When you first hear Joshua Strickland speak, you wouldn’t suspect him to be the frontman of a hugely popular Phoenix Southern rock band. On the phone, he is a bit soft, extremely humble and patient with his children. Indeed, during our interview, we were interrupted a few times by his children, who were having fun in the background. Strickland cut his mic for a few seconds, then came back. The cajoling was less audible; he hadn’t completely stopped, but a compromise had to be found.
It was actually his eldest son who inspired the singer to say goodbye to the Louisiana bayou and move to Arizona.
“I was in the military and met my oldest son’s mother first, and we didn’t end up training,” Strickland says. “So I moved here to raise my son, who I share 50-50 custody of.”
On the outside, Strickland is a pure Southern rock star. He has curly brown hair to the top of his shoulders, a full mustache and beard, and a perfect Cupid’s bow that doesn’t disappear when he smiles. He often wears a wide-brimmed hat and a large pair of transparent square brown sunglasses that cover half his face. The atmosphere is soft with the nervousness of bayou rock.
This nervousness is felt throughout the atmosphere whenever The Bayou Bandits take the stage. It’s been about three years since Strickland put the band together in between his day job as a registered nurse, a career he pursued after nearly a decade in the military. Military service is a family affair; his father and two brothers both served in wartime conflicts. Strickland served in Afghanistan, where creating music helped keep him sane.
Their next gig is this Wednesday, March 23, when they open for The Wild Feathers at the Marquee Theater in Tempe.
Moving to Phoenix and creating The Bayou Bandits is almost like another round of duty. This time the cheers are the cries of the battlefield and the instruments are the weapons; the crowds love him. Southern rock is perhaps the kind of thing that takes people away from their problems, even if it’s just for an hour or two. But how does he define it?
“That’s a great question you ask because a lot of people think southern rock is a dying genre of music, and some places we’ve played don’t even really recognize southern rock as a genre” , says Strickland, impassioned by the question.
“They would classify it as Americana. But it’s do not Americana because you listen to an Americana band and it’s really pop — you know like jingle-pop, and we’re not jingle-pop. The closest thing I call it is southern rock but really, it’s its own genre.
The Bayou Bandits have been, as Strickland calls them, a direct support to top country artists and rock bands. He says southern rock is versatile. There’s a joke among the band members: “We call it ‘swamp metal’. It’s swamp metal, but, you know… there are vocals and no grunts,” he laughs.
Speaking of metal, before the Bandits could assemble, there was one casualty: Strickland’s Harley Davidson Softail. When he returned from Afghanistan, one of the first things the singer wanted was a motorbike, so he bought one. It was a tool for his sanity. He calls it wind therapy.
“I mean, there’s nothing like being on the road, you know. You’re just free.”
However, the price of forming a band comes at a cost, and he had to make a difficult decision.
“I said, well, I’m not getting any younger and if I want to do it, I want to do it now, while I’m still young and marketable and able to do it.”
He sold the bike to help the band survive. “I had to dig deep and say, ‘Hey, you know, you can, at some point hopefully – God willing – buy 10 Harleys.
This prayer will probably be answered in a few years. Strickland has already released a hit song called “Take Me Back”, and the band’s popularity in Arizona is on the rise. He also dedicated a short album to the state.
“Arizona was great. We actually have an EP that we plan to release by the end of the summer called Arizona stepson“, he says. “We named it after a song we recorded. The song is actually releasing on a show on Amazon Prime like next month. You know, showing us doing the song, like a documentary series. We wrote and labeled the disc Arizona stepsonpaying tribute to all the wonderful people in Arizona who have truly adopted us, welcomed us.”
The band’s latest single, “Gasoline”, can be heard below:
Perhaps Strickland’s love for his adopted state is outweighed by his love for the people who live there. He quickly recognizes their hospitality.
“We’re not originally from Arizona, but they really brought us in as their own and so we wanted to pay homage and respect to the people.”
And although The Bayou Bandits are a growing group, Strickland knows how to stay humble.
“Everything we did, we did it the old-fashioned way. You know, knock on doors, you know; grind, hustle. It was awesome. was at the Renaissance Festival, ‘Oh! You’re Joshua Strickland!” I was at the Marquee yesterday, ‘Oh! You’re Joshua Strickland!’ Everywhere I go, music lovers recognize me. Then, you know, when I come home, my daughter and my son, they remind me that I’m just a dad. They’re too cool to talk to me,” he says. . .
“Although I love having fans like that, you know I love playing music for what it does for me. That’s where I’m at peace with the world. All the emotions I I have from being in the war, all the emotions that I have from, you know, dealing with COVID, Katrina – whatever is happy, sad, good in my life is my chance to escape and to let it all out Some people walk into a room and scream for five minutes to get it While for me, playing music and knowing how to sing is my therapy. There’s no song I’ve ever written that I’ve never experienced.
The Bandits of the Bayou. In support of Les Plumes Sauvages. Doors 6:30 p.m., show 8 p.m., at the Marquee Theater, 730 North Mill Avenue, Tempe. Tickets are $20 plus fees.