The Doctor is in: Joshua Louis makes two appearances this week in downtown Red Bank — at Red Lounge on Thursday, and on the final evening of Red Bank Street Life this Saturday.
By TOM CHESEK
It’s a phrase you’ve heard before — maybe you thought it to yourself once or twice when you were stuck somewhere listening to some “live entertainer” whose reach for low-level music stardom exceeded his grasp of the essentials. In other words, “don’t quit your day job, buddy.”
In the case of singer, songwriter and keyboard artist Joshua Louis, we would only suggest that he hold on to his professional situation because that “day job” is so appreciated by so many people in our community.
Under his full name of Dr. Josh L. Lachowicz, the young native of Virginia cares for some of the most precious members of our families in his staff position as a veterinary oncologist at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in Tinton Falls. It’s a position that places him at the front of what he describes as “an emotional rollercoaster,” for local people who depend on the folks at RBVH to see them through a difficult time. And, despite the presence of some House stubble in his publicity photos, Dr. Josh has been known to possess a far more finely honed sense of bedside manner than that cantankerous TV medic.
When he hangs up the lab coat to pursue his creative muse as Joshua Louis, the good doctor doesn’t necessarily switch into “double-life” mode. Whether on the trance beats of Ted Cruz-produced tracks like “Smile” or “The Other Side of Me” — or on the solo acoustic versions where his plaintive, autumnal piano and warm, James Taylorish vocals come to the fore — this is obviously the work of an artist and a scientist who studies emotions; the way they impress themselves upon our being, and the way we express ourselves in dealing with them.
Josh, who makes his home “on the scenic shore of Jersey City” — where his housemates include a shepherd mix named Maxine and a big old orange cat named Stitch — juggles city gigs at places like Kenny’s Castaways with frequent appearances in the greater Red Bank orbit. The coming days offer two chances to catch him in action in downtown RB, on Thursday night at Red on Broad Street, and on Saturday evening as one of the final round of free outdoor mini-concerts in the Red Bank Street Life series (he’ll be set up outside Red Ginger Home on Monmouth Street between 6 and 9pm).
RED BANK ORBIT: I must say, Dr. Josh, that you seem to be navigating the space between your professional calling and your musical career about as well as anyone I’ve seen. Is the music a relatively recent thing, or had you always entertained the notion of being a pop star?
JOSHUA LOUIS: I’ve played the piano since I was a little boy, but it wasn’t until my high school graduation ceremony that I did my debut vocal performance. It was awesome, too — I’d never done anything vocally prior to that.
I would play in church, play at weddings, things like that, but by the time I was in college, my second and third year, I did a standing gig at a local bar.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but have you really stepped up the pace in recent months, as far as how often you perform in public?
I had about a six year break from performing live regularly, through veterinary school and my residency — I moved to the area in 2002, and it wasn’t until 2006 that I was ready to put music back on the front burner. Fourth of July weekend 2008 — that’s when I really started to play out live again on a regular basis.
Who are some of the artists who’ve really inspired you?
I should mention my favorite classical composers — Chopin and Beethoven. I’ve been inspired by everyone from Elton John and Billy Joel, to things like Mannheim Steamroller and Enigma, to unknown people in churches — you know, all of the people who accompany the service, reading and playing music they’ve barely had a chance to learn.
But I imagine that at some point you decided to devote yourself more to your studies.
I tend to be more of a planning sort of person, someone who thinks a lot about the different paths that we can take in life. The paths are often winding and uncertain, and I like to have some certainty in my life. But I kept my options open as far as my music goes, even though I continued to follow my interest in science and medicine.
Well, your parents must have been thrilled at your choice of path.
I feel I’ve made the right choice, that everything’s clicked. Music is something that continues to play an important part in my life; it’s something that I can connect with when I have a bad day — to reconnect with myself, when I have a day where I can’t connect with people.
Are there times when you find it easier to connect with the animals? And as a veterinary oncologist — even with a certain necessary degree of professional detachment, you probably see families at their most emotional and vulnerable all the time.
It’s a challenging job, a very emotional job — you’re dealing with cancer patients and their families, after all. The patients in this case are dogs and cats — but the emotional highs and lows are there. You can know that you’ve done something to buy one of your patients some quality time, and it’s a good feeling. You can also be the one who brings the unfortunate news, and a lot of times after a long battle.
So, it runs full spectrum. I try to focus on the good moments, and it ends up being a satisfying, gratifying job.
Have you ever imagined a scenario where you might devote yourself to music full-time?
What I do is help animals and their owners — supporting animals in whatever way I can. And regardless of what may happen in my music career, I’m always going to be helping, no matter how often I may practice as a veterinarian. I can help by writing music that they can connect with!
Ever thought of seriously dabbling in the genre of Music for Pets, or at least a themed CD of songs for pet owners?
I have! For instance, I have a song called “Lick Me If You Love Me,” inspired by our dealings with dogs, how they come up to you and have such a great outlook.
I finished a project for an organization called the Save U.S. Pets Foundation — I wrote a song called “My Special Friend,” which I wrote after losing one of my dogs, and the idea was to contribute to a group project they were putting together. But they liked what I did so much that we wound up doing a five-song CD of all original Joshua Louis music.
I think you may have found the best way yet to reconcile Dr. Josh with Joshua Louis.
It’s a great way to raise awareness of what the organization does, as well as being great for the animals. And I should say that it’s great for my career also — it’s a win-win-win all the way around.
Joshua Louis is scheduled to perform from 7pm on Thursday, August 27, upstairs at Red Restaurant and Lounge. Then on Saturday, August 29, he’ll be performing out in front of Red Ginger Home between the hours of 6pm and 9pm, as part of the final program of Red Bank Street Life events for 2009.