Monday, December 23, 2013

The Lessons from the Dark

Season's greetings and MERRY AXEMAS, comrades! 
 HEY - have you heard the holiday EP this year?  Grab a free download over at

Wow, what a fun year 2013 has been.     It's been so rockin' to fight bad music with the Guitarmy, and I hope the holiday season is joyous and full of light for you.

For many, however, it won't be.

  It's a complex time of year.  As you may know, I've been working on something to bring some light into this time.  I call it the Kindness Exchange, and I've learned many things since launching it in November.  As the rain falls down here twenty minutes south of Washington DC, and the cars jockey for position in a long line of hope, stress, and headlights, honking at each other on the street outside my studio, I'd like to share one of those insights.First, the beginning.  The Kindness Exchange is a project inviting people to post their kind deeds online using the hashtag #KindnessExchange, rendering their post visible to a search.  I'm printing out the acts on little pieces of paper, and putting them on a lit "kindness tree" in my front yard - a literal beacon in the darkness.  It's been just over a month into the project, and the results have been phenomenal.  Accounts are arriving from all over, and people seem to be pondering kindness more, and examining it's place in our daily lives.  (Feel free to join in the fun, too!)  The Facebook group is full of kind, dedicated people who are consistently out there doing good in the world, and Twitter and Instagram keep getting word of good news.
I've been traveling around, playing music in places like hospitals, on the street, in nursing homes, homeless centers, and the like.  The place where I've been filled with the most Christmas spirit is when patients in the psychiatric ward at a veteran's hospital started spontaneously singing carols.
There has been much laughter, joy, and meaningful stories.  However, even the most well-intentioned and enthusiastic projects are prone to doubt when the sun has set and the temperature drops.  Driving home one night recently, I noticed how dark the night seemed to be.  A mile ahead, the traffic lights beamed out mixed signals through the blackness as my car trundled like a tired moth to the illumination.  I wondered if the whole idea of a kindness project was absurd.  After all, the world is a big place, and it's filled with much darkness.  Is an effort of light just trying to write a fairytale of denial with the ink of naivety?  After all, the world does seem to be hell bent on it's own destruction.  Can little actions ever make a difference in the face of such injustice?

When I turned 20, as silly as it sounds, I was shocked to realize that adults don't have it "figured out."  My grandfather died when I was 22, and I was stunned to realize that a happy end to life isn't a guarantee.  At 27, standing in the Times Square Subway station playing Texas Blues on my guitar, the neutrality of the world struck me.  So - this is it.  No epic music, just the clanging and wooshing of the trains on the platform below, and the footfalls of a thousand hurried souls.  Nothing more, nothing less...just - now.  

Back in the night, and back to the present, driving and staring at the lights in the darkness...I started thinking about how the world got the state that it's in, and how we keep it so.  of My mother has told me often that "Life is Choices", and I think those are some of the wisest words I've ever heard.  I had been angry about something all day, and how one deals with anger is a choice.  Simmering along at 50 miles per hour, I met the piercing gaze of the traffic lights in the distance with an equal intensity. The easy choice was running through my head in delightfully witty and vengeful combinations, but the right choice was in the silence and the solitude.

Then the insight showed up in a flash!  (Hey, who knows if it's right or not, but take it as you will.)

If life really is choices, perhaps the darkness is just a swarm of poor choices.  Not only that, when we see the utter blackness, we're seeing that we have the freedom to choose, and although the choices that led to the situation have been bad, the depth of the moment means we're operating with a full dynamic range, and live in a world where supreme light and height is possible.  A sharp knife can kill - or feed the masses with skill and dedication as it prepares a meal for the world.  The cut is the result of the choice,  the sharpness the power and the freedom. The powerful car can get wrapped around a tree, or cruise into the sunset, while a dull twig does little, good or bad.    I had never thought of the darkness as the illustration for the possibility of light, and an indicator of the breadth of the canvas upon which we may paint.
People of high achievement stand on a pillar of accomplishment - which, in turn, stands on a mountain of - most exciting to think of -  little choices.  "Today, I will work hard.  Today, I will practice."

"Today, I will be kind."

