Sometimes you have to start over. Or as Joshua Polaris, aka Josh Hoffman, says, hit the reset button.
It’s what the local musician is doing as he kicks off a solo career after spending the last 10 or so years as a member of Elder Grown, the Durango-based rock, funk, hip-hop and jam outfit whose success continues to grow throughout the region. And they’ll continue to grow and do what they do while Polaris takes a temporary hiatus from the band he formed with his brothers on Durango’s Southside. There’s no bad blood, there were no on-stage fisticuffs like the fights the Robinson brothers of The Black Crowes, Followill brothers of Kings of Leon or the Gallagher brothers of Oasis gave fans and the tabloids over the years, just good will and support from his two younger siblings as he explores a folkier and experimental side of his music. So he built a studio in his home and went for it; it was a way to reconnect with the music and the lyrics.
“The brothers have been the most supportive of my stepping into this solo experience. I took a time-out. You know, Godspeed, have fun, I got to go do this. So I hit the reset button,” Hoffman said. “I was trying to get really clear on what I wanted to be doing and why I’m playing music, and that started with the lyrics and remembering what’s coming out of my mouth and why. It’s pretty important! I toned it down, grabbed an acoustic guitar and started writing, and it brought me all sorts of lucidity, and it’s been a really sweet experience.”
It hasn’t been easy. When you spend the better part of your musical career on stage playing with a group of other people, you tend to count on those people. This solo effort finds Joshua Polaris alone on stage, with nobody around him if something goes musically awry; he is, of course, only human.
“It’s like the dream when you’re in front of the class in your underwear. I look around and if I muff a note, Paul’s not there to cover it, John’s not there to hold that space so no one even notices it. It’s vulnerable,” Hoffman said. “But it’s also reflective and revealing. It’s just me. I think, ‘what am I doing? I had a good thing going with my brothers,’ so that question sets in, but then I get up there without my brothers and I play and it’s like, ‘Oh, I remember my lyrics, I remember what I’m saying and why.’”
It’s not only what he’s saying through his lyrics; Hoffman’s day job is with the business Sarvaa Organics, a local organic food supplier. Sarvaa Organics, in addition to making organic food, donates profits for the planting of trees. Through Sarvaa Organics, he learned about Eden Reforestation, an organization that plants trees worldwide. Hoffman plans on donating profits from Polaris record sales to Eden Reforestation; by purchasing records and merch, you’ll be financing the planting of trees globally.
“As I started this solo project, I was deeply searching for a purpose that was bigger than myself and my music. I didn’t want to just add myself to the pool of artists looking for support for their art for art’s sake, but rather, I wanted to add my art as support to the people and planet,” he said. “Not that I find there to be anything wrong with supporting art for art’s sake, I just felt moved to make it less about me and more about the planting trees because it just feels good to my heart to do so.”
The Joshua Polaris solo debut “Teach Me How” dropped earlier this year, with the sophomore effort being released in January 2022.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.