Originally from Glasgow, and now based in London, Joesef’s laid back charm, soulful voice, hip-hop inspired influences and sense of humour make him a breath of fresh air. We chatted to Joesef about the monotony of last year, Fifa 21, festivals and a shared love of A Tribe Called Quest. He’s been constantly churning out hits, and is definitely one to keep your eye on.
Alex Rorison: How you doing?
Joesef: Good, how’re you doing?
AR: Not bad! Did you enjoy the shoot? You seemed pretty comfortable...
J: That was good that. I had a shoot yesterday, which warmed me up. Yesterday I was a bit robotic, but aye alright. When I first started doing shoots I was a bit rigid, but then realised you need to relax or the pictures look shite. Today was nice and chill.
AR: Good good. So… where did you grow up?
J: On the eastend of Glasgow, in the sticks. That’s like the shite bit of Glasgow, but it’s got a lot of character.
AR: Did you have quite a musical upbringing?
J: None of my family was really musical. My mum was a hairdresser and make-up artist, she used to do people’s make-up for weddings and stuff like that. And my brothers were mechanics and scaffolders. But, there was always music playing in the house. It feels very random of me to be doing this.
AR: How did you get into music then?
J: I was always listening to tunes, but I never really played an instrument. I learned to play guitar in school a bit, and then I went to college to do sound engineering. I dropped out, because it was just pure shite man.
AR: How long did you last there?
J: A year. Enough to work out the software, but not long enough to get a fucking degree. I met my manager at college and then I went to an open mic night and he wanted to start a music management company.
AR: What were you doing before music?
J: Boozing. Aye, working in a bar. I worked in a heavy metal bar…
AR: Are you into heavy metal?
J: Am I fuck. Honestly it was the worst having a hangover working in a heavy metal bar. It was awful, but the people were interesting and it was easy. I feel like I could’ve just done that for the rest of my life.
AR: What were you listening to when you were growing up?
J: Early stuff was like Mamas & Papas, and Al Green and stuff like that. A lot of soul music. The Cure. And then A Tribe Called Quest when I was like 15.
AR: I love A Tribe Called Quest.
J: Aye that’s like the music I found by myself and not from my brothers. They were listening to 50 Cent and all that, and I hated it when I was younger. But looking back it’s actually quite good.
AR: Are you still listening to ATAQ?
J: I can remember what I was doing the first time I heard Check The Rhime. My family loves ATAQ as well, and I love Q-Tip and what he does with his solo stuff as well. I think that’s where a lot of my production influences come from, the crunchy drums. I love them, they’re so good.
AR: When did you start writing music?
J: It was when I was like 21, I was a pure late bloomer. I was kinda late to the party with that. My manager was trying to get me to write some tunes, and luckily I kept ploughing away. I wrote some really terrible songs, like six and half minutes, with no structure.
AR: Will they ever see the light of day?
J: Only if I die or something. Hidden on my hard drive are these six and half minute tunes.
AR: How do you write music? Is there a structure?
J: I’ll just sit with my guitar and play chords that I like and sing whatever comes to my head to get the melody. And then I’ll just write to the melody after that. I wish I was more strategic than that, but it just kinda comes.
AR: Does your music have to come from a personal place?
J: Aye, I think you have to be connected to what you're singing, otherwise it's just boring. I kinda hate when I see singers or musicians and I don’t believe what they’re saying. With A Tribe Called Quest I believe every word they’re saying, and they’re fucking hilarious and they’re just having fun. Some of it’s hard-hitting as well.
AR: Do you normally write by yourself? Or bounce ideas off someone?
J: Nah, I normally just write by myself. I’ve had some help from a producer this year, but that's pure production, no help with lyrics or anything.
AR: Are you quite secretive when it comes to your music?
J: I’m very much a control freak and I don’t want anyone to hear it unless I think it’s good. People will just just give their opinions about stuff and it pure affects my perception of it. Someone might say ‘it should sound more like this’ and then I’ll think it’s a terrible song when it’s not.
AR: What’s it like when you finally release the music though?
J: I’m nervous most of the time. Like going for an exam at school, like that kinda nervousness, like ‘fuck am I gonna do this? Is it gonna go well?’
AR: It’s going well so far though…
J: Yeah it’s going well. It’s fun man, it’s a good time. It’s good releasing music, it’s a buzz.
AR: How would you describe your sound?
J: Ahh man, how would you describe it? It’s weird to pigeon hole, but I guess soul, alternative because it’s like guitars but with hip-hop drums. A mixture of stuff. I kinda just emulate what I’ve been listening to.
