Josh Zuckerman is Jersey Strong

Josh Zuckerman performing with the beach in the backround
Josh Zuckerman performing with the beach in the backround

Josh Zuckerman is a testament that you can juggle two careers, polar opposites of each other, and succeed. A real life Clark Kent, Josh sat down to give us an update on his hyper-local music career.

You are a Jersey Boy now. But I understand you are originally from the Midwest. How did you make your way to New Jersey and how was growing up for you?

Josh Zuckerman: I grew up in St. Louis. At 19 after high school, my mother received a job transfer to New Jersey and my parents moved. They did not sell the house! I was in a band, and I wanted to be a rock star, and I tried to stay in St. Louis as long as possible. Not long thereafter the band broke up and I relocated to New Jersey. I found the proximity to New York City alluring. I have been in New Jersey ever since.

You are also a grade-school teacher, which is almost the complete opposite of a musician. How did this second career arise?

JZ: When I was 26 I came out. At the time I was in a relationship with a woman and knew I was not being authentic to myself. I got accepted to Up With People, which is an international touring organization. Over the course of two years I traveled with 122 students in 22 countries. It was an artsy group so I knew I was going to be in the presence of gay people. I became close to this woman, and we connected because we were both reading You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay, and discovered we were going through the same thing. She had thoughts about being with a woman, I had thoughts about being with a guy, and this opened the door to me coming to terms with being gay. Most people in the group were either finishing or starting college. After traveling with the group, I fell in love with a German man who was going home to finish his degree, I thought it would be a good idea to receive a degree in case my music career did not work out. After this touring group experience, teaching naturally felt like the right avenue.

How long have you been teaching and what do you teach?

JZ: I have been teaching for 22 years. For the first three years I taught second grade, then began teaching kindergarten, and I’ve been doing so ever since.

Did you start gaining traction in your music career after you became a teacher?

JZ: Ironically, when I almost threw in the towel on my music career, my music career started to take off. I released my first album in 2002 and my second album in 2006. Circa 2006 I found a manager, a publicist, and my music videos began airing on Logo TV regularly for several years. This was at the height of Logo TV, when they were actually promoting gay artists. Then I started to play LGBTQ Pride festivals, often being the main event locally. The timing was right, since this was before the pride committees started taking all of their money and using it on well-known artists.

It sounds like you were living two lives simultaneously.

Josh Zuckerman performing on stage.
Josh Zuckerman performing on stage.

JZ: I lived the life of Clark Kent. By day I was a teacher, by night I was a musician. Throughout my 30s I would finish teaching on Friday, go to the airport, fly out to perform, and fly back Sunday night so I could teach on Monday morning. I was booked and busy. I was blessed to have my music on a television network and to be performing festivals.

How has your music evolved?

JZ: The writing of my songs changed based on my development as an artist. I went from a harder rock sound to more pop rock. I just love music. My last album, Gone With the Music, is more techno-friendly.

Do you enjoy experimenting with different sounds musically?

Josh Zuckerman at home.
Josh Zuckerman at home. Photo by Peter Frycki

JZ: I like it. However, I prefer the organic sound I grew up listening to and being influenced by. I am really happy that nostalgia is in. I like seeing young kids and young adults listening to The Rolling Stones and Kiss. I naturally resort back to that style of music. The music of today is good; it is just different, because it is more overproduced.

Do you blame technology for this?

JZ: Live instruments were featured on singles and albums far more back then. It is obvious when a song is produced artificially. Streaming also takes away the physical experience of enjoying music. There is just something about holding an album in your hand and looking through the accompanying book with photos and lyrics versus just scrolling on your phone. You also no longer have the chance to get to know an artist better, an experience you would get when you were forced to buy an album, versus now just listening to the one song you know on repeat. There was also a mystique about being a musician. Now, thanks to TikTok, that has been diminished to an extent. The extreme technology somewhat takes away the connection. Fortunately, the 1980s era is having such a strong influence on music today, so hopefully things will reverse.

You raised a good point. There was more of a respect factor for musicians. Now, when people hear you are a musician, they have this “prove it” mentality unless you are already a name.

Josh Zuckerman performs live.
Josh Zuckerman performs live.

JZ: In the past, people were more impressed that I was a musician. Now, they are more impressed that I am a teacher.

But there are good elements to social media and technology, don’t you agree?

JZ: Social media has allowed people to reach the world without having a record contract or a record company behind them. Look at Justin Bieber: he was discovered on YouTube, which would not have happened decades ago. It is a double-edged sword.

What are some of your fondest music memories?

JZ: I started playing the violin at 8 and only played classical until I discovered Joan Jett. I started playing the guitar at 13 after “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” was released. Ever since I was obsessed with Joan Jett. Fast forward to my sixth album, released in 2019, I recorded with her drummer (Thommy Price) and Hall of Fame bassist (Gary Ryan). It was a full-circle moment. I also met Joan several times.

What is next for you musically?

Josh Zuckerman enjoying the cool ocean breeze.
Josh Zuckerman enjoying the cool ocean breeze.

JZ: This year I will be performing throughout the country. Many of the shows will be in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Jersey Pride. If readers come, I promise they will not be disappointed.

April Shows:

  • Friday, April 19th: The Waterwheel in Doylestown Pennsylvania, 6-10pm
  • Saturday, April 27th: Tavern on the Lake in Hightstown NJ, 7-10pm

May Shows:

  • Saturday, May 4th: The Ivy League in Howell, New Jersey, 7-10pm
  • Friday, May 10th: Half Moon Point in Point Pleasant, NJ, 7-10pm
  • Saturday, May 11th: The Cub Room in New Hope, Pennsylvania, 7-9pm
  • Friday, May 17th: The Waterwheel in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 6-10pm

June Shows:

  • Saturday, June 1st: The Ivy League in Howell, New Jersey, 7-10pm
  • Sunday, June 2nd: Asbury Park’s Annual LGBTQ Jersey Pride Festival, Time TBD
  • Saturday, June 8th: The Cub Room in New Hope, Pennsylvania, 7-9pm
  • Friday, June -14th: The Waterwheel in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 6-10pm

July Shows:

  • Friday, July 5th: The Waterwheel in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 6-10pm
  • Saturday, July 6th: The Ivy League in Howell, New Jersey, 7-10pm
  • Saturday, July 13th: The Cub Room in New Hope, Pennsylvania, 7-9pm
  • Friday, July 19th: The Bucks County Country Club in New Hope, Pennsylvania, 5-8pm

August Shows:

  • Friday, August 16th: Georgie’s in Asbury Park, 10pm
  • Friday, August 23rd: The Waterwheel in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 6-10pm
  • Saturday, August 24th: The Ivy League in Howell, New Jersey: 7-10pm

Will Loschiavo
Will Loschiavo is Out In Jersey‘s entertainment editor. He has worked for Top 40 radio stations in New York and New Jersey, written for various publications, and currently works media tech operations for NBC. Will is the host of the Will Love Listen podcast available on iHeartRadio, Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple, and Google. Follow on Instagram: @WillLoveInc.