Josh Gracin burst into the country music limelight in 2004 after earning a spot among the finalists on the second season of American Idol. Not only did his self-titled debut album reach gold status, it also churned out a No. 1 smash, "Nothin' to Lose," as well two other hits, "I Want to Live" and "Stay With Me (Brass Bed)."
Since that time, Gracin has completed his active duty in the Marines and enjoyed several additions to his family. He says he's now ready to get back to his music and is excited about Tuesday's (April 1) release of his second album, We Weren't Crazy. During a recent interview with CMT.com, Gracin opened up about his songwriting, fans and fatherhood.
CMT: It's been four years since your self-titled debut album. Do you fear that this may have affected your fan base or that the time lapse will work against you?
Josh Gracin : It really does worry me, but the cool thing is, I've continued to tour a lot. There's been people signing on to my MySpace and coming to shows. We've been selling more tickets. Each year, we sell more and more tickets where we go, so the fact that we've been able to build is a good indication for me. It makes me feel a little easier, a little less stressed.
You've set the bar pretty high for yourself considering your debut album went gold and contained three major hits. Have you set even higher expectations for We Weren't Crazy?
I hope so. This album is really personal as far as every single song on the album has to do with a particular situation that I've gone through personally or that I've helped out others go through or I've seen happen around me. It's a really a personal time in my life. ... I believe in songs. I believe that every song on the album is a good song you want to listen to, and I'm hoping that my opinion on it translates to everybody else. That's the only thing you can hope for, but I believe that we've put the best group of songs together that not only fit me but tell a story.
For the first album you were still in the Marines and had to constantly fly back and forth to Nashville while making the record. Since you've been out of the service, do you feel like you've been able to spend more time and energy on this album?
Yeah, it's more personal. I've had more time. I've been able to write more songs for the album. There's three on there. It's definitely given me a lot more time to really sit down and listen to music and figure out if this is the right stuff ... and we've changed it. It's totally different than the album four years ago.
The title track, your newest single, is an autobiographical song about young love and taking chances. Talk about your motivation for writing it.
"We Weren't Crazy" is a song I wrote with Bobby Pinson and Tony Lopacinski, and it's literally 100 percent about my life. It's not about, "Look at me. I'm on stage now." ... It's what I've accomplished as a family, being a husband and a father and having my own family -- and going from parents that said I was crazy for doing it -- until where I'm at now. That's what the song talks about. I was a lot of things growing up, but I wasn't crazy for doing it -- for getting married and having a family.
What sort of feeling do you think your fans will have from listening to your new album?
Well, it goes full circle. "Found" is the first cut, and it talks about being away from not having an album out for four years and basically trying to figure out what I want to do, where I want to go and where I am as far as music ...You go through a lot of personal stories in my life. "Livin' It Up" is like, "I'm going to do what's right for me. I'm going to do what's right for my family, and I'm not going to listen to anybody who tells me otherwise." You know, at some point in your life, you've got to stand up and say, "I know what's best for me," and go with it. The album comes full circle and is literally about everything in my life. Hopefully, people who listen to it and go through the same thing realize, "Hey, he's still having fun. He's still loving life. He's still singing."
The last track is titled "Unbelievable (Ann Marie)." You solely wrote that about your wife. Talk a little bit about what this song means to you.
I literally wrote it about two and a-half months ago, and that was about three weeks before the album was finished ... I'd written it at 2 o'clock in the morning by myself. There was nobody around, so I couldn't call and have anyone bail me out. So I had to go it alone, and I'm glad I did because there's no better feeling than completing something and everything about it is you.
You've written or co-written three of the songs on We Weren't Crazy. Do you think you will continue writing?
I do. I love writing, and the more I get involved in it, the more I can get involved with the writers in Nashville, the better it's going to be for me. I try to learn every day if I can.
Is it hard for you to juggle having three children and being on the road? How do you handle this?
The fact is that I have a great wife who is able to do it. That's the bottom line, the easiest way to put it. She is able to balance everything while I'm away -- which makes it easier for me when I'm out there. Yeah, she calls me with problems, and we've got to figure out how to handle it, but for the most part, she does a very good job.