We're On Fire

Joshua Dylan Balis

Joshua Dylan Balis vividly recalls the winter morning he stepped out of a shower in his 16th-floor Dallas apartment and heard sirens converging on the street below. He went to the living room window - a wall of glass - and saw only black smoke, so he threw on some clothes and flew down those 16 flights of stairs - only to confront a locked gate at the stairwell exit. A first responder had to pry it open to let him out. That fire, which occurred about three years ago, fortunately involved only one kitchen, but the experience stayed with him. "It was the first time I was confronted with a fear of death or any kind of mortality in a real way," Balis explains. Afterward, he began viewing time as something we consume, like fuel, and when it runs out, the flame dies. That concept worked it's way into the title song of his debut album, We're on Fire, an Americana-leaning mingling of folk, pop and what he characterizes as "a little electricity here and there when I want to make a point." Following a friend's recommendation, Balis contacted OmniSound Studios in Nashville, which turned out to be a perfect fit to begin work on his solo album. The staff and studio players introduced him to Nashville's music scene, and Balis quickly realized that if he really wanted to heat up his career, he needed to immerse himself in it. So he found a place in Nashville - elevator free - and made the leap. Fire may have, pardon the pun, sparked the album, along with the title tune's central metaphor, but Balis uses it mainly as a device to examine life's choices, and what ignites them. "The burning question in the background of our lives," Balis says, "is 'What will remain once the ashes have blown way?'" In other words, how do we find purpose in an impermanent world? How do we use our time well? And what will we leave behind? Balis' warm, welcoming voice, equally adept at finding craggy valleys and pristine high notes, would attract listeners regardless of his songs' subject matter or arrangements. Knowing exactly when to whisper and when to unleash dramatic power, Balis demonstrates self-taught skills some singers need a lifetime to learn.

Collections: CDs

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