9 Questions to Newport with Joe Fletcher
So, this may not necessarily be nine specific questions. I caught up over the phone with Joe Fletcher and we just kind of shot the shit and talked about whats going on with his music lately, the weeks surrounding the festival, his “Nashville to Newport” set and the great musicians who will be joining him for it. I’ve never actually met Joe before this call and it was really just like talking to an old friend. He is a super nice guy, a hugely talented songwriter, and great purveyor of the music community and family in this region (and his new future home, Nashville, as displayed in his set choice). I really hope to be able to collaborate with him in the future on the music performance end of things.
The whole transcribing a phone call is a good amount of work (some parts of the conversation not included for relevance sake), and I did my damndest to edit as necessary and accurately write out the convo – but sometimes I mumble. But it’s damn well worth the work when you are talking to some great folks. Here it goes:
RLR: First and foremost, what projects are you currently working on? And is there anything in the pipeline for you?
JF: Yeah, I am just finishing up a solo record. It’s my first solo acoustic thing and there’s not really anybody else on it but me. It’s called “You Got the Wrong Man” and its coming out in late October. Don’t have an official date yet but we’re just getting all the publicity stuff underway and I just have a couple finishing touches to put on it and then we’ll get it mastered and start the media blitz.
RLR: Newport has been celebrated for its collaborations and this big community. And like we just discussed, how musicians are getting behind Dave (Lamb) and being really supportive to each other is a great example of that. How do you feel about how Newport preserves that unity and family sentiment within the music community, and the folk community in particular?
JF: I think it’s wonderful. I know thats really important to them, they really encourage collaboration and there is so much amazing talent there that particular weekend that you get these combinations you are probably not going to see anywhere else. That’s one of the things I really love about it. Going into it, playing for the first time last year I never could have guessed that I’d be singing songs with the Guthrie Family or Jim James after hours. It’s just very magical.
RLR: Yeah, for sure. And this year in particular you have kind of spearheaded that trait of the festival.
JF: Yeah, we’ve stacked the deck a little bit! I am really grateful for the opportunity and they’ve put a lot of trust in me allowing me to kind of come up with my own idea and I guess if they didn’t like it, it wouldn’t have happened. But it just worked out really well. I’ve got a lot of my friends coming up here to play, well, there not just my friends, they’re exceptional musicians. I am really honored to be able to bring them in and get fresh fans for them. It’s really rewarding for everybody.
RLR: To kind of jump off that one’s back, is there anyone you wish you could collaborate with but haven’t had the opportunity to yet?
JF: Oh my god, I’d love to work with Bob Dylan someday. That’d be really good (laughs).
RLR: Yeah, I’ll drop him a quick email and see what he says (laughs).
(JF tells story about going to see Dylan this week, his 28th or 29th show)
JF: I’m a huge music fan so people from all different walks of life in the music industry I would love to collaborate with.
RLR: As songwriters, I suppose Dylan is kind of the pinnacle of where we eventually want to be, but are there any other records that shaped you as an artist and songwriter? Aside from Dylan…
JF: As far as current artists I am a huge Justin Townes Earle fan and I am a big fan of a guy named Hayes Carll. I’d love to see him at the Folk Festival someday soon. Those are kind of the modern ones I really look up to. I just got back from a tour with this band from Philadelphia called ‘Toy Soldiers’ (http://ohnotoysoldiers.com/). Not sure if you are familiar with them? They are actually playing in Newport on the Saturday night at a place called One Eighty with Andrew Combs (http://andrewcombs.net/) who is also on “Nashville to Newport”. We just figured out a way to get those guys into the festival during the day and they’re gonna get up and do some collaborating with me. We did a lot of that on the tour we were on. They are the band that I am just like, the most a band has moved me in a long time. They are about to put out a really fantastic record. It’s going to make a lot of waves and I think a lot of people are going to know who they are really, really soon. They are just out of this world.
JF: That probably still didn’t answer your question (laughs)
RLR: (laughs) No, you kind of hit a few things.
JF: You were looking for one record. Yeah, that’s my current favorite record. It’s called “The Maybe Boys” by Toy Soldiers and it comes out in September. I would love it if you mentioned that because they are fantastic. Really interesting writing and an exciting show and Ron Gallo, the singer is just an incredible front man and singer. You’ll definitely be seeing them. As of this morning we found a way to get all five of them into the show so they could be a part of Nashville to Newport, even though they’re from Philadelphia. I’m breaking the rules. So we just did this tour, it just ended on Sunday in Boston where they did their own set and then backed me up for half my show I’d start off solo and then they would do the last 6 songs with me every day. And now they are starting a tour today (7/16) where they are doing the same thing with Andrew Combs backing him up, all the way up to Newport.
RLR: So aside from the collaboration and community efforts, what else really drives you keep on the music? I know it can be a frustrating industry sometimes to be in, so what really pushes you forward?
JF: Hunger? Ha-ha, yeah keeping my landlord off my back. I’m just a lifelong music fan and I have been playing for a really long time. It’s been a little over 2 years that this has been my only job which in itself is a dream come true. So now after 38 years, 36 when I left my job, everything is right where I wanted it to be. I am always trying to push my career a little bit further, but overall I am really satisfied with where things are and just trying to keep it going and gain more fans every day, every time we play and work hard. Its really easy to work hard when you are working towards your own dream, and not somebody elses. I don’t want to get another job…ever. That’s what drives me.
RLR: For sure man, for sure. I guess the last thing that I have is the question, is there anything else you want people to know about you aside from that you are working your ass off and that you are a kickass songwriter? Anything else you do in your “free time”? Or anything else you want to plug?
JF: Well right now in my free time…I don’t know really what those words mean at the moment, but luckily half of my job is playing shows and that part I really, really enjoy. The other, I still book all my own shows and have some people that work in kind of an advisory role as far as managing the bands, but theres no official manager so I am pretty busy behind the scenes. I spend a lot more time on the computer than I’d like to. But yeah, in my free time I like to read and relax with friends and take walks. I am moving to Nashville in October, but the town that I live in, Warren, RI, the same home as brown bird, is a really lovely place in the summer. So I enjoy my time off here…but I don’t really have a whole lot of time off this summer. Tonight I start a run of shows that’s five days long and next weekend at Newport is kind of the same thing and the past two weeks I was on tour. The summer is a pretty crazy time, a lot of festivals and sweaty, outdoor hijinks.
RLR: So, the solo record is October:
JF: Yup, late October called “You Got the Wrong Man”. There is a kickstarter campaign coming your way early next week, To help with the costs, master and producing and finally putting something out on vinyl.
RLR: Well, you have anything else?
JF: Please come over to the museum stage (at Newport Folk Fest) between 1:30 and 5 on Saturday.
I will be there for sure!
Joe Fletcher hits the Newport Folk Festival with a great line up of musicians in “Nashville to Newport” on Saturday, July 27th from 1:30-5. Make sure to stop by and say hello!
And check out Joe online at: http://joefletchermusic.com/