Funk conductor, eclectic savant, and master of good vibes: this is Lonely Boy, or as he’s known to friends, Joshua Heath. A man of many interests, you can find him rebuilding a classic Raleigh Superbe road bike he nicknamed 'The Mistress" or throwing down saucy studio grooves. His talents as an entertainer are omnidirectional, spanning a USC Master’s Degree in Jazz Studies, television commercials, and tour gigs on every continent, except Antarctica.
Under his new alias, Lonely Boy, he’s been blowing it up with tracks on Culprit LA, Homebreakin’, and Winding Road records, just to name a few. Catch him with Droog and Justin Jay this Friday at Sound for his performance debut at Framework– surely the first of many soul-crushingly deep funk-fests to come.
We here at Rollingtuff were fortunate enough to sit down with this Renaissance man ahead of his exclusive RT release fitting title "Come With Me", a mix that offers a peek into his musical pedigree. We met at his studio in Culver , and now, without further ado, Lonely Boy…
Thank you for taking the time to sit down with us and give insight into the life and styling of Lonely Boy. We couldn't be more excited to finally get face to face with the man behind the mysterious moniker. How are things?
All good in the hood. The pleasure is all mine!
I always like to start things off with a few level setting questions. So first, pick your poison. What’s your cocktail of choice?
If we’re talking cocktails: anything with real Ginger Beer. Otherwise, I’ll take a snap of whiskey. Bulleit Rye or Blantons Single Barrel. Also, I’m always down for a beer (anything but pale ale).
What have been your favorite events or performances this year?
That one is easy. 1. All Day I Dream at the Hummingbird Nest Ranch. If you asked me to describe a perfect party, that was it. Lee puts such thought into every detail of that event, and it really shows. 2. James Blake at the Wiltern. What an amazing show. Not only is he a top-notch musician, vocalist and performer, he is incredibly humble, a true class act. I could shed tears of joy thinking about either one. Very inspiring!
OK. I have to admit. Your track 'Love Wanted' was the reason I became interested in your sound. I heard it on the Funkworks sound system at Lightning in a Bottle this year, and FYI the place went off. Was that the genesis of Lonely Boy? What’s the story behind the moniker?
Love Wanted actually predated Lonely Boy. I wrote this tune under a different alias, which I never fully connected with, and it was just days from being pressed to vinyl when ‘Lonely Boy’ came into my realm. If you’ve ever seen ‘Gossip Girl’ (and if you haven’t, please don’t bother) the narrator calls the outcast lonely boy. So one night I came home to my wife watching the TV abomination, and I said ‘oh lonely boy’ sarcastically- and then said, that would be a good alias! The more we thought about it, the more we liked it. I began to dig, and after finding no conflicts, I secured all the social media and began looking for artwork to represent the brand. I came across this lovely storyboard about a lonely robot, made by an artist called Zuzana Lehutova from the Czech Republic. There was one frame in particular that spoke to me immediately, so I wrote her to ask about licensing it, and after a bit of discussion regarding options, she generously decided to give me the frame exclusively for my project: and thus, Lonely Boy was born. That moment was really special, and I am very grateful to her.
So, I guess the obvious question is, are you lonely?
Haha, no. People always ask me that. The genesis of the name was very whimsical. I thought it was catchy, and would work regardless of what genre I wanted to make. What’s funny is, I wrote both ‘Love Wanted’ and ‘When I Think About’ before I chose the alias, and both songs have lyrics that are very lonelyboy-ish, so maybe it was predestined. That said, I do spend the majority of my studio time alone, so there could be some literal translation.
Tells us about your foundation in music. Where did your journey begin?
I come from a musical family. Both of my parents sing, and play various instruments for fun. My grandmother, at 90, still has a casual gig playing piano for the local retirement center. There have literally been family jams at holiday gatherings. My dad taught me to play guitar early on, mostly covering classic rock tunes by artists like the Beatles and Clapton. Mom put me in piano lessons, which I hated at the time, but is a skill I long for now. I was lucky to not only have supportive parents, but teachers as well. They really shaped the formative years of my musical journey. Although I played multiple instruments, Acoustic and Electric Bass quickly became my strong suit. I went deep into jazz, gigging locally, competing nationally, even touring Japan with the Monterey Jazz Festival. Playing bass brought me to Los Angeles, paid for my undergraduate degree, and got me into a stellar masters program at USC, where I was lucky enough to study under some fantastic teachers and players.