If the world is a sum of our daily choices, not only do the little things count, but they're the only things that count.  If life is a castle built entirely of little tiny blocks - I'm going to do my very best to use the right ones.
The lights turned green, and I made it home safely.
So, as the rain falls, and you turn to face what may be a picture perfect holiday...or not... I wish you not only peace, but metaphorically speaking, mindfulness of the canvas, and the most brilliant red and green paints on your palette - unless, of course, you should take this literally if you're an artist.

But then again, aren't we all?

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and best wishes for a rockin' New Year.
- Josh 

Copyright 2013 Josh Urban

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Houston, we have liftoff


  What an incredible first day of The #KindnessExchange!  I woke up to enthusiastic emails about the project, and here I am, finishing off the day writing about it.  People all over are getting really excited about spreading kindness this holiday season.  A lady on Instagram told me that she's inspired, and is going to do one act of kindness each day till the New Year.  One of my guitar students brought me a can of Mountain Dew with a slip of paper reading "#KindnessExchange."  Confirmation rang in this afternoon for a songwriting workshop I'll be lucky enough to host for the homeless in Baltimore in a few weeks.  A kindergarten teacher in North Carolina is working on setting up a Skype call so her students can get involved in the project.  It is GOING CRAZY!

  And in between all the joyful emails and tweets and Facebook posting...I get quiet and remember her.  It was six years ago today.  The call came in, my mom sat down.  "What's wrong?" she asked, so concerned.  I stood by her chair as she crumbled and then staggered to sit up straight, gasping and gulping for air.  Her hand, so tightly clenched, scrawled out the news in the blackest ink you'd ever want to see...a darkness of cold that never ever really lets you go, chilling you to the bone with a sickening sort of bite.

  And so, I walked out into the physical cold and blackness this evening, stumbled around a bit in the garden by the outlet, and held the plug up so it was silhouetted against the moon blazing through the icy clouds.  "In her memory" I though.

  Coal from an ancient time under an ancient sun, transported by hardworking men covered in the dust, bored engineers and tired plant workers, was turned into electrons, running as fast as the light from the stars partially veiled overhead, blazed into a beacon of light, the photons returning to whence they came across the cosmos.

And the tree is lit.  And the tour starts.  And the light is shining in the darkness.

Keep on tagging those posts back to #KindnessExchange.  The world badly needs 'em.

- Josh 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Post 400! The #KindnessExchange


  OK, it's good to be back!  Wow, it's been a little while...Here's a cool way to start post FOUR HUNDRED!  Holy smokes, what a journey - thanks for being there with me for it!  Well, big news - time for a new tour.  It's only one week away - One week till The Kindness Exchange kicks off!

Next Wednesday, the tree gets lit, and the good deeds start.  

"What's this?" you say?  

Backing up a few...

The holidays are fast approaching, and well, it's a rather complex time for many.  I remember being a little kid, puzzled when my mom told me that some people had a hard time around this time of year.  My young brain couldn't fathom how Santa couldn't fix everything.  

As I grew older, and Life dished it's inevitable onto my plate, I begin to understand.  

Santa seemed a long ways off, almost as faded as the figurine of St. Nick that was my dad's.  "Bob's 1st Christmas" said the spidery pencil writing on the underside of the platform the Christmas ornament.  

But now - still very young, but with a balance of both good times and the bad, plus a dose of observation...I'm excited.  We can all beS anta...or at least that's what I'm setting out to do.  

When I was on my Search for Good Tour, I realized how neutral the world appears to be most of the time.  It struck me that it's often a blank canvas on which we can paint the picture that we'd truly like to see.  So, I'm excited to kick off a project of intentional painting, of creation, and of attempts small and large to help our fellow citizens through what can be a very difficult time of year.  

It's called The Kindness Exchange, and the idea is simple:  You do something nice for someone, and post it on social media using the hashtag #KindnessExchange.  I'll see the tagged post, print it out, and put it on a lit holiday tree - a literal beacon shining in the darkness!  

You can tell the recipient of the action if fitting, or you can keep it discrete.  I encourage you to tell the world what you've done, though, although if you feel uncomfortable, you can keep the action anonymous as well.  However, I think once we can "brag" about bettering the planet, well, maybe it will scale up to real global change.  Hey, the world "selfie" just landed in the dictionary, after all.  

