Take it away talks to Joseph Arthur
Growing up in the '70s and '80s in Akron, USA, Joseph Arthur's musical life started off like many others, with piano lessons. Days after graduating from high school, he moved to Atlanta to start playing bass with a band, supporting himself with day jobs at a music store and tattoo shop. His life changed when a demo of his songs made its way to Peter Gabriel's Real World Records label. The next thing he knew, he was playing at Gabriel's WOMAD festival, jamming with Gabriel and Joe Strummer in Real World studios, and subsequently signed to Real World Records.
Grammy-nominated Arthur is also an accomplished painter, having displayed his works in galleries around the world. Joseph was kind enough to answer our questions. This is what he said.
Can you give us an insight into how and when you started out making music?
I started when I was a kid, my folks got a piano for my sister but being the youngest they pushed it on me as well. I hated piano lessons but once I found a link between the instrument and my imagination I never looked back.
How did you make the step from playing for your own pleasure to being a full-time musician?
I think once I found my imagination in music, I was a full time musician, so I was very young, and I started working professionally while still in high school. I played five nights a week in a hard working cleveland blues band called Frankie Starr and Chill factor, I was the 'chill' in chill factor (haha!).
You are also known for your work in the visual arts. Do you feel that this gives you a different way of expressing yourself or do you feel both mediums reflect the same aspect of yourself?
I could say yes to both options and be telling the truth. I consider myself very lucky to not be tied down to just one medium being an artist is like being in a crazy and sometimes abusive relationship with a person you cant possibly leave the fact that I have two of them is my only (small) safeguard.
What process do you go through when writing a song?
You could insert a long novel as the response to this question and still never find the answer.
If you could start playing a new instrument what would you like to be able to play?
Oddly, the saxophone.
If you could go back in time to when you were just starting out what advice would you give yourself?
Probably none, cause all I could say is you have no idea how hard, but also how great this is gonna be. I think anything I could say would only freak out my younger self. I'm glad I didn't know what I was getting into.
What are your thoughts on the Take it away scheme?
It's amazing to give people the gift of access to their imagination. Apart from the basics of survival I can think of no greater gift.
For more information on Joseph, his music and his art, check out his website.