High School Musical star Joshua Bassett on the influence of James Taylor and the importance of breathing

The triple-threat behind Ricky Bowen from High School Musical: The Musical: The Series and a one-person band shares how being present in the moment helps him focus creatively.

Joshua Bassett

Image: Sarah Barlow and Stephen Schofield

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Growing up in Oceanside, California with a musical family, Joshua Bassett learned to play six instruments and performed on stage from a young age. He’s appeared in more than 30 musical theatre productions, wrote one of his first songs while asking someone to a formal dance, and composes and performs songs for his character on the Disney+’s High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.

Fresh from his self-titled debut EP release in March, Bassett doubles down on the momentum in the music video for Feel Something. We caught up with the songwriter-actor to talk about getting grounded, Peter Pan and the power of breathing.

The moment it all started…

“When I was 14, I got grounded for a month. I got in really big trouble with my parents during the summer, and I was absolutely miserable, losing my mind because I had nothing to do. I convinced my mom to let me get a super cheap guitar, and she said, ‘You have to pay for it.’ So, I got a hundred-dollar guitar. I was grounded for a month, and I spent that entire month teaching myself guitar, and that was how I learned to play.”

Joshua Bassett - Self-Titled EP

I couldn’t live without my…

“I have a ukulele in the front of my case, a little kangaroo ukulele. I love bringing it around everywhere. I also love the piano and have a hard time when I don’t have access to one. Since I’m on the go a lot, I don’t always have a piano where I’m at, and that’s a pretty crucial mental health thing for me. Even on the artistry side, I find a lot of peace from playing the piano.”

The one that got away…

“I had a bass that I got from a pawn shop. That was one of my first instruments just because I wanted to learn bass. I got it for a discount because I offered them a hug. I wasn’t able to bring that bass with me when I moved to Salt Lake City, and I honestly have no idea where it is. I think my friend in San Diego has it, but I haven’t been with that bass in a very long time… I miss it!”

Joshua Bassett

My signature model…

“It’s a Taylor 114ce, covered up with tape because this is the guitar that I play in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. So, they let me play my own guitar. He’s been through a lot, all from playing. Taylor so far has been my homie.”

The first thing I played when I picked up a guitar…

“The first thing that I played was Fire and Rain by James Taylor. That was the first one that I picked up because it was the hardest song I could think of and I said, ‘I need to learn how to play the hardest song I can think of first, and then the rest will be way easier.’”

Joshua Bassett

The best advice I’ve ever been given…

John Mayer was recently talking about how we forget to just play our instruments and that it doesn’t have to be that serious. Sometimes it’s good to just mess around, and whatever comes out, comes out. Have fun and make what you want to make; worry about the rest of that later. It’s also important to breathe your way through every moment. The best playing and the best performances I’ve ever done have all been because I was focusing on my breath the whole time, and I was present. I was fully there and relaxed.”

My Spinal Tap moment…

“I played Charlie Bucket in a community theatre production of Willy Wonka at age nine. During one performance while I was dancing, my shoe came off, and I had to keep dancing until I was able to step directly back into it seamlessly 45 seconds later. I got a standing ovation!”

My guilty pleasure…

“This is very niche, but I am obsessed with J-pop. There’s also this one song from Peter Pan called Flying. I used to listen to this song all the time. It’s all instrumental from the Peter Pan live-action movie. That song for whatever reason is magical to me. I know every single note to the song.”

Joshua Bassett

I’m in the band…

“I’d attend Live Aid, hands down, specifically to see Queen. I’ve watched the performance tape at least a dozen times!”

The most important thing on my rider…

“Something that I can’t live without on the road is my backpack. It has my books in it, and my headphones, journal and computer. So, the backpack and everything that comes in that.”

If I could just play one thing…

“Classical and jazz music are everything. I’m not yet fully capable but someday I hope to play both seamlessly!”

Joshua Bassett - Feel Something

On his new single Feel Something

“I think most people my age are tired of social media and tired of living in fear. There have been spurts in my life where some of the things that I say in Feel Something are true. I think that’s the anthem of, ‘Got no plans, doing anything we can just to feel something.’ We often live our lives in so much fear, not fully embracing and leaning into life, and that’s what this song is about. Social media is very numbing, so it’s trying to correct that and trying to just have fun.”

Watch Joshua Bassett’s music videos on his YouTube channel.

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