So, at 11:00 am EST on Wednesday, November 20th - I'm lighting that tree up, and then I'm going out into the world and doing some things to make it a better place.  I hope you can join me.  

How?  Well, if you're stumped, start small.  Buy a friend or neighbor a cup of coffee.  Better yet, a stranger.  If you can't afford one, you can make something.  Hey, try going mobile!  My buddy Jim has a great thing that he does:  he carries around packs of snack crackers to give to the homeless guys begging at stoplights.  If you've got some extra time, volunteering in the community is a tremendous act of kindness - something as "cliche" as visiting a nursing home means the world - and is never "cliche" to the recipient.  

One of the main things that I’ll be doing is bringing music around the area.  I’ll be playing my guitar in hospitals, VA centers, nursing homes, homeless shelters, street corners, and other places that might not normally have tunes.  I’m looking forward to it!

Post it back!  Use the tag #KindnessExchange - and let's see all the good that you're doing!  In the meantime, if you have any questions, or would like to say hello, drop me an email at  And don't forget to visit the hub of the activity to see what people all over are doing:

We can bring some good to people - sort of like a grown-up Santa.  You never know who's life you'll save, or who's day you'll change.

Counting down till the 20th - see you out there!

- Josh

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Fabric of the World - Part II of the #JURT


I hope the Revolution's been treating you well! Here's the second installment of the guest blog posts I'm writing for Positive Impact Magazine - it's the stories from the rails on The Search for Good Tour. Thanks for being part of it - I hope you enjoy the writings!

New York City

The train hurried northward on the steel rails, racing the clouds above as they scudded across a leaden sky. My guitar was wedged in the luggage rack next to the gigantic suitcase, ready to play the tour of hospitals, cancer centers, street corners, and other places that didn’t reverberate with the sound of music as often as they might like.

Deciding that kindness was something worth spotlighting, I had booked a tour to find the Good in the world, and I had invited everyone to join me in the search. The idea was simple: see something good – post it on social media using the hashtag #JURT (Josh Urban Rail Tour.) Instead of the usual slaughter that greets us whenever there’s anything news related, the concept was to change the narrative, and, using the power of social media, literally everyone could “join” the tour in an interactive fashion. After all, it seems that we find what we’re looking for.

The train rattled and creaked, flying by 1930′s infrastructure and endless mediocrity, with the occasional billboard sporting a huge photo of Steve Harvey or Oprah Winfrey, seemingly trying to dazzle away the gray with their megawatt smiles.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The #JURT rocks on!


  WOW it's been a while since I've posted here, and a lot has happened since!  First off, thank you to everyone involved in The Search for Good Tour.  It was a smashing success, so much fun, and, I'm gradually realizing, truly life changing.  I see the world as a much better place now than I did, and it was an honor to tour with everyone.   Thank you for being a part of it.  From jamming with hospital patients (and being blown away at their talent!), to lurking in the NYC subway system with my guitar and watching humanity, it was a fascinating, exhilarating, exhausting, and way fun trip.  It was great to visit with folks, go bowling (thanks, Vliet fam!), listen to the stories, and see all the Good in the world.  I can't wait to hop on the rails again!

  Also, dropped the new album on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, etc etc:  Here it is!

But - the really big news is - I'm guest blogging about our tour over at Positive Impact Magazine!  I'm honored and flattered, and I'd like to share the series over here, too.  The tour has made it to some music blogs and websites (like ReverbNation, Dotted Music, and JTV Digital!), and while my musician readers might find the info helpful, the series for Positive Impact is about finding kindness, light, and all the stories from the road.  You know, stuff we can all use, regardless of our walk of life.  I hope you enjoy the series!  Here's part I.  And - THANKS AGAIN!  I've got some catching up to do with the blog here, so you'll be hearing more from me soon, and I hope to hear back from you!  

A Tangible Currency - Part I of the #JURT 
Welcome part I of a series by musician Josh Urban, with stories and insights from a recent music tour to find the Good in the world.

