JOE KANN GIVES US A LOOK “THROUGH HIS EYES”
Music for a songwriter is a product of his experiences. An artist must keep an open mind to all sorts of influences as they come up. Our recent find Joe Kann has lived a full life and is now ready to share it within his music.
The singer and songwriter from New York has now found the time to focus on his music. After his debut release “Everything I Never Told You” back in November of 2020, Joe Kann is back to premiere his new single “Through His Eyes” with Indie Band Guru.
The heartfelt song is a look at the father son relationship. The storytelling style has hints of folk, country, and even some Americana sprinkled in to create a relatable and touching sound. The lyrics are delivered with true feeling bringing the listener deep into the emotion of the song.
We had a chance to catch up with the true artist to get a little deeper into his personal journey to music. Enjoy the interview here:
What first drew you to creating original music?
I have always enjoyed singing and expressing myself through songs but because they were always written by someone else it never felt fully authentic to me. I have written lyrics to songs for a large part of my life but never knew what to do with them. I never knew how to take the words and make them into a song. It always seemed like a bit of magic was involved, like you had to know what to do, you had to be a great musician in order to understand how to tie music with lyrics. Over the last few years I have tried to learn that magic and make use of it in my own way so I could share my songs instead of someone else’s, as well as leave behind some small part of me once I am gone. The songs I am able to record will always be alive, and that is important to me.
How would you describe the Joe Kann sound?
It’s a sound that I feel is authentic to me and where I am in my life. My music is sort of a culmination of the experiences I have had, being a dad, husband, friend. Living through my life and seeing things through my own prism, my life experiences are not the same as anyone else’s although, paradoxically, in many ways they are the same. I am more a vocalist than I am a guitarist, and I use the guitar to support what I am trying to say but I highly doubt there will be any screaming guitar solos from me anytime soon!
My lyrics are a mix of personal experiences while trying to capture the experience of the listener as well. I want to write and sing songs that the listener feels come from their own diary, songs about their own lives so they can feel a connection to something bigger than themselves.
Which artists have had the biggest influence on you?
The artists that I have listened to have changed as I have. In the 80’s I was really into both The Cure, Bruce Springsteen, Grateful Dead, Billy Joel, and BonJovi, to name a few, but I found things that were appealing to me among so many artists that it’s really hard for me to pin down who influenced or is influencing me. Today I am as likely to be listening to White Buffalo as I am to Eminem, James Taylor, or Dean Martin. I am pretty much all over the map when it comes to what I like and think I take some influence from all of them.
You have had some travels as an air traffic controller. How did those experiences affect your music?
To me living in various parts of the country has been good as well as challenging. Missing out on a bunch of family celebrations, birthdays/holidays, or even just going over to a family member’s place for dinner, is hard and at times. I feel a great deal of regret for moving away. On the other hand experiencing the world through the eyes of someone who has lived in Oklahoma, New York, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Georgia really gives me a broader viewpoint than had I stayed in New York my whole life. The people in the South see things, as a whole, in a completely different and really utterly fascinating way from how people in New England see things. Most of the stereotypes and prejudices that one may develop as an outsider are quickly shown, for the most part, to be untrue. Southerners for the most part are not overly courteous nor polite and that is not necessarily a bad thing.
Once I moved away from New York, I realized that for the most part New Yorkers aren’t any ruder, meaner, or less polite but actually many will give you the shirts off their backs to help a friend. They may curse a lot at you while they do it but it comes from a place of love. In many ways people are people, regardless of where in the country you are, although in a lot of other ways there are amazing differences and if you take the time to get to know people and listen to their viewpoints on life, how to treat others, as well as how to love and how to be a friend, it really is eye-opening and just something I think you can only experience by living somewhere. A week or two visit just isn’t enough time to absorb in what others are doing because you’re generally too self-centered in that short a period of time, you can’t see too much outside yourself. It takes time for the vision to expand beyond your own small circle and to try and see the world through other people’s perspectives. This way of seeing the world through multiple vantage points enables me to be able to connect with more people than if I only had one specific worldview.
How does a song come together for you? What is the songwriting process?
I spend a lot of time writing in notebooks, just sentences that I hear on TV or in a movie that resonate, or things I pick up from hearing people talk to each other, or maybe even from book titles. I keep those snippets and then try to categorize them in my head within working titles I have for song ideas . I will then try to grab snippets that fit with my titles and then try to come up with a lyrical cadence or melody.
I’ve written a lot of my songs to 90% completion in a week or so, because I have the majority of them down the way the story wants to be told. It’s the last 10% that sometimes can take a while, and sometimes that 10% will end up altering that 90% of what I thought was a finished song.
I no longer throw ideas away like I had done for 20 years. I now know enough about the magic of songwriting that I keep whatever the songwriting magic is willing to share, and I am pretty sure it will become useful once I get around to the right story for it.
After keeping your music under wraps for 30 years, what prompted the release of your first songs?
I wish I had kept my music under wraps for 30 years! I would have taken a bunch of the ideas that came to me and used them instead of letting them get away and become someone else’s ideas. I would most certainly be a better writer and musician. The better way to look at what I have done I guess is I am no longer afraid to try and do things, even if I am not 100% sure how to do it. The internet has been a huge friend for anyone who has struggled to know how to do things in the past. I can fix my own plumbing, make chicken parmigiana, and learn how to play an F major chord all from youtube. Nothing like that was around 20 years ago, and so how people learned to make music and write songs seemed mysterious and like something that I wouldn’t ever be able to do.
Of course, I was actually doing it: I was writing lyrics down on breaks from work, or when sitting on a plane, or in traffic. I let the musical ideas bounce in my head for days or weeks and then when the ideas realized I wasn’t going to do something with them, I would lose them as they went off to find someone else willing to put them in a song. I don’t mean to make it sound like I am crazy but I do think there are ideas, musical ideas, that are waiting to be used and when the time is right they show themselves to songwriters/musicians. Some artists call it a “Muse”, I don’t really have a name for it other than songwriting magic. It really is special how songs can move and touch people, there is no exact formula for what song, what melody, which lyric will do that and which ones won’t. There is just something that can’t be exactly defined about being humans who connect to each other through song that is special and magical.
What can you tell us about your new release “Through His Eyes”?
It is a song that comes from my own view of parenthood, of being a father and of being a son. Most everyone tries to do the best they can for their kids and a lot of us feel we haven’t done enough, we haven’t been good enough, and the kids may be better off with some other parents. I think doubt is somewhat universal, and although I am sure there are people who can’t ever admit fault with themselves, I am not one of them. I try to do the best I can for my kids, wife, friends, and parents but know that there are ways I fall short. “Through His Eyes” kind of touches on the many ways kids look at parents and don’t ever see the whole person.
Give us a look at the future of Joe Kann.
As of now I am working from a long-range viewpoint, looking to 2022 for when it will be time to see if anything I am doing now will bear fruit. I would love to be able to have 20-30 fans in each state which would enable me to perform in each state in 2022. My style of music is fairly popular in the UK and Ireland so it would be believable for me to be able to play a festival or two in Europe by then as well.
I think my window for competing with Taylor Swift and Ed Sheerhan has probably closed but that doesn’t mean that the songs I release can’t touch or connect with someone and maybe bring them some relief or happiness. That is the future I hope to have, to be able to connect with a small fanbase and bring that fanbase happiness, entertainment, and community.