Editor's note: Indianapolis — and the rest of the world — watched soulful singer-songwriter and hometown son Josh Kaufman ascend higher and higher in the ranks of season six of The Voice, before winning it all in May of 2014. His win came with a record deal with Universal Music Group's Republic Records, but Kaufman decided to release his first post-Voice EP independently, after an amicable dissolution with his label. He's also releasing songs via crowdfunding platform Patreon on a rolling basis. Why? We'll let him tell you. Before Kaufman's show at The Hi-Fi on Saturday, he chatted with NUVO about staying in Indy, releasing music independently and playing hometown venues.
Before I did any of [The Voice], I had worked with [Ben Cannon, of Shine Indy] on some stuff, and he had me do some Shine Indy stuff. He was always really supportive of what I was doing back then. I had been working with APA, doing all my booking and stuff. It just kind of got to the point where they were only interested in trying to do the few big things that they could get. I just wanted to get out there [on tour and in smaller shows] and that's just not where they were. So just a few months ago, we stopped working with them. I was just looking, like, 'Do I start booking myself with my manager? Do we start working with somebody?" [Ben said] "I'd love to start trying to see what I could find for you," and [we did].
Josh Kaufman at Old National Centre (Slideshow)
The voice of The Voice appeared at Old National Centre as part of Indy Jazz Fest.
[When I was attached to Republic Records] I definitely went through a period of, like, "I don't know who is doing what. Are you accomplishing anything for me? I don't know what your day is, or how much your day includes me?" [Breaking away] was actually really easy. I think after several years of releasing stuff from winners of The Voice, I think they just got really wary. They didn't think that they could succeed with [my release] and they were really limited as far as what they were going to do. When my manager went to them and said, "Hey, I think it'd be better for us all to just [separate]," they were like, "Okay!" And that's it.
[The June show at The Warehouse] was the first show that I had started incorporating this newer live setup that I have, where I'm not just sitting playing guitar and singing; I'm starting to use some triggering things in Abelton Live, playing keys more, doing some looping with my vocals. There are a couple spots where that totally fell apart and I had to change what I was doing. It's funny because [The Warehouse] kind of lends itself to being able to do that. You're right there with the people, just hanging out, like, "You know what? Let's do it this way instead."
[At the Hi-Fi], that will be solo as well. [Upcoming shows] are going to be a little of both [solo and with a band]. You kind of just have to see what the money is, and see what works logistically. I still play a lot with the guys that I used to play with way back. We have a couple things coming up that they'll be playing at.
I think I see [living in Indianapolis for the long haul]. I'm always open for whatever is going to work. But it's possible to be here and go where I need to be. I know a lot of people over the last couple of years that I've met, and made connections out in Los Angeles. My wife and I have talked about, "Should we look at that?" It's just so ridiculously expensive. It's easier to just be here, and go there when I need to be there. It works for my kids; my wife's family is here. I have connections out there, but I have more connections here, just because I've been here so long! I play with a ton of really talented people who are all here. It just makes sense.
This interview has been condensed and edited.