Many life changes happen in a flash, yet are disguised as ordinary events in the course of a day, played by unsuspecting actors, almost as a cosmic joke from an invisible casting department.
  One of these lessons hit me in the face recently.  I’m a rock musician, but one of my side “gigs” is a DJ. Through a strange series of events, I’ve found myself the host of my Classic Radio Hour show, where I bring my speakers and other sound equipment to assisted living communities and nursing homes, setting up to play Frank Sinatra, Glenn Miller, and other hits from a bygone era.  I sit at my DJ table, and join the appreciative audience in listening as I spin the tracks of old.  It’s quite moving to see people soak up the songs of their prime, and to hear their stories after the show.
  One day, however, things took a different turn.  The show was at a larger facility that, in addition to housing seniors, hosts an adult day care center.  The mix of audience ages can create an unusual dynamic.  One of the younger clients of the facility (let’s call her Sally) loves to dance to a favorite song that I have for her each time (the track is decidedly not Frank Sinatra.)  Sally is standing in front of the room, as is her custom, dancing joyfully and charmingly off beat to the song, the personification of the fierce happiness that music brings us, no matter how “different” or “normal” we are.
  “Mildred” was sitting in her wheelchair, and was probably having a hard day.  Perhaps she was in a lot of pain, sad, or lonely.  Whatever the cause for her discomfort, she was not enjoying the song, and was certainly not enjoying Sally’s dancing.  ”Stop it!  Sit down!” she shrieked.
  You could almost see the wind rush out of Sally’s sails, as her shoulders rounded, her head bowed, and the dancing stopped.
  I’m sitting at my DJ table thinking the (not so) articulate though of “Wowwwwww. Uh oh, this isn’t good.”  It was then that I realized, in the midst of all of my pondering life, building a business, hustling with marketing, and once in a while, wondering what really mattered:  how tangible, important, and immediate, kindness is.  
  Everything turned out as OK as it could.  I helped Sally find a different place in the room to dance, the music continued, and Mildred kept scowling.
  The scene stuck with me.  Life boggles my mind, and while I have a moral blueprint with which I live by, I have very few answers.  The moment in the community room showed me a rare example of a tangible currency – kindness – or lack thereof.
  I was in the process of booking a music tour to support a new album I had recorded.  I decided to build the tour around the theme of Kindness.  Flip on the news, and one is bombarded by the very un-kind acts of a select few, while most of the world just tries to get through it’s day.  I wanted to change the narrative a bit (and still do), and hopefully train myself to be more kind as well.
  The resulting journey found me traveling by train along the east coast of the United States, playing in hospitals, cancer centers, street corners, subways, and other places that didn’t have a lot of music.  I was looking for the ordinary heroes, small acts of kindness, and the people, sights, and sounds that rock the world.
  Over the next few blog posts, I will be sharing the stories of my journey (The Josh Urban Rail Tour, or #JURT), and the lessons presented to me along the way.  I hope you can join me – it would be great to have you along for the ride.
All aboard!


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Search for Good

Rockers!  Comrades!  (Take 2 - the first one used black text on a black background...D'oh!)

  It's been a little while.  Things are going full throttle over here, and I've got a very exciting announcement if you haven't heard already....

 BEFORE you read it, please note:  I so hope you can join in the fun, too!  Plus, feel free to use this material for your own blog, or forward to any and all media people that you know.  I'm working my hardest to make this a big tour!  It's gonna rock!

Media Advisory

Josh Urban announces The Search for Good Tour – Finding those who rock the world.

There's good everywhere, but sometimes it doesn't make the news. So, we have to find it ourselves.
The search begins Friday, May 24th, as musician Josh Urban sets out to find it. Join him via social media as he travels the east coast by train, playing music in children 's hospitals, veterans centers, and street corners, finding the people, sights, and sounds that make the world a brighter place. Start a hunt of your own – go fourth and find the everyday heroes around you. Tag your photos and stories back to the tour using the #JURT (Josh Urban Rail Tour) hash tag on social media to share Josh's stage to reach a worldwide audience. Invite your friends, family, and co-workers to join you. Together, we'll go on tour. Together, we'll change the narrative. All the world's a stage. Let's put some good on it. The train leaves May 24th. All aboard!

