Saint Joshua: “I’m not just a romantic. I’m petty and I’m mean”

Love can wait. The neo-soul singer has other things in mind as he prepares for his debut UK tour

“I’ve been single for the majority of my twenties, but I’m a lover boy at heart,” Saint Joshua admits. He might be a soulful, sensual singer exploring the lonely side of life, but he’s also one that makes perfectly heart-melting music for lovers.

But all that’s about to change for the south London-based artist. Despite describing himself as “ice-cold” and “shy”, Saint Joshua is invitingly affable and excitable. It’s a level of contentment that has taken him years to find, as he’s delved into finding his truest, most vulnerable voice as an artist. After the success of 2022 single, ‘Palo Santo’, Saint Joshua is focusing on fun, and leaving the search for love behind in favour of self-discovery. 

Ahead of his upcoming debut UK tour, with dates in Manchester, Bristol, Nottingham, Brighton and London, we spoke to the singer about his beginnings, his latest single ‘Blah Blah Blah’, and what the future holds.

When was the first time you realised music made an impact on you? Was there a song or a specific moment that changed it all?

I don’t think there was ever a specific moment. I just know that I’ve always been involved in music. I’ve always been a singer. It was always natural. It was my singing that helped me gravitate towards being more involved in music at school – I learned piano, saxophone, and took singing lessons throughout. The pivotal moment for me was when school ended, and everyone was starting to find ‘normal jobs’. I was like ‘wait, are we not sticking with music?’ That’s when I knew this was my profession, so kept on, and kept writing from then onwards.

How did you go about shaping your identity and sound as an artist from that point?

It took a whole lot of time and work. I’ve had various aliases. I’ve always wanted to keep my music and my personal life separate, as I was shy and embarrassed about making my own music, wanting to keep it secret from my friends and family. I listened to so much from so many genres – not just R&B and soul, but jazz, country, rock – absorbing inspiration from all kinds of artists. The whole process really took me about six years in total. It wasn’t till four years ago when I settled on how I wanted to represent myself with my music. Working with a host of different producers, I finally found people that are now long-term collaborators. Pearse MacIntyre and I have created so much together, like ‘Palo Santo’, and ‘Trip’. It’s soul, but it’s catchy with big pop choruses. It’s the combination I wanted.

Saint Joshua - Trip. (Official Video)

Your songwriting seems fuelled by frustration in modern relationships, whether it’s dating or even friendships. Do you often use your music to realise the emotions you can’t express in real life situations?

One. Hundred. Percent. I am the most passive aggressive person. I will say nothing. I keep my mouth shut if something’s bothering me. But I’ve always journaled, and I’ve always expressed how I’m feeling to myself. That’s why I was always shy about people listening to my music, as they’d see a side of me they didn’t know. It was the height of vulnerability. Music is my outlet. It’s my catharsis, my release. Now that I’ve released three EPs, it’s changed how I interact with people in person. I’ll tell them how I feel without having to write in a song that they’re a “fake friend” now! [laughs]

So you’re at the most truthful stage in your life and career?

Yeah, I think so. The great thing about it is, where I’ve noticed “ok this is why and how I express myself in my music”, I’ve tried to merge both worlds. It’s no longer ‘me’ and ‘my music’, which I’ve kept distanced until now. I’m confident in revealing all sides to me and my personality. I’m not just a romantic – I’m petty and I’m mean. And I’m humorous. I want to keep it light-hearted. That’s what’s coming with the next project. It’s upbeat, it’s exciting

Can you tell us about your new project?

It’s almost done. It’s crazy, it’s sexy, it’s fun. Even I was taken aback by some of the things I’ve said. Whenever I get nervous about opening up to other people, I know I’m in a good place. But, I just wanted more positivity. That’s where I am. Hopefully, it’ll be out early 2024. 

If each of your EPs are a document of your life at that time you wrote and recorded them, what will your next project say about where you’re at?

This last couple of years, I’ve just had fun. I’ve spent less energy on romance and finding a relationship. Been spending more time with family, on friends. You’ll notice it in my music. With EP3, we ended it on a “I’m done with dating” note, and I still am. I’m comfortable finding love naturally, I’ll let it happen. For now, I’m focusing on me and where I want to be.

Saint Joshua - Palo Santo (Official Video)

Your latest single ‘Blah Blah Blah’ is out now – it’s a vibey one. What’s the story behind the track?

Well, umm. I think as we can already tell, I write a lot of my songs to dig out my friends! [laughs] We’re in a cost of living crisis, but we still spend money on things we have no business spending money on. I know some of my friends talk so much rubbish. It’s really just a message to people – not just to myself and my friends – to be honest.

You worked with Pearse MacIntyre again on ‘Blah Blah Blah’. What is it about Pearse that you trust to elevate the tracks you work with him on?

I think, between the two of us, we have completely different styles of working. I grew up listening to neo-soul and R&B, whereas Pearce came from the dance world. When we merge those styles we just create magic. He’s also incredibly shy – shier than I am – so he listens to what I say! [laughs] We’ve established a great friendship, we’re truthful with each other. I can tell him to f*ck off if I need to!

Throughout your three EPs so far, you’ve shown an incredible amount of versatility, from heartfelt piano ballads to groove-laden floor-fillers. With each new project, are you more rigid or spontaneous about what you want the end product to turn out like?

It’s definitely spontaneous. Previously, I’ve been so preoccupied with not having much to talk about. There’s never really been a clear vision. But now I know what my story is, and I know how I want to paint my picture.

You’re off on your UK tour next month. How are the preparations going, and what are you looking forward to most?

Very good, though, one of the problems I’m having is shaping the setlist. Dude, I feel like Beyoncé! I’ve got a lot of songs! At first it was like “damn how am I gonna fill 45 minutes”, but now it’s just about incorporating newer songs. It’s exciting, and a bit embarrassing! [laughs] This is the first time I’ve ever been on the road and I’m desperate to see my fans. My last live performance was my first ever headline show back in February. It was a beautiful experience. I want to experience that again. I want that connection.

Saint Joshua starts his UK tour this September. Find tickets here