josh-gracin.jpgTalent, perseverance and the willingness to work hard to make a dream come true are the cornerstones of any successful music career and Josh Gracin has all those qualities in spades. With his new album, “Nothin’ Like Us,” Gracin reestablishes himself as one of country music’s most compelling voices, a soulful troubadour with an ear for a great song and a passion for connecting with his audience.

“This means a lot more to me because I’m working in the trenches and trying to build back to where we were and beyond,” the former “American Idol” favorite says of this new chapter. “I’m in the trenches fighting it out, taking the hits and moving forward again. Like all those old timers say when you sit down with them and they give you advice, ‘The best things are the things you work for and you work hard for.’ That’s the mentality that I’m taking and going forward.”

The Michigan native was first thrust into the national spotlight when he placed fourth on the second season of “American Idol.” He was serving in the Marine Corps at the time and quickly became a fan favorite on the show. With a versatile voice that could excel in any style of music, some urged Gracin to pursue a pop career, but his heart was firmly in the country music he’d loved since his childhood. He signed a deal with Lyric Street Records and his first three singles--- “I Want to Live,” “Nothin' to Lose,” and “Stay with Me [Brass Bed]”---all charted in the top five with “Nothin’ to Lose” climbing all the way to No. 1. His self-titled debut album was certified gold. His sophomore album continued to cement his place as one of country music’s most gifted young voices.

Like most artists, Gracin’s career shifted with changes in labels and life experiences that were challenging, but ultimately left him in a better place. Gracin is a happy man these days and it shows. With new music, a new love and a new record label, he has a lot to smile about and it is reflected in songs on his latest project like the romantic “Front Porch Kind of Love” and the infectious groove of “Me, a Girl and a Radio.” “Nothin’ Like Us” is a celebration of relationship bliss that is a musical portrait of Gracin and his bride Katie Weir.

“I’ve always been a fan of the soulful R&B sound that made you move, but I’ve also been a fan of country music since I was 13 because of the content and the stories it told,” Gracin shares. “‘Nothin’ Like Us’ fit both of those. It’s an up-beat song and something you can move to, but the content is different. It’s about a relationship, a love story and a vibe between two people.”

In recording the new album, Gracin worked with producers Brad Hill and Dave Thompson. “Brad did some songs on the Maren Morris record and Dave has done stuff with Lady Antebellum and the Backstreet Boys and also did some vocal stuff on the Maren Morris record. They are both great engineers, great programmers and producers.”

Gracin’s new collection spotlights his powerhouse vocals and the soulful way he connects with a song, and the Hill/Thompson production team frame each song with a spirited edge. “That’s what I love about this whole record, it’s really different,” says Gracin, who admits serving up something unique has always been his goal. “My first album was really different from things that were on country radio at that time, and now this new album really represents a fresh sound.”

Gracin filmed the album’s first video for the upbeat “I Go Crazy.” “I loved that song when I first heard it because it’s so different, but it’s got an old country vibe to it. When I first heard that song I knew right away that I had to make a video for it,” he says of the clip, which he co-directed. “So that’s our first video, even though it’s not the first single. It’s such a visual song so we did this whole western movie video on it where I’m riding horses and shooting guns. The girl gets kidnapped and thrown into a wagon riding through town. We filmed this at Melody Ranch, the California set where they filmed Django Unchained, the HBO series “Deadwood” and now “Westworld.”

One of Gracin’s favorite tracks is “I’m Still There.” “It’s another one of those songs that literally takes you back in that moment,” he says. “Everybody has had that moment. Everybody has been stuck kind of in time and caught up on something or someone and coming to the realization they can stay there or they can move on and go about their life. In this song he’s literally staying put, but in a good way. It’s one of those things where he’s not giving up on something that he believes in. It’s a great song.”

Josh Gracin has always had a gift for finding great songs and then bringing them to life with passion and authenticity. And he does just that on this new collection. He’s started his own label and enjoys steering his own ship. “It feels good, but it’s a little scary,” he admits with a laugh. “I felt like at this point in my career it’s best to be at the helm, and I truly like being at the head of the ship. When I look at everything and all the choices I made, my mistakes actually led me here more than my right choices did to be honest. Everything happens for a reason and everyone has a purpose. I’m just happy to still be here making music and I’ve never been more excited about the future.”