March 9, 2011 · 1:49 PM

Abbotsford folk singer Joshua Hyslop recently signed a recording contract with Nettwerk Records. / Submitted photo

A new record deal has put Joshua Hyslop in the spotlight.

The Abbotsford singer recently signed a recording contract with Nettwerk Records, a Vancouver-based label that has helped launch the careers of artists such as Sarah McLachlan, Skinny Puppy and Coldplay. The new deal consists of an initial term of 12 months with the option of renewal.

“It’s absolutely incredible. It’s still very surreal,” said the 23-year-old modern folk artist. “It will open up a lot of opportunities and it’s made music a possibility of a job for me. To do what you love is pretty amazing.”

Hyslop will soon head into the studio to start working a new six-track EP, which won’t be released until next spring. In the meantime, Nettwerk Records is going to look after the promotion and distribution of his current music.

Hyslop released his debut EP Cold Wind in December with Claymore Studios in Abbotsford. It features six tracks written by the singer that explore his own vulnerabilities, doubts and conflicts about life and faith.

“If I hadn’t been born in a Christian family, would I be a Christian?” said Hyslop. “It makes me wonder how many beliefs are our own. Some of the songs are my struggle believing things that I’ve just been told to believe.”

Hyslop didn’t always dream of becoming a performer. In fact, he says it was sheer boredom that led him to pick up his first guitar. Hyslop’s family moved to Scotland when he was a teenager, and with few friends and little to do there, he decided to start plucking away on his dad’s guitar. The self-taught musician has been hooked ever since.

“Music brings people together in a way that languages and normal communication can’t,” said Hyslop. “It’s giving me an opportunity to be honest with people and to get past the surface and actually have a deeper relationship. It is a really amazing blessing to get to connect with people in ways that I probably wouldn’t without music.”

Hyslop has been painting houses while pursuing his music career and performing at local venues. Even though he enjoys connecting with audiences, he admits that he’s not someone who really likes being in the spotlight. He still gets nervous and sick before each show.

“It is very daunting to have your music out there because it’s like people taking pages out of your journal and reading it,” said Hyslop. “I’m absolutely terrified to go out there and do it, but there’s something about going up and singing and getting through that nervousness. At the end of it, when you see that you’ve actually touched somebody and they’ve responded to the music, then it makes it worth it each time.”