So what sparked your transition into the scene?
Drugs. Ha! (That answer is half true.) Technically, I could say trying ecstasy was what landed me at my first rave, and the rest all stems from there. Obviously there is more to it than that, but my world got rocked when I was introduced to electronic music. The sound, the vibe, the feeling, the culture, was unlike anything I had experienced before, and I got hooked pretty quickly. Thankfully it was only 2 years of raving before I was old enough to get into clubs, which allowed me to be more selective with what music I was hearing. I still loved a big party, but craved deeper vibes, and found them in 2001 when Digweed rocked two epic parties at the Mayan Theater, one of which became the GU19 album. These sets had the big room appeal that trance did, but the tempos were slower, the vibes spookier, the beats chuggier, and the shape of the set was long and drawn out. No anthems, no peaks every five minutes. Digs played for 7 hours straight, and I wasn’t bored for a second. On the flipside, house music officially came into my world when I got my hands on DJ Dan’s ‘Funk the System’ and Mark Farina’s ‘San Francisco Sessions’. These albums united my love of dance music with funk and jazz, and it was this connection that would eventually lead me to start producing my own music.
You've called LA home for years now, but toured the world. Which cities, countries, places or spaces have had the greatest impact on you as a person and a musician?
I am so grateful that I have been able to experience the world through music. It is truly a blessing. Different cities and parties have touched me in different ways. Montreal, Bogota and Amsterdam are cities I fell in love with straight away. I am very fond of Holland in general. Australia and Dubai were the first places that embraced and supported me as Joshua Heath. But, if I had to pick, Rioma in Mexico City holds the place in my heart as the best gig I’ve had thus far. All the elements came together in perfect harmony that night.
You have recently released a killer original track on Culprit which is arguably your most innovative to date. What was the inspiration behind ‘Somewhere Else’ and where did you find those beautiful vocals?
This has been the most common conversation about Somewhere Else. ‘Where did you sample those vocals from? I sang them. Really? Well who sang the girls part? I sang that too. Really? Dang!’ I laugh every time it comes up. I surprised myself with the quality of the vocals, they almost sound like a sample of an old Beach Boys record or something. The way they build through the breakdown is very emotive, and that’s what makes the song. Somewhere Else was directly inspired by Lee Burridge’s ‘All Day I Dream’ parties. I essentially wrote the tune to be an ADID closing track, so the fact that it ended up being the closing track of Culprits FINAL Above the City compilation, which represents their legendary Sunday summer day parties, is just perfect. Not only the vibe musically, but lyrically, the idea of ‘let’s go somewhere else’ works in so many ways. Spiritually or metaphysically we go to another place when we’re deep in the moment of powerful music driven events, and literally, being the last track of the day, the party is over, so let’s go somewhere else!
What can we expect of you in terms of new releases on the horizon?
Based on your past, present and future productions- and this eclectic mix you made for us, your production style and music selection seem rather diverse. How would you describe your style?
Well, I am definitely working towards a full EP for Culprit. I love those guys, and what they do for LA, and hope Somewhere Else is the start of a long relationship between us. But something more concrete: I am super excited to tell you that the man, the myth, the legend, Lee Burridge has signed an EP of mine for his label Get Weird, which is due out in March. It’s a beast! I also got a wicked little retro funk number picked up by Homebreakin Records, which is a great boutique label out of Calgary. That single, called ‘Highs & Lows’, will be remixed by Neighbour and Kraak & Smaak.
My style is diverse, because my influences are diverse. I am equally happy listening to Stan Getz, as I am Jimi Hendrix, Michael McDonald, Marvin Gaye, Giorgio Moroder, Outkast, Radiohead, James Blake or Lee Burridge. Just the same, I am equally happy creating a straight disco or funk tune, as I am something deep, ethereal or totally dirty. The same applies for mixing sets. This is basically the genesis of Lonely Boy: Stylistic freedom for a fresh audience.
Well thank you again for your time, and this amazing mix! We look forward to hearing more from you in the future, and wish you continued success.
Thank you for your support!
Check out Lonely Boy's incredible Exclusive Podcast, his killer recent releases and some select productions from his past that really define his presence in the scene. We couldn't be more excited to make this happen! Enjoy!