From Campbells Creek to Nashville, Josh Pantry is ‘Smilin’ From Beer to Beer’

By Matthew Young, RealWV

“I’d get paid with a tip jar and a cheeseburger. The first time somebody actually paid me real money for doing this, I couldn’t believe it – I’d just been doing it because I love it.”

That’s what country musician Josh Pantry told RealWV on Thursday about his first days as a traveling performer. And while the years of paying dues have earned the Campbells Creek-native a place on stage at Charleston’s Clay Center tonight for the venue’s “Sound Checks” series, his earliest stage experiences were much more humble. 

“I never played guitar until I was probably 20-years-old,” Pantry said. “Sometime around the age of 23, I just decided to start going to open mics. I thought if you were playing at open mics you needed to bring your own crowd, so my first one, I brought about 20 of my friends.”

Pantry’s first time on stage was at the Boulevard Tavern in Charleston. As it turned out, his decision to bring so many of his friends led to bigger things for the aspiring performer. After playing only three songs, Pantry was asked to come back to perform a full-length show. 

“We packed it out,” Pantry said. “It was like midnight and they had run out of domestic beer, and they were carrying people out of the bar. We were younger then, and we were just rowdy.”

In 2015, Pantry began to see a possible future for himself in music, and set to work assembling a band. 

“We’ve had variations of the band for a while now,” Pantry said. “Just every year we build and it gets bigger, and we’re just doing more things. Last year we played 97 shows in seven states.” 

Among those 97 shows were performances in Indianapolis, Lexington, Myrtle Beach, and Charleston’s GoMark Ball Park, where Pantry was a featured artist at the first annual Down and Dirty Music Festival. Pantry has also become a regular at several Nashville writers-rounds. 

“I got started just playing open mics in Charleston, and I was just doing it then really to get drinks and meet chicks,” Pantry said laughingly. “Now I’m getting to do a lot of cool stuff, and it’s been an awesome last couple of years.”

In 2023, Pantry released “Smilin’ From Beer to Beer,” an eight-song EP which includes both the title track, and the crowd-favorite “God Bless West Virginia.”

Josh Pantry performs “Smilin’ From Beer to Beer” at the Down and Dirty Music Festival in Charleston, Oct 2023. Video by Matthew Young, RealWV.

“Anytime I get to travel and do what I love, and get paid and see new places and new faces, it’s always a win,” Pantry said. “I love to travel around, that’s one of my favorite things about music.”

For tonight’s show at the Clay Center, Pantry will play a 45 minute set of primarily original songs. 

“We might do two covers – three covers at the most,” Pantry said. “That’s one thing we’re transitioning to this year. We did the ‘honky tonk’ thing for so long, and we’re getting away from doing the covers. We’re becoming more rounded artists ourselves. We’re playing our music, my music, our band’s music.”

As for his bandmates, Pantry says they’re like family.

“Me and Dustin have been together for about seven or eight years,” Pantry noted. “We just picked Adrian up last year, and we’ve had Jacob since 2020. We’re a pretty tight-knit group. I love my boys, and I try to take care of them the best I can.”

“On Friday, we’re going to do a tribute to Toby Keith, and we’re gonna sing ‘Country Roads,’ and then we might throw one more cover in there, but it’s gonna be all original music after that,” Pantry continued. “We are gonna play songs and explain how we wrote them and what they’re about. I want to give people a range of emotions. I want to tug at your heartstrings, and I want to encourage people to have a beer.”

“We’re gonna have a good time,” Pantry added. “We’re gonna get a little rowdy in some parts, and a little serious in some parts. But I’m going to bring the most fun that I can in 45 minutes.”

Performing along with Josh Pantry Friday will be Nashville recording artist Levon. The show begins at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are available at the Clay Center box office, or by visiting theclaycenter.org

After the Clay Center, Pantry will next be performing at the Mason Dixon in Belle, on February 24. To learn more about Josh Pantry, connect on social media @joshpantrymusic, or visit joshpantry.com

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