Tour stops:

New York City, NY, May 24 (Sloan Kettering Cancer Center)
New York City, NY, May 25 (NYC subway system and street shows)
Philadelphia, PA May 26 (Hospital TBA, SEPTA transit system and street shows)
Washington, DC, May 27 (Veteran's Medical Center)
Online worldwide May 28-30
Alexandria, VA, May 31 (Street corner)
Charlottesville, VA, May 31 (University of Virginia Hospital Cancer Center)
Raleigh, NC June 1 (Wakemed Children's hospital)
Richmond, VA, June 2 (Sitter and Barfoot Veteran's Home)

Josh Urban is a one-man music show from Washington, DC. He's excited to bring The Search for Good Tour as a follow up to his 2012 Interactive Rail Tour, which engaged a worldwide audience to tell a collective story of the world as it's citizens saw it. Playing a mix of blues, rock, and pop, Urban engages his audiences from streets to stages with his stories, singing, guitar and energetic personality. The 2012 tour received coverage in many venues, including The Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Maryland Independent, The Charlottesville Hook,,,, 1140AM WRVA, 90.1 FM WDCE, 88.1 WMUC, XTSR, Charlottesville's NPR affiliate WVTF, The RamJam TV show (Fairfax, VA, NY, NY), and others. Additionally, Josh was invited to sit on a panel hosted by music industry giant to speak about his experience touring by rail.

Social Media connections:
Use the hashtag #JURT, or connect at , Twitter @dontjoshme,, Instagram @JoshUrban, Google +

Contact: Josh Urban

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Fog and the Light

It was Christmas eve, and the fog huddled around the street lamps, as if it were having a gloomy celebration of it's own, the obligatory familial conversations ensuing.  "Aunt Hydrogen, how are you, very well, very well."

  The little SUV I was driving hurried southbound on the highway, after a hushed stop outside a neighbor's mailbox to deliver a Christmas card.  I felt a bit like a minor-league Santa, a sad and scaled down version of the great man.

  Ah, Santa.  How I had wept bitterly upon receiving information and reality, my nine-year old ears much like my current ones, never wishing to hear of change.

  And here they were, these ears, hurrying along, attached to my head, which was also hurrying along, southbound, on this Christmas eve.  Just on the other side of my head from my ears, my mind was melancholy, as most of it was not hurrying southbound.  Lost in thought, I pondered how this was my first Christmas eve away from home.  OK, I'm a drama queen, as I had spent the day with my father, and the evening with my brothers and mother.  I decided to sleep at my own place ten minutes down the road, though, so tonight, the possibility of Santa was all but extinguished, and the world seemed a little sadder and colder.  Speaking of the world, it had been seeming downright freezing lately, and my mind had been doing it's share of shivering, as it pondered the cliche and age-old question "what's the point, man?"  Children being blown to bits at schools, time marching on frightfully fast, and a buddy of mine so sick with cancer.  I had no intentions of quitting the world, mind you, but life just seemed to be a walk in freezer sometimes decorated with a masquerade of scenery.  And something that weighed on my mind as the assembly of my ears and head hurried southbound was that the magic of Christmas - the religion for some, Santa for others, and the raw materialism of youth and the joy that presents could bring seemed - far away and foggy.

  I pulled up to my driveway, and was met by the harsh glow of the security lamp which turns all things a weird bluish green in it's hum.  It wasn't very festive (although the inside of my house is.)  "Huh, what's that?" I thought, noticing something sitting on the wet concrete among the wet leaves and dead bugs from the lamp.

  It was a plastic bag over a box - a Christmas package.  It was from my buddy who's battling cancer.

I scuttled inside, lit the tree, and sat down to open such an timely arrival.  The gifts perfectly reflected the joy and laughter that I've shared with my friend, and the card was so thoughtful.  It was like a present of sunshine or candlelight, and it's arrival so magical in a very real sort of way.

  You know, there's a lot of talk about what Christmas means...And really, a larger question of what Life means, and this question often hurts.  The older I get, the darker the road becomes, and guarantees all but vanish.  How I miss Santa sometimes.

  Yet, as I snuggled in for the night, it seemed that maybe one of the meanings of Christmas is how, in such a dark and foggy world, waiting patiently all alone on the damp concrete in the glow of a "security" light (is there really any such thing?), we can send each other a little sliver of light and joy...

...And maybe that means more than anything that Santa could ever bring.

Thanks, SS.  You rock.

- Josh