In the last few years, Joshua Worden has been fascinated with Japanese ensō paintings. Literally meaning circle, ensō is a concept in Zen Buddhism that symbolizes absolute enlightenment. Buddhists believe that in order to reach an ultimate state of enlightenment one must let oneself enter a state of "no mind." When a Zen master paints a single circle in one brush movement, the goal is not perfection but instead to free the mind, body, and spirit to create. In fact, it's this understanding that draws Joshua to create music. He knows the imperfections are crucial portholes to liberation.
For this Atlanta singer/songwriter, adopting this philosophy into his new R&B album, Always This, was a means to let the music happen without getting in the way. In fact, while he was in the process of creating the project, the R&B genre was not a conscious decision. Joshua explains that whenever he consciously chooses a genre or style, he feels that the songs come across as forced and shallow. Like a circle painted in one single brushstroke, Joshua's creative endeavors grew from an absence of self imposed obstacles. But Joshua knows that a true ensō can only be drawn by someone mentally and spiritually complete. He knows he's not perfect.
Joshua's journey is not different from most other musicians. His first electric guitar, given to him by his father, was what kept him from walking a troubled path. But since his first guitar, the time he has spent making music has had an interesting evolution. For one, he has been a fan of the neo-soul movement for the past 10 years. However, his own work has mostly been in the Indie Rock genre. Joshua's appreciation for musicians such as Erykah Badu, D'Angelo, Jill Scott, and Dwele had not manifested into his own music until now.
Joshua's themes are universal rather than autobiographical. For example, the song "Marrow" speaks about the mysterious surrender dynamic, when finally something spontaneous appears from an ageless place. For Joshua, songs come from deep inside our bones, and it's the songwriter's job to search for that creative surprise. "The Line" -- a collaborative piece with rapper BLCTXT -- addresses visionary intelligence, where the artist recovers something unborn, unseen, and unheard.
There's something to be said about an artist who draws nothing but a circle, such a circle will reveal the power of limits and open new doors. But for Joshua, as well as many musicians, there are also cycles. "Like a Rose" is a song about seasonal cycles and aging. And like a circle, life's cycles never stop.
You can listen to Joshua Worden's new album Always This on BandCamp.