INTERVIEW: Joe Iadanza

Hi Joe, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hey thanks so much! I’m really great, actually. It’s awesome to be here with you!

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Weary Hearts”?

“Weary Hearts” is final song on the A-side of my new album, “COMMON MAN” (We’ve got vinyl on the way, so it’s pretty cool to say “A-side” and to have it be true).  “COMMON MAN” is my third full length album, and my first album in nine years.  The whole album is a kind of folk-rock love letter to the 70s singer-songwriter aesthetic of Cat Stevens, Harry Chapin, and even Springsteen; and it’s an intimate and honest snapshot of my life at this point.

“Weary Hearts” is a contemplative song. It asks an ontological question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Or, in more functional terms: “What is happening out there!? How do we hold all of this insanity without falling into despair?”  It’s a question from the soul, rather than from the analytical mind.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

“Weary Hearts” is not inspired by a single event. It’s cumulative. It comes from my own inner questioning, and from that of people I meet as we sit together and talk about life and its joys and challenges. And it’s always both – joys and struggles. That’s the nature of the world we live in. The holding of these opposites is a practice that finds a way into a lot of my songs.  “Weary Hearts” is one expression of that inner contemplative process.

The single comes off your new album Common Man – what’s the story behind the title of the LP?

I fancied myself something pretty special in my younger days, and not necessarily in a healthy way. But over the years, I’ve come to realize that while people can have incredible skills, smarts, talent, luck… whatever it is… the fact is that we are all the same. We’re all quite “common” to each other. Letting go of that need to be special has been very healing for me. And while I believe that expressing the uniqueness of our gifts in this world is beautiful and necessary, we mustn’t lose sight of how absolutely alike we are in all of the ways that are most important.  When I remember that and practice it, it brings me a great deal of peace.

How was the recording and writing process?

“Weary Hearts” is a song I wrote some time ago but hadn’t found a home until now. I wrote the song in an open-C tuning on the guitar.  What that means, basically, is that I forced myself to work around a fretboard that I was unfamiliar with. That kind of playing shakes you up from what you normally lean on as a player and writer. I wrote “Weary Hearts” by feeling around the guitar until something that sounded cool to me came out. I didn’t really know what I was playing from a technical standpoint. I wasn’t intending to write this particular song… I was just playing around and listening and this is what came out.  I almost always write the music to a song first, and that was certainly the case here.  The lyrics came pretty quickly after that with the ,“Even this life,” hook leading the way. We recorded “Weary Hearts”, and all the songs on “COMMON MAN”, basically live in the studio over four days. Once we had the arrangements, we took two days to rehearse them, and then moved into Carriage House Studios in Stamford, CT to knock it out.  It was a great luxury to live in the studio. So often we are forced to piece these records together.  That wasn’t the case with “COMMON MAN”.

The drums were in one room, and the rest of us were in the adjacent space, with the Hammond Organ’s Leslie cabinet and bass speaker in isolation. We had great line-of-sight and were able to really see and hear each other. The monitoring was really spot on too, so I was able to deliver the vocals without having to push too hard. That allowed us to use almost all of the live vocals while keeping the songs feeling energetic and alive.  If you listen close, you can hear the Hammond organ switching clicks coming through my vocal mic on some songs.

We did some light overdubs of piano, second guitar parts, and all of the backing vocals on the last day.  But, there’s nothing like being in a room with some killer players who can deliver the goods so beautifully. I was very lucky to have this band with me on the record.

What role does NYC play in your music?

New York is home base. But, I’m a Long Island boy and I spent my formative years after high school in upstate New York and Boston. So, NYC is something I have been rediscovering. The northeast has a pretty vibrant and dense folk scene. There’s a pretty striking number of venues, house concerts, folk concert-series, and the like that cater to this scene. NYC is full of them. Not to mention that so many of my fellow singer-songwriters either live in the area or come through here while touring. If nothing else, NYC is a constant well of inspiration that I get to dip into.

Who are your main influences and how have they shaped your writing?

Springsteen, Springsteen, Springsteen. lol. Did I mention Bruce Springsteen? If there’s anyone that has moved me and inspired me head-and-shoulders above the rest, it’s Bruce. I study him from a songwriting and performance perspective. Sincerity, craft, consistency, passion… He’s the whole enchilada. His music touches me so viscerally that it’s hard to express in words the way it’s become part of every aspect of my life.

Of course, there are other artists… I’ve been playing guitar in bands and such since I was 15 years old. I started as a lead guitarist in hard rock and hair metal… So, it’s a funky list when you compact it into one line… Styx, Led Zeppelin, Bryan Adams, Living Colour, Pat Metheny, The Police (and Sting solo too), James Taylor, Rush, Bon Jovi, Cat Stevens, Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Foreigner, Tom Petty, Hall and Oates, The Beatles, Allman Brothers.  It’s quite a motley crew (crüe)… Oh, yeah… them too.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

Life!  I write about what I know (or at least what I think I know)… Once in a while, I’ll feel moved to tell a story that is not really mine.  But mostly, I write about what’s happening to me in my life now.  Music is how I process my stuff.  It’s primal. It needs to move me or I lose interest in it.  I can’t force it. I’m not a writer who sits down every day and knocks out ideas. I’ll go about my life, and then when life triggers something in me, I go sit and get really quiet and see if I can get out of the way enough for the song to come through me.  The more I get out of the way, the better the songs seem to be.

Any plans to hit the road?

Absolutely. This record is the first after a too-long hiatus. On my first two albums, I had toured quite a bit in the states and twice in Europe.  I’ve got two full band, hometown album release shows coming up, and I’m currently booking the fall and into 2020 for both solo and band shows. I’m hoping to come to the UK for the first time in the spring and am planning a return to Belgium/Holland/Germany in fall 2020. Other than that, I’m US-stateside and will keep making the rounds here.  If anyone with influence is listening, I’d love to get on a stretch with an established act that’s looking for someone to open a longer leg of their tour.  Call me!

What else is happening next in Joe Iadanza’s world?

I’ve produced a couple of cool records over the last few years. I’d love to do that for more artists. But for now, I’m taking the time to give the songs on “COMMON MAN” as many opportunities to be heard as possible. We’ll do a video for “Weary Hearts” soon and then there’s the shows that need to be booked and promoted and played.  And, of course… there’s lots of living to be done so that there’s more stuff to write about!

Listen here

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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