If singer/songwriters who write from the heart and craft emotionally touching and haunting songs are what you are craving, then give Bordon, England’s Joe Booley a listen.
His heartfelt ballads are reminiscent of Jeff Buckley, among others, and quickly grow on you after just a listen or two.
“Drive” is a fantastic ballad, drawing the listener in with his quiet sensitivity.
“Rearrange” starts out mellow and easy, but picks up as it reaches its climax.
Joe has been releasing music since 2012, with his latest, “TRANSFORMATIONS” being released at the start of February. After listening to an assortment of Joe’s tracks, we sat down to have a chat about his music, his punk past and what’s coming next for him.
How did you start in music? At what age?
I think my first memory of me being involved at all in music is taking violin lessons when I was 5 years old in school, but my dad raised me on loads of different types of music, so that has definitely had an impact on me too.
So you still play the violin?
Occasionally, and very badly. I didn’t play for 7 or so years, but heard a guy called Andrew Bird and from that point on I’ve been playing it every now or then, trying to fumble my way through violin parts to tracks, etc.
Nice. Is guitar the only other instrument you play?
Haha, no. There are quite a few others.
What all do you play?
As well as guitar and violin, my second instrument, and in fact the one I have the highest grade in, is a brass instrument called a Euphonium. I’ve been to five European countries with brass bands due to that. But I also play bass, drums, piano, ukulele, mandolin, bouzouki and maybe a few others but not to much of a degree.
Oh wow! That’s quite a list. So on a record, you could easily be a one-man band!
I usually am. There have only been two occasions that anyone else have been on a track of mine.
Was it because it was something you don’t play?
Not overly. I think it was just to mix it up slightly. One of them was a trumpet section which I got my friend from college to do. I couldn’t have done it anywhere near as well.
Are you a perfectionist when it comes to recording?
I try to be, but a lot of it is procrastination. Especially doing it all yourself. It took me two years to finish the debut album, but I went into the process with 20 odd songs and came out with eight.
Was it hard to narrow them down?
Reasonably, but a lot of the tracks that didn’t make it I still plan to record as they are evolving and I have more of an idea of where they can go.
That’s great. What inspires you when you are writing?
Quite a few things. Whether I write about what is going on inside my head, the world around me, what I see happening in other people’s lives etc. It can be anything, if I’m honest.
How often do you write?
I write a lot of music. I always have ideas bouncing around, but lyrics are difficult for me. But sometimes I can write a few tracks a week and other times I may only finish one track in a month. That’s writers block for you, haha!
I hear that! But when the creative urge hits, it really hits!
Exactly. Some songs I can finish straight away, but others I have to keep on going over.
When did you first start writing songs?
I started writing actual songs when I was maybe 13 or 14. I used to play in punky/rock bands in school and I was the main writer for most of those.
Yeah, tell me about your punk rock days — they seem worlds away from the music you are writing now, so gentle and haunting …
Well, as I said earlier, I was raised on different types of music, this included bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles (obviously), but was also introduced to classic punk bands like the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Stranglers. And in my teens (like most people my ages), I got into Green Day, Blink 182, My Chemical Romance, etc. and so in music, I would cover them with mates at lunch and we would keep on doing that and then started making our own stuff. And when I left school for college, I started playing Folk-Punk (Frank Turner inspired stuff) and now here I am. I still channel all of this live, but I think having different live versions are really fun and cool, to be honest.
Having a varied background, and a variety of influences certainly works.
Are you from a large family or small?
Reasonably big. Two other siblings but a lot of aunties and uncles, etc.
Anyone else musical in the family?
My immediate family is reasonably, dabbling in different things. My Auntie plays violin in orchestras and we tend to chat about music and jam a lot.
I bet your family parties are fun!
Pretty fun, yes.
Tell me about a live show … What would I see?
Me with an electric guitar and an array of effects pedals. I go from the subtle guitar sounds all the way to wall of sound distortion.
Do you record loops while you play?
I used to do that, but not as much anymore.
Does it depend on the song?
Not overly. I like making or trying to make an impact when I play live and looping is something that you see a lot so that’s probably one of the main reasons I don’t as much now.
I think the stripped man and his guitar is more impressive too.
I completely agree. There is something so much more awe-inspiring about someone just playing a song, rather than just trying to show off with how many loops they can do.
And yeah, while seeing people with a band is great, just listening to someone play a song allows people to imagine how it may sound with a band.
How often do you play shows?
I try to play a few shows each month. When I was recording the album I played less, but just trying to get back and hit them hard.
How are the crowds? So you have regulars who come see you?
Most of them are really receptive which is awesome, but others not so much. And in some places I have a few regulars which is nice, and that’s happening more and more now, which I think is awesome.
What are your favorite songs to play?
My favorite by far is a track called “Rearrange.” It’s the final track on the album and the final track I play in my sets. It’s got this huge build up which is just so much fun to do especially with loads of pedals. But I think another is probably a track called “Drive.” I have two different versions of it, a softer version or a much harsher version. I mostly play the harsher version live.
You have just recorded a live video for “Drive” too …
Yeah, I realized I hadn’t had a video to put anywhere for about a year and it made sense playing that song. It’s got a lot of sentimental value and to play it stripped back let’s it lay very bare in comparison to how I usually play it live.
I’ve seen it and thinks it’s a very good, simple presentation.
Cheers. I prefer simplistic live videos. People can go completely overboard with the production of videos, while at the end of the day it’s about the song.
Exactly. Are you working on new music now?
Just running new ideas, working towards my next release, however that might be.
What goals have you set for yourself?
To just keep doing it. My goal for the year is to gig in Europe which is in the works.
Are you in college now?
No, I finished education two years ago now. So just working full one and getting on with music and running a label.
Yes, the label … How did that start and how is it doing?
I started it in 2014 to release my own music and then I started producing friends from college and releasing their music, then working with various artists across the country or the world even. But it’s going really well, becoming quite serious thing now and we’ve got some very exciting things planned in the coming months.
You can find Joe Booley on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/joebooleymusic/, on Twitter at @joebooleymusic, on Bandcamp at https://joebooleymusic.bandcamp.com/ and on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClOpQSJuHdjJyTmP5ti0d2Q?spfreload=5.