India Meets ….. Singer/Songwriter Joe Brooks
Written by India Nye, Photography by Olly Woodburn
Grow is about expanding; about learning and facing new challenges. As a young writer finding my way in the world of publishing, I’m certainly not exempt from that. So, when I found myself faced with an exciting new challenge myself, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.
My first two assignments have focused on young people starting their own businesses; young entrepreneurs taking on the world. I was interviewing people, around my age, who were just as nervous as I was. But, this time around, I was to interview a guy who had a music career spanning 10 years; someone with his foot firmly in the door of his industry.
Joe Brooks is a successful singer-songwriter who gained his fame via the website MySpace. He was also the keynote speaker at last month’s Exe Factor event held at The Deer Park Hotel; the venue for our interview.
During his speech, Joe spoke with authority and wisdom about building a solid audience and about creating truly authentic music that people, in years to come, would still appreciate. He also spoke with heartfelt emotion, about the obstacles he had faced over the years and his journey to becoming the artist you see today.
Curious, I wanted to find out a little more about the man behind the music; feeling that he had only scraped the surface of his journey, during his speech.
Knowing how many artists spend their careers struggling, I wanted to know what had prompted him to take his first step towards a career in music. Finding some space, away from the rest of the event, we sat down to talk.
“I guess I realised that it could actually be a career when people started to respond to my music on Myspace; the comments & feedback were amazingly positive. The thing with the internet and Myspace, at the time, is that it puts you on a level playing field; it allows you to take yourself as seriously as anyone else; I knew that if I wanted to make a career out of it, I could”.
Taking a leap like that, at the age of 19, must have come with struggles. A frequent question that I ask my interviewees, is what effect age had on their brand/business. So, I asked Joe the same thing.
“My naivety, at 19, was both positive and negative. It gave me a lot of confidence to just go for things. When you’re embracing life with a new set of eyes; you’ve got nothing to lose. I didn’t think about consequences then, while I do more so now. I opened doors because I wasn’t afraid and I didn’t over think things. But also, whilst there are certain mistakes you make because of your naivety, you gain wisdom in terms of business decisions; who to trust etc. At the same time, I wouldn’t change a thing”.
Joe had already spoken, during his speech, of the struggles he had faced on his journey; heartbreak & moving to a new country being just a couple, but I wanted to find out more and whether anything had affected the process of creating his music or performing on stage.
“I’m very much a perfectionist. The arts are all subjective and so it’s very difficult to know when something is good enough to put out. I’m constantly second-guessing myself. I should have released a lot more music than I have”.
He had also mentioned previously that, for him, music is a very emotional process; it takes a lot out of him and he struggles to know when something is the best it can be. “It can be can be very hard and very stressful” he explained. I wondered if he had any techniques, or had had help, to overcome obstacles such as perfectionism.
“I went to see a psychologist, who helped me by recognising that being a perfectionist is an issue; he helped me learn how to cope and approach the issue. I realised that I needed to look at the bigger picture; it’s damaging to constantly worry about one record. Potentially it could damage your entire career.”
With that in mind, I wanted to ask about his biggest accomplishments. Had all that hard work and stress paid off?
“Last year I won the Songwriting Awards; that was definitely my biggest achievement. What was so great, was that it was my peers and the industry recognising me. One of my biggest highlights was getting to perform with Jason Mraz in Seoul, South Korea”.
My personal knowledge of the music industry is that it comes with a lot of rejection and criticism. I wanted to know how he dealt with rejection himself.
“Choose whom you take your criticism from. Since music is so subjective, what one person doesn’t like, some other person will. There are no facts in music. You need to just believe in yourself.”
Joe also mentioned in his speech, that he quit University after just one year; leaving England to travel around the West Coast of America. I was curious as to what made Joe just drop everything and go?
“I wanted to get away. My music lent itself to the coffee shop, laid-back lifestyle of California’s West Coast; my music fitted that scene and I wanted to test the waters. I also wanted to play some of the places where Jason Mraz; one of my main inspirations, had played”.
One thing I had learned was that Joe was predominantly self-managed; organising most performances and tours by himself, without a label behind him. I imagined it would be very hard to do all this by yourself and so I wanted to know what his thoughts were about managing himself.
“Whilst I have been managed under a label and I’ve had agents, there’s always been an element of self-management. Right now, I’m completely self-managed; I have been for years & I’m not part of a label. You do need a team, but I’ve always been a bit single-minded. Plus, I can only blame myself when things go wrong. I don’t mind doing that, but I hate the idea of trusting someone else and them messing it up; which has happened to me. It’s frustrating. Plus, I know my audience the best.
I keep myself to myself and I think you’re able to do that nowadays. You are able to have a career and for nobody to know who you are; if you are popular and successful in your own circle, you can keep a low profile, whilst still earning well; there are plenty of tools to put your music out there. The difficult thing is that the industry is saturated. You’ve got to compete with all these artists who are doing the same thing, so you have to be releasing, authentic, new stuff all the time.”
It was amazing to meet someone so in charge of himself, in a business run predominantly by big labels. I wanted to know what advice he would give to someone starting out on their music career and what the future holds.
“Be comfortable knowing that everyone has their own way of doing things. Don’t worry if it’s not the same way as famous people. Concentrate on honing your craft and being your authentic self. Be as good as you can be and you will find your audience. Be gutsy. As for the next few months, I’m going to be writing new material to record at the beginning of next year. I’ve also had offers for touring Asia the middle of 2018”.
Meeting Joe was so incredibly inspiring and I for one can’t wait to see what’s ahead for him.
Follow Joe on Twitter @joebrooksmusic and check out his music online at www.joebrooks.com