AR: Do you think it’ll change then when you start listening to different things?
J: I think if I spent another year in the heavy metal bar I woulda been making screamo tunes. I’ve been listening to a lot of shoegazing music recently, so hopefully that doesn’t seep into my music.
AR: How have you found the last year? Obviously the music industry has been hit really hard...
J: It’s been pretty brutal not being able to tour and that, but I think I’ve still managed to make some ground with releasing singles and stuff like that.
AR: Have you been writing a lot?
J: For a long period no, I was just drinking everyday. But, so was everybody else.
AR: I feel like at the beginning it was booze, then everyone got healthy, then Christmas rolled around and it was back to drinking...
J: Right back on it again exactly.
AR: And then January was healthy again.
J: Ahh man people were back to making banana bread again, ahh you’re like I cannot do this for another year. But, I feel like last year was brutal, and I feel worse for tour managers and stage techs and stuff like that who have literally not been able to tour at all and make any money. Having to get other jobs in stuff that they’re not trained in and probably fucking hate. I think that’s the worst bit. I’ve been lucky enough to still write and live off that.
AR: Are you excited to start touring again?
J: Aye fucking buzzing. It’s hard man, but I will never complain about touring ever again.
AR: Is it quite brutal?
J: Yeah, especially singing because you’re singing every night and you’re tired and that affects your voice. I feel you need to push a bit harder when you get to the last show, but the adrenaline takes over. But, tourings amazing man, it’s the best feeling ever. Nothing will compare to being on stage.
AR: Do you remember the first time you walked out on stage?
J: My first gig, I basically blacked out and woke up at the end of the set. It was a sold out King Tut’s gig in Glasgow and it was a half ten stage time so the crowd had been drinking all day. It was like my mates and my family; basically like getting fed to the lions. I was petrified. But it’s the most natural high you’ll ever get, the best feeling ever.
AR: You sold out the Barrowlands didn’t you?
J: Sold that out in a day. It was weird man. I was ill as well, so I was watching it sell out and I couldn’t even take it in because I was ill. But, that was mental to me. I can’t believe that people are still wanting to buy tickets after the last year.
AR: Is that quite a big venue for you?
J: Culturally in Glasgow, it’s like the venue. It. You’ve got the Academy which is soulless, and the Hydro which is… even more soulless. I just think that the Barrowlands has so much history; so many amazing artists have played there and they have all their names on the wall.
AR: Have you been to many gigs there?
J: Aye I’ve been to see The Specials like twice. It’s mental, basically old guys throwing pints of piss around. You think it’s gonna be quite sedate because they’re all old, but they were literally like punching my head in.
AR: Do you have a favourite song to play live?
J: Depends where I am. Limbo if I’m in Glasgow, because that was my first single. And Loverboy in London. The ones that get everybody singing. The last gig I played though, everybody was singing everything which was weird. It was the last one before COVID times so it felt like something was changing, it was class
AR: Hopefully that momentum carries on…
J: I definitely hope so.
AR: Are you playing any festivals this year?
J: I’m playing a few festivals. They’ll be my first, I was meant to play them last year but…
AR: How are you feeling about it? Nervous? Excited?
J: It’s weird because it’s not my crowd, it’s just people that are there that have paid to get in to see everybody, not just me. I love festivals man, there’s nothing better than when you’re charging about fucked.
AR: I’m guessing you’ll be able to play and then get off and enjoy the festival?
J: Hopefully, hopefully. See what happens backstage I guess.
AR: When did you move to London?
J: September, right before lockdown happened again.
AR: Do you miss being back home in Glasgow?
J: Aye. Glasgow is quite small and I love London, but I think I’ll die in Glasgow. I think I’ll go back and have kids or something. I’ll do my stint here, write the album and go home.
AR: If you could live anywhere else in the world (apart from those two) where would it be?
J: Ahhh man, where would you live?
AR: My girlfriends Australian, so I’m guessing Australia...
J: Australia’s cool man. They’re all living it up at the moment, no COVID. That’ll be class. I love Paris, but you need to learn the language. Berlin as well.
AR: You did a cover of Sister Sledge’s Thinking of You, have you got any covers up your sleeve?
J: I don’t know man, I do wanna learn something else, but I don’t know what I could do. 50 Cent - 21 Questions?
J: I dunno man. Maybe an Al Green song, I covered one for Radio 2. Let’s Stay Together, that’s a good tune.
