Photo credit: Jen Folsom

INTERVIEW: West Side Joe & The Men Of Soul

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

We’ve been good, VENTS! Thanks for having us! This is Joe talking – I’m gonna handle these questions.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Vacate My Heart”?

Our drummer Steve Amedee is a little bit older than Taylor and I, and I wasn’t sure if he would be able to rock as hard and fast as I wanted for the song. He wound up absolutely wiping the floor with us! “Vacate My Heart” is three minutes of rock & roll glory. Like Chuck Berry sitting in with X. Guitar tone is courtesy of a 50’s Fender Tweed Deluxe. Our pal Eric let me use the amp so I could play my Gibson 335 through it and get that raw super crunch sound. When I went to pick the amp up from his house, I rang his doorbell and he brought it out, warning me to not turn it up too loud. I may or may not have turned it up as loud as it goes. Don’t tell Eric!

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

March 2020. I kept getting emails from different businesses saying they were closing their doors. This genuinely freaked me out, but was also weirdly exciting, and I wrote “Vacate My Heart” to try to capture those contradictory feels I was feeling.

How was the Kickstarter experience?

Yeah, we had no money to make an album, so we asked for thousands of dollars from our fans, friends, and family, and they came through for us. We knew we had to do right by them, so we busted our asses in the studio.

The single comes off your new album Keep On Climbin’ – what’s the story behind the title?

“Keep On Climbin'” is the first song on the album. Again, March 2020. A sunny winter day in Northern Colorado. I took my kids Leon and Stella on a walk, and as they were running around soaking up the rays, I was internally crunching numbers to figure out how my wife and I would pay the rent that month. The pandemic was kicking in hard, and I was working from home while also filling in for Stella’s 2nd grade teachers and taking care of Baby Leon. I saw an eagle soaring peacefully above, and that was it. I took out my iPhone 8, pulled up the voice recorder and started singing. I messed with the words for months. Brought it to the studio with lots of lyrics, but very little musical arrangement. Steve and Taylor helped me get it worked up in about 30 minutes. The rhythm guitar and lead vocal are one take. There’s only a couple like that on the album, and they’re all my favorites. Next time, I’m doin’ ’em all like that!

How was the recording and writing process?

It was a pleasure working with Darren Radach at Stout Studio in Ft. Collins Highly recommend. The album was mixed in Memphis by Jedi Dawn Hopkins at High/Low Recording with help from Toby and Pete down there.

What role does Ft. Collins play in your music?

Well, I grew up in Memphis, so I think in terms of style, that’s the city you’ll hear mostly in the music. But making music in Ft. Collins is amazing because there’s a lot of freedom to be who you want to be, and most everybody encourages it. There’s also a lot of joy among the musicians and music fans, which is huge. When I was 17, I went to my first band rehearsal with a professional band, The Reba Russell Band. This is my senior year of high school when I lived in Memphis. I remember Reba asked me if I had a girlfriend, which I did. She said that’s good, because people think you have to be miserable to make good music, but that’s not always true. Good music can come from joy, too. I think that’s what makes Keep On Climbin’ jump out of the speakers like it does.

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

We look everywhere! Seriously, we’re always looking because the big fear is one day we won’t be able to find it.

What else is happening next in West Side Joe & The Men Of Soul’s world?

We covered a Springsteen song during the Keep On Climbin’ sessions. My old friend Al Gamble from St. Paul & The Broken Bones plays on it. He’s also on this album, on “Found You,” “Raindrop Don’t Care,” and “I Can’t Lose.” Anyway, once the album cycle is over, we’re gonna put that out as a single. If you’re reading this, and you think you know which Springsteen song it is, message us on Instagram @bluesgotsoul.

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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