Michael Green Interviews... Joe Sensible
Originally posted on November 22nd 2019 here is a Q & A with singer-songwriter Joe Sensible. He talked about his experiences in music.
Where did it all start for you getting into music?
Music wasn't a particularly big thing at home when I was growing up but one day at about the age of 12 or 13 I just started playing an old keyboard. I got into electronic music in a big way and since I could record up to 8 tracks on the keyboard I started writing a lot of music. By my mid-teens I was going to big dance events but I was hearing more and more music of different genres. The first time I heard 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' by Pink Floyd it changed my whole outlook. Shortly after a friend played me a Jimi Hendrix CD of his dad's and I remember the moment when I was listening to 'Hey Joe' and decided I was going to be a guitarist. I got my first electric guitar four months later on my 17th birthday and never looked back. Who are your influences? I spent a few years trying to be like Jimi Hendrix and playing lots of blues, from BB King to Little Walter. By that point I was also a massive fan of bands like Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins, The Verve and Pearl Jam. I was playing for hours every day and as my guitar technique improved I got more into classic rock and metal. I almost disappeared down a hole of twiddling electric guitars and extended solos but fortunately I discovered the classical guitar. It was the first time I had given any thought to acoustic guitar music and it opened a whole world of possibilities of tone and expression. Rather than screaming guitars I spent my time listening to acoustic music and songwriters like Nick Drake, Neil Young and Bert Jansch. I started to appreciate music from lots of different genres more and realised I had to broaden my musical horizons to avoid missing out. In recent years I've listened to a lot of music and if I had to choose a few artists whose music has spoken to me I could include Ray LaMontagne, Ghostpoet, Nick Mulvey, This is the Kit and Agnes Obel. With songwriting where do you tend to get your inspiration from e.g. how do you start your songs and what's your process? Almost all of my songs start with the guitar. I work on the basis that if I can put meaningful lyrics over the top of an interesting guitar part then the result will be something worthwhile. I like to get into the zone and I know I have something decent when I've played it a hundred times or so. The lyrics start with me humming a tune and inserting a few words based on the mood of the guitar part. I try not to push the lyrics, if something is there it will write itself. Sometimes words pour out in a flood but sometimes it takes months or years before a song takes shape. I just trust that if a song is worth writing it will come together when it's ready.
Joe Sensible recording Beautiful Dream at Perry Road Studios
How important do you feel it is to listen to current music as well as music from the past?
I think it is really important to challenge your musical tastes all the time. This means listening to music outside your comfort zone. If you don't listen to current music it is easy to get stuck in a rut with the music that you have always listened to. It's also important to listen to the music that influenced the artists you respect and work your way backwards. There is so much incredible music out there that it would be a tragedy to stop exploring it if you really love music.
Do you feel it is important to watch other acts perform and to watch other live music?
I think it is really important to engage with live music, especially if you are a musician. Recorded music is so polished that you can forget that live music is raw, emotional and imperfect. Live musicians put themselves on the line and there is so much you can learn from watching people perform. It also keeps your feet on the ground and reminds you that there are lots of people out there more talented than you are!
Finally what tips do you have for anyone starting out when it comes to songwriting and performing?
A lot of my music is quite emotional so it makes sense for me to try to connect on an emotional level with the audience when I perform. I try to get into the zone so I can play the same way as I would if I was sitting at home.
When I first started writing songs in my teens I made myself write at least one song or poem every day. I looked back recently to find ideas for the album I have just finished. To be honest, most of my early work is really poor but I had to go through that process to find my voice as a songwriter. Hidden among all the unoriginal and simple lyrics there were a few songs that actually had some depth and made it on to the album. It really emphasised that most of what you write will not be very good but you have to write a lot before anything decent happens.
To find out more about Joe, and his music go to www.facebook.com/JoeSensible/
Listen to Joe's new album 'Done But Not Dusted' HERE
You can also listen to it on his YouTube channel
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