AR: If you weren’t doing music what do you think you’d be doing? Back in the bar?
J: Ahhh isn’t it bleak man! I would probably be working in a bar. I wouldn’t be hating my life, I was having a good time and I was at peace working in a bar. I was ready to be that guy who’s 50 working in a bar. No offence to people who are 50 and working in a bar. But I was up for that, and then this happened…
AR: Have you got any current musical influences?
J: I’m not really listening to anybody new, lemme have a think. There’s definitely people I admire, like I love Arlo Parks’ music.
AR: She just won a Brit as well didn’t she...
J: Aye she’s fucking killing it. She’s amazing, I love her lyrics and her voice is stunning as well.
AR: It’s so soothing.
J: You can just pull it on and chill.
AR: I feel like I’ve worn that record through already, had it on repeat.
J: I know man, it’s so good and she’s killing it.
AR: Anyone else?
J: There’s a guy called Wesley Joseph. He’s cool man, I love his visuals and I think he produces it all himself. I was pure stalking his Insta and it’s amazing. He directs all the music videos himself, it’s inspiring.
AR: What about outside of music? Any inspiration?
J: Films. Someone like Greg Araki’s films, like Doom Generation. It’s pure fried, but visually it’s amazing.
AR: You were on Fifa 21 weren’t you?
J: Aye that was class. I was actually in a pub at the weekend, and it was a very lary lads pub. My flatmate mentioned that I was a singer and they looked at me as if I just sang in pubs and that. She told them I was on Fifa 21, I showed them and they were like ‘no way man, that’s the main one’. But yeah that was mental, I never really played Fifa, but my brothers play it and they were mad for it. It was a mental experience.
AR: Pretty good year then… Fifa 21, sold out shows..
J: Aye man, doing alright.
AR: What's next then?
J: Writing an album, so hopefully get that done before the year is done.
AR: Have you started writing it?
J: I’m writing it at the moment. I’ve written a couple bangers…
AR: Is it all new stuff?
J: All new stuff!
AR: So you’re not gonna just fill it with your old EPs?
J: Nah I hate that! I think it looks a bit lazy when that happens.
AR: Are you getting recognised quite a lot now?
J: In Glasgow I get recognised quite a lot. Everytime I get recognised in London, I’ve been on a date as well.
AR: Are you just paying people to come over and ask you if you’re Joesef?
J: (Laughs) yeah. It’s weird to me though, because London’s massive. I think after the Loyle Carner track, people started recognising me. It’s weird, but it’s cool and it’s nice to meet people who like my tunes.
AR: What was it like working with Loyle Carner?
J: It was mental. I’m like his biggest fan, and I love his tunes. My manager was like ‘maybe he would do it if you asked him’. Loyle sent me a voice memo with rapping over the instrumental and I screamed my house down.
AR: Is he as nice as he comes across?
J: Soundest guy ever. So chilled. I supported him in Glasgow as well before, and he came and watched us and we hung out in his dressing room.
AR: I managed to see him a few years ago.
J: Yeah he’s great, he’s just chilled.
AR: If any of your songs were going to win a Grammy which would it be?
J: A Grammy?! Ahh shit man. Maybe some of the new stuff. Maybe Comedown. I feel like the strings on that maybe?
AR: If you could see any artist live, who would it be?
J: Probably A Tribe Called Quest when Phife Dawg was still alive. Or Al Green, he’s a reverend in a chapel now. I would love to go and take my mum, but I feel like I would collapse. She’s seen him live before, and James Brown. She’s kissed James Brown on the cheek before. She’s hard to contain at a gig.
AR: I feel like older hip-hop artists can be a bit disappointing live, but I reckon ATAQ have got the energy.
J: I’ve seen videos of them live, but they cancel a lot. And obviously Phife is dead now so it wouldn’t be the same.
AR: What’s been your highlight so far?
J: Probably selling out the Barrowlands. Selling out SW3G, which was my biggest venue at the time. Played the sound of 2021 Maida Vale, that was so good. Just selling out gigs, that’s always a highlight for me, it doesn’t get old and it means a lot to me. People paying money to come and see you. It takes a lot for me to pay money to go see someone play.
AR: What do you want people to take away from your music?
J: I mean I wanna make music that can take you away. I feel like music can make your day. So just people listening to my music and taking a wee break from whatever's happening in their life.
AR: What’s your favourite F Word?
J: I would say fuck, but… I feel like I should be clever about it. Nah, Fuck.