It's been a delight getting to know Joe. He has spent a lifetime cultivating his creative side, and it's fascinating to watch him turn a spark of an idea into a song. He has consistently contributed original work and has been a great encourager of others. I am thrilled that Joe found our community!
What do you do during the day?
Well I’ve been a pirate, a poet, a teacher, a designer, a director, a playwright, and a bartender and now I’m retired. Or repurposed. When there is no epidemic I am a pirate for kids at a local bookstore, playing original sea shanties.
Do you have any guilty pleasures in music?
Well, yeah. Showtunes and Jazz standards. I love me some Bobby Darin, and Louis Armstrong. In an alternate reality I’m a Lounge singer in a 1930’s night club. (Until the gangsters start machine gunning.) Another is good old fashioned Folk music. From Woody Guthrie all the way through to Old Crow Medicine show.
What inspired you to want to write songs?
I’ve been writing songs as long as I’ve been breathing. I wrote my first song probably when I was 4 years old. It went something like “Oh, I’m sitting in the bathtub and the water is really really cold and there are lots of bubbles and the water is really cold.” I like to think that my genius was already shining brightly. My birth mother, may she Rest In Peace was always writing songs although she had no musical training and couldn’t play an instrument. She would have a friend transcribe her melody and help her find the right harmonies, then she would get a copyright. She was very proud of the fact that her songs resided in the Library of Congress. So naturally I was writing songs in every quiet moment I could find. Or drawing. Or writing poems. As I told my students “The meaning of life is to create.”
What does your songwriting habit look like?
Much like everyone else here I jot ideas down in my digital notebook, then when I want to create something new, I mine the notebook. I find I have to put myself into an alternate state of mind, almost a trance. Then I open a tab for the thesaurus and one for the rhyming dictionary and pick up my guitar.
How has developing a songwriting practice affected your life?
It has reminded me of the need to see things through and finish them. When you finish something, you have something. When you don’t, you don’t.
Who are your influences? How have they shaped you?
Let’s see - Harry Nilsson, Shel Silverstein, Tom Lehrer, Mose Alison, The Beatles, John Prine, Leonard Cohen, Shakespeare, Billy Collins - because they appreciate both the absurdity and the wonder of life.
What challenge are you facing with songwriting?
Trying to say something worth saying is sometimes the hardest. Not that everything has to be didactic- songs can be funny, ironic, touching, heart wrenching (I don’t think I’ve written one of those yet.) Or anything else as long as they’re not a waste of the listener’s time.
What Day of 100 is your piece from?
A Little Something for the Pain
I know the sky is sunny
But I can tell it's going to rain
Things never do work out quite right
Still I’m not one to complain
But I was just wondering
ain't you got a little something
Just a little something
I just need a little something
for the pain
They say the good life's waiting out there
But sayin ain’t making it true
I know I’ve hurt a lot of good good people
But I was just trying somehow to get through
Ain't you got a little something for a friend
What's the point in building up your hopes
When you know they'll just crumble and fall
Seems the closest I ever get to happy
Is when I don't feel anything at all
Have you ever watched a sparrow
smash into a window and then
instead of taking off into the sky
just flies back at the window again
he just needs something for the pain
I hope you know I ain't looking for a handout
I'd rather open up a vein
I work hard, you know that I do