Josh Garrels Biography

The singer-songwriter is firmly rooted in the Midwest, yet his music is a mix of surf-infused folk, Afro-Caribbean hip-hop, and Southern spirituals. He is a mystic Christian who believes that the Bible is the inspired word of God, but who isn’t totally at home in the modern evangelical church.

Navigating those waters has been difficult for the 27-year-old. Still, a growing number of people have connected with his honest approach. Now in the midst of recording his third proper album, he is on the verge of making a big splash.

Garrels, who grew up in a creative, musical family, said he has been “recording little snippets of things” since he was 12 years old. He made music as a teenager, but didn’t start working seriously on solo material until after he had an intense spiritual awakening.

“Stonetree,” his first collection of songs, was recorded in 2001 in the quiet room of a house shared by interns of a nontraditional church in Muncie. At its height, it was 14 seekers living, working and learning together, Garrels said. “It was a safe place to live out our ideas.”

One of those ideas was to distribute the income made from roasting coffee beans — the group’s method of supporting itself — based on the needs of the members.

That experience spawned a small community of support for Garrels’ music. He followed “Stonetree” with 2003’s “Underquiet.” The mostly live recording was released by Bellywater Press, a small collective of artists that included his older sister, Gala, and his future wife, Michelle.

Meanwhile, a Bible study started by his pastor in an Indianapolis cafe had grown into a church. In 2004, he and Michelle relocated to Indianapolis.

While in Indy, the couple began work on the album “Over Oceans.” Michelle produces the art for Josh’s records and often contributes her voice or poems to his work as well. Released in 2006, the record generated a lot of interest and several of Garrels’ songs were used in “Walking on Water,” a surf documentary produced by a Christian outreach group.

Garrels doesn’t promote himself as much as he attracts attention by being himself. The singer now lives with his wife in a large house belonging to a friend and benefactor north of Muncie on the banks of the Mississinewa River.

Garrels is comfortable with the decisions he’s made thus far, but the prospect of trying to turn greater profits with his intensely personal, intensely spiritual music gives him pause.

“I put a voice to those things in song that stir emotions and understanding. The tension of selling that … I don’t know,” Garrels said.

It’s a tricky proposition, but the singer’s audience responds to his attempt to live according to spiritual principles without disassociating himself from the rest of humanity.

“There’s a huge growing energy and longing for that,” Garrels said.
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