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Headshot of Josh Batenhorst wearing a purple hat and goggles. April 25th, 2023

Meet LEAF Songwriter Competition Finalist Josh Batenhorst

The annual LEAF Singer-Songwriter Competition, now in its ninth year, will take place at Spring LEAF Retreat, in Black Mountain, N.C., on Saturday, May 13, 2023. Eight singer-songwriters have been selected from across the country to showcase, compete, and network at the competition.


NewSong: How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?

Josh: You can hear the places I’ve lived in it. The High Plains, Austin, Western North Carolina — so a lot of country, a little blues, gospel, and a little jam. The constellation that I navigate by has folks in it like Jerry Jeff Walker, Robert Earl Keen, Guy Clark, John Prine, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Amanda Anne Platt, Bob Weir, Robert Hunter, Susan Tedeschi.

What is the first album you bought, and why?

So, I’m pretty sure I begged my mom to buy me the Air Supply album, back before I was even in kindergarten. I’m just going to let that speak for itself.

As for actually spending my own money on something, that would be a double purchase. I bought Michael Jackson’s Bad at full price, and Bruce Springsteen’s Welcome to Asbury Park, New Jersey at the same time from the dollar bin because I think I had $15 to spend when I got my first tape player. I think I listened to Bad quite a bit, and didn’t quite get Welcome to Asbury Park until I was a little older. I did like it enough to make my second purchase Tunnel of Love, which I wore out.

What is one influence on your music that might surprise us?

Maybe the Indigo Girls? I love harmonies and they’re killer songwriters, but I’m also kind of a dude — played football, have a big beard and a belly.

What projects are you currently working on?

Right now most of my creative energy is going into getting some traction with the new band — the Acoustic Light Brigade (ALB) — is what we’re calling it. It’s a four-piece right now and we’re just a baby band but we live all over the map — Atlanta, Asheville, Athens — so rehearsals have to be very strategic and timely. As a bit of content building, we’ve spent April doing “ALB Undercover” in which we are throwing some of our favorite cover tunes up on YouTube — one each day this month. I also run a touring theatre company for young audiences, Bright Star Touring Theatre, and that takes most of my day-job time and attention.