I was in punk bands and rock ‘n’ roll bands; we did a lot of Black Sabbath songs. Black Sabbath is everything, I love that band so much. I think rock and country, they go hand-in-hand a bit; [Bob] Seger has that rasp; he could sing for a punk band.”
Now, Desure is signed with BRND MGMT (which also co-manages Midland in conjunction with Sandbox Entertainment) and has folded those country, rock and punk influences into his debut, self-titled EP, which released earlier this month on MEGA/Tuxedo Records.
One of the album’s most gut-wrenching songs, “Los Angeles,” reflects on Desure’s move to Texas and his need to retreat from the L.A. environment.
“I was partying a lot and had no sense—I was just crazy. I had to leave Los Angeles. I needed to get out and just wake up.”
Desure penned all the songs on the album by himself, with the exception of a lone cover of Bob Seger’s “Sailing Nights.”
“Songs are therapy through and through. If I don’t write for a few days, I start to feel odd and I have to get it out. I think it’s important. Sometimes people will come up after shows and let me know how they relate to what I write, and that means everything to me.”
Earlier this month, Desure opened two shows for Willie Nelson and is currently opening concerts for Dwight Yoakam.
“I still don’t believe it. Opening for Midland, even though these concerts are huge and sold out, these are still my best friends. But opening for Willie and Dwight, that’s just good affirmation for me and it’s also just unbelievable.”
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