Rising Music Star Joshua Washington of JoDavi Music On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Music Industry

An Interview With Elana Cohen

Elana Cohen
Authority Magazine
9 min readApr 5, 2023

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I believe our culture will be affected positively if we stop with the politics of “we need to cast that White lady because the public will not accept if we got someone Black,” and “we need to bring on that Black guy because we want to show we like Black people.” Choose the absolute best person suited for the position, and diversity, both of thought and appearance, will naturally occur.

As a part of our interview series with leaders, stars, and rising stars in the music industry, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing JoDavi.

Often referred to as “Mr. Maestro,” JoDavi fuses his soulful roots with his passion and schooling in orchestration to create what many call “Cinema-Soul;” a sound that likens to Earth Wind and Fire, the 5th Dimension, your favorite movie soundtrack, and his background in gospel, RnB, reggae, and funk.

JoDavi has opened for grammy award winning artists India Arie, and Anthony Hamilton. He has also backed renowned singer Alex Isley, and has shared stages with Jeremy Passion and LaRussell. As far as his own work goes, JoDavi has released over a dozen albums and singles, including his latest full length album, Zion, which he has premiered in New York, California, North Carolina, Georgia, and many other parts of the US.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit about your “origin story”. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

First off, thank you for having me! I grew up in a big family; father, mother, and five sisters (I’m number two of six kids). My father is a pastor, musician, producer, and songwriter, and my mom sang and played some piano as well. They’re both teachers, and my father in particular taught me pretty much everything about music. They both home schooled us, and though my mother was more of a teacher in other areas, she actually unintentionally taught me the basics of songwriting through her silly made-up songs, and songs she would make up about certain topics we would learn in homeschool; a short tune for every state in the US and their capitals, for instance.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always loved music. My parents tell the story of when I was about 4 years-old, we had just finished watching Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and I would run to the piano at home and play the theme music to the prologue of the movie. They said what caught their attention was that I didn’t play the more obvious themes of the movie, like the songs many of us know, but I played the opening theme music to the narrators introduction. I don’t remember that day, but what is interesting to me is that my favorite piece in that movie is still that prologue theme. So I guess I’ve always loved it. It’s hard to say what officially brought me to this career.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Early on, when I was in college, my band at the time was asked to open for India Arie for a Black History Month event happening in my former hometown of Stockton, California. I happened to know that she didn’t get a chance to hear our opening set, which was disappointing, but it actually what happened during her set all the more special to me.

India played what I call to this day, the most beautiful, soul-grabbing set of music that I have ever heard. From beginning to end, it was just perfect. Sometimes I would forget to clap, and would just sit in awe after some of her songs. One song in particular, she pointed her microphone to the crowd to sing these repeated “oh” lines. I was in the front row with my band and some other VIPs, and I sang out with all my heart. I’m in a sea of about 2,000 people, so I don’t think she can hear me, but lo and behold, she locks eyes with me at that moment, hands me her microphone, and tells me to keep singing while she danced on stage.

With each time around, my confidence grew, until she eventually held her hand out to get her microphone back from me, and I handed it back to her. Then a friend of mine, after the show came to me and told me that was all a sign for her that I’m ‘next.’ The fact that India was elevated, but I wasn’t far behind. The fact that she handed me the mic as if she was passing a baton. The fact that I used my voice while she simply enjoyed it. I will never forget that moment. I also think I’ve been chasing that feeling she gave me and trying my best to put it in my own music; not necessarily the sound itself, although I have taken lots of elements I’ve gotten from her, but the spirit of what she does and how she made me feel. I want to make people feel the same way.

It has been said that sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Early on, with the same band from college, I was 19 as were some of the other members, and we felt like we were on top of the world. I remember that we were working on our first EP, and our percussionist asked when we were going to record his parts. After a few minutes of unsuccessfully finding a good time to record, I simply said “well it’s ok, we don’t really need percussion that much anyway,” to which my colleague added, “yeah, I mean it’s really that essential.” Even thinking about it now, all I can say is oof.

