The music of Josh Irish, aka Heath240, has ‘shot through the roof’ with his new blend of hip-hop and indie rock

Josh Irish, aka Heath240, performing on stage
With several songs pulling in hundreds of thousands of listens on Spotify, Josh Irish, who performs under the name Heath240, is hoping to take his music career to the next level. Courtesy photo

Josh Irish didn’t really choose to launch his music career. 

He graduated from Northeastern University in December 2019 with the expectation that he’d take some time off and then start applying to marketing jobs in New York City. But a few months later, in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

He moved back to Roxbury, Massachusetts, to live with his parents, and with nothing but spare time, bought some recording equipment and started making music out of his bedroom.

He had already been making music and performing in Boston for years under the name Heath240, but he dove all in during the pandemic. After putting out music for a year, none of his songs had moved the needle.

“Then, I released a song called ‘Chirp’ onto Spotify, and it just shot through the roof,” Irish says. “It got maybe 170,000 plays in the first two months, and I was like, ‘Maybe people are interested.’”

headshots of Josh Irish
Josh Irish, aka Heath240. Courtesy photos

“Chirp” now has over 300,000 listens on Spotify, which Irish says is due in part to an artistic pivot from more straightforward hip-hop to a blend of hip-hop and indie rock, inspired by artists like Kevin Abstract. Since making the shift, Irish’s 2022 song “Ayudame” has rocketed past 400,000. With two EPs due to release this fall, Irish’s star is on the rise, and, in many ways, his journey started at Northeastern.

Irish, a Boston-area native, started making music in high school, inspired by the hip-hop he had grown up hearing his parents play in the house. He admits he wasn’t necessarily a natural –– his early music was “so, so bad” –– but he had an “undying belief that I could at least get decent at it.”

Irish started his first year as an entrepreneurship student at Northeastern in 2016 after transferring from Emerson College. On one level his experience was the same as any other student. He went to class, he studied for finals and he went on co-op, a marketing position at Constant Contact. But Irish was also living a double life.

“I felt like Superman and Clark Kent,” he says. “During the day, I was Clark Kent going to classes, and then I would go to a bunch of local Boston hip-hop shows, perform and also just try to network as much as I could in the little Boston community.”

Around the same time, Irish also changed his stage name from Little J and the Heath, which his friends told him was way too long, to Heath240, after his address at the time, 240 Heath St. He remembers going to a finance class before rushing off to perform at the Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub under his new moniker. He wasn’t changing into a costume in a phone booth, but it was not far off.

Irish’s graduation from Northeastern marked a turning point for him artistically and professionally. He was grappling with a pandemic-impacted job market and shifting his style to reflect his growing interest in 2000s alternative rock artists like the Strokes, the White Stripes and Interpol. His work now fuses hip-hop with indie rock and indie pop, in the style of Kevin Abstract, who Irish admits “laid the blueprint” for where he wants to go creatively. 

“I don’t feel like too many people are doing it,” he says. “Steve Lacy does it a little bit, but I feel like it’s fresh and new and I feel like there’s a lot of space to bring new creativity to it because I have yet to see it be done in a very pop oriented way.”

Irish is set to release two EPs this fall: “Everything You Ever Wanted” on Sept. 15 and “They’re Right Behind My Eyes” in October.

When it comes to navigating the business of the music business, he says his experience at Northeastern has proven invaluable.

“As an artist, you tend to think more on the creative side … but when it comes down to it, me and my manager we sit down and really hammer out the business stuff,” Irish says. “Without the experiences I had at Northeastern, I don’t think I would be as inclined when it comes to that side of how we market this ‘startup.’”

Knowing how to market himself and his music, how to balance a budget and how to maximize his reach on social media –– they’re all skills he honed inside and outside the classroom at Northeastern.

Those skills came in handy during negotiations for a record deal with Sony that ended up netting Irish a studio’s worth of Sony-expensed equipment but not a concrete deal. For Irish, it was a lesson in how the music industry operates –– and how little labels expect artists to know when it comes to business.

“It’s easier to find a deal, but a good deal, that’s hard to come by,” Irish says.

Irish now uses the recording equipment he received out of the short-lived deal in a home studio that he set up in his new L.A. apartment. Irish moved to the West Coast this year, and now lives with his producer/manager, Josh Schuback, and creative director and best friend from Northeastern, Aleksa Samardzic.

All that equipment is coming in handy, too. At the moment Irish is focused on getting more music out into the world, even as he hopes to one day follow in the footsteps of artists like Pharrell Williams, who have created careers and business ventures that go beyond music. 

When all is said and done, Irish hopes his genre-bending music can inspire other artists just like the music of Pharrell, Kevin Abstract and Tyler the Creator did for him.

“They’ve made me feel seen, and I hope my music can make other people who have similar experiences as me feel seen,” Irish says. “You might be a Black guy, but you don’t have to make stereotypical hip-hop music, maybe you can make alternative rock. Maybe you can make house music and step outside your comfort zone on what people can judge you on and just fully involve yourself in what you love and be unabashed about it.”

Cody Mello-Klein is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at Follow him on Twitter @Proelectioneer.