Luckily our percussionist was a very outspoken individual. He was older than us by about 12 years, so there was also that dynamic. His countenance changed quickly, and he responded to basically to take us to task for saying he wasn’t essential. In that very moment, I knew I messed up. Not only did I dismiss a person to their face, I massively undervalued the importance of real percussionists playing real percussion. At the time, I was more privy to percussion tracks, I was trampling on pearls.

Needless to say we quickly apologized, and the three of us were all good. I learned a valuable lesson that day; and one that my father always taught me even before that incident, which is to “always treat people right.” Also, live percussion is really dope.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My father for sure. Not just because of the music lessons, but modeling what a hardworking, faithful, God-fearing man looks like. I had a gift, but was often lazy. My father wasn’t afraid to tell me about myself, and push me to do better; and he didn’t care if he had to be my worst enemy to do it. My work ethic comes from him, and he continues to be one of my anchors.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my favorite scriptures. Proverbs 18:16

A man’s gift makes room for him

and brings him before the great.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Two things:

  1. I’m working on an EP and I have a full orchestra on two of the tracks. We will release it on vinyl and I will tour with it on my first world tour. The first stop on the world tour is Jerusalem, Israel. I’ve been a couple of times, but never as JoDavi and I am over the moon.
  2. In 1997, my father and mother started a music school called Zion Academy. In 2008 I began teaching piano in it, and in 2013,I become the director. We closed down in 2020, but I have relaunched it here in Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s not called the Zion Academy of Music and Arts.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in music, film, and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

I believe in what I like to call organic diversity. I believe if we truly identify talent and excellence purely for what it is and not who holds it, we will organically have a very diverse bunch of people. I’ve never been for simply choosing someone because of their skin color, whether White or Black. I personally want to know that I was chosen for something because I was the best — head and shoulders above the rest — not because someone decided they need another Black face. I felt that way being admitted into my college, and it took a long time for me to shake that feeling.

I believe our culture will be affected positively if we stop with the politics of “we need to cast that White lady because the public will not accept if we got someone Black,” and “we need to bring on that Black guy because we want to show we like Black people.” Choose the absolute best person suited for the position, and diversity, both of thought and appearance, will naturally occur.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

I wish someone would have pushed me to travel more for music.

Other than that, I don’t have regrets. The mistakes I’ve made are unforgettable lessons, and I prefer learning my lessons the awkward, sometimes painful ways that I learned them rather than by someone simply telling me things and me likely forgetting them.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Have your anchors. I think of a kind of corny, but memorable quote from the Disney Channel Original Movie ‘Brink.’ The main character’s father told him “skating is what you do. It’s not who you are.” People can dissect that in many ways, but I took that to mean, at the end of the day, you need to have your retreats. Mine are my wife, our two boys, my parents and sisters, my prayer life, summer walks, and watching some old animated superhero series. Take time and rest. When things seem to be slow at the moment, take the opportunity and embrace it. One things pick back up, there’s no telling when they’ll die down again.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I already have one. 🤗 One of many, but this one is called the Cultural Collide. Different cultures coming together, and incredible music being displayed in the midst of it. My first one was in Harlem. I performed what I call Symphonic Soul music with my band, string quartet, and backup singers. We were in an amazing and culturally rich venue called Tsion Café. It’s an Ethiopian restaurant run by and Ethiopian Israeli. So we had soul music, Ethiopian food, and Israeli culture all in one. At some point in our set, I had the owner come up and share a little bit of her story. I like doing things to normalize and humanize. It’s the first step to peace in my opinion.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

For a long time, it was Chadwick Boseman. I had always felt like we would have gotten along. Still makes me sad to think about, and my heart still goes out to his family. A strong Black man, playing strong Black leads. Even though our industries are a little different, I still would have learned so much from sitting down with him.

People in the same place as him on my list are Ms. Lauryn Hill, India Arie, Questlove, Black Thought, Stevie Wonder, Lianne La Havas, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. No particular order. It would just be such a treat to meet any of the legends.

How can our readers follow you online?

My handle @jodavimusic is in a lot of places. It’s easy to find me! I also write a lot of articles and have occasional podcasts on my Substack page at jodavimusic.substack.com.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Thank you so much!

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Elana Cohen
Authority Magazine

Elana Cohen is a freelance writer based in Chicago. She covers entertainment and music