Artist Highlight- Joe Lecrivain Music
Recently, we sat down with the incredibly talented Joe Lecrivain of Joe Lecrivain Music to talk about how he got started in the music business and where he plans to go from here. Joe has been a great supporter of GroMusic since its inception and we are very excited to share his story and his music with you.
GROMUSIC: As someone who often performs as a solo artist but also at times with a band, how would you define yourself? Is it all part of Joe Lecrivain Music?
JOE: The honest truth is that I tried doing the rock thing for many years, and I was unbearable to be in a band with. I’m lucky enough to have a talented group of friends that are willing to play with me when I need the help, which is as often as I can get it. But pretty much everything I do right now, whether it’s solo stuff or full-band stuff, I consider it all Joe Lecrivain Music. It’s all under Speaker Damage Records. We’re going to be going back into the studio soon, thankfully with my talented friends who play music with me, but that will all be under the banner of Joe Lecrivain Music.
GROMUSIC: How did you first get interested in learning music?
JOE: When I was 9, I went to a small private Catholic school and we didn’t really have a music program, but when I was in 4th grade, this lady came and she said “I’d like to start a music program. I want to start by teaching three instruments.” They were clarinet, flute, and trumpet. My mom had gotten me into listening to big band music at the time so I was really into Benny Goodman, so I was like “Sweet! I’ll play clarinet. That would be fantastic!” And they told us to have a backup instrument because if they had too many people sign up for one, they’d sign us up for the other one. So my backup was going to be flute. I have no idea why. And then my brother saw my sign-up sheet and said, “Both of these are girly instruments.” So I ended up signing up for trumpet and the rest of that was history. I went into high school doing that, and I went into college doing that.
GROMUSIC: How did that progress into starting a band and then going solo?
JOE: Somewhere along the line in junior high I picked up the guitar and I discovered that I really liked writing songs, and I really liked writing lyrics. I dropped out of college at the end of my freshman year and I moved to Orange County, and I started a band that then morphed into several other bands. I had decided I’d rather do rock & roll because, you know, even the big guys aren’t getting paid to do jazz anymore, and it kind of snowballed. When you’re in your early 20s I was kind of a difficult personality to work with, and didn’t really have an idea of where I wanted to go in my 20s. I just kind of had this nebulous idea of what success should be, but no clue how to get there. So that kind of morphed into just jumping in and out of a bunch of different bands, and basically it got to the point where I had tried every way I knew how to do the rock thing and it was just too difficult for me to keep a band together. Sometimes it was my fault, and sometimes it wasn’t. When we were Victory Falls, for the longest time we had the hardest time finding a bass player. We had trouble finding a drummer. Whenever we’d get a new member, someone else would quit. I just got to the point where I thought, “If I do this by myself, I can bring people in that want to play when I need people that want to play, but I don’t have to wait on anybody.” And that’s what made me make the decision to go solo. Then I had a really good friend who runs a record label, and I told him I wanted him to produce my first solo record. He liked what he heard and decided we were going to sign together.
GROMUSIC: You mentioned that you liked writing songs and lyrics. What inspires that? What gives you that moment of “I’m going to turn this into song?”
JOE: I really like attention. You know what’s funny is that when I read articles of other musicians and they’re telling their stories of why they do what they do, it’s always some really deep thing like “Oh, you know, I just have this really deep demon in my soul and it just needs to be exorcised occasionally.” For me, no, I just really like attention, and occasionally I have stuff I need to get off my chest, so I write songs about them. I’ve always wanted to make musically professionally and get paid to do it and not have to have a day job, and I like to think I’m pretty good at it.
GROMUSIC: What is your favorite song of yours?
JOE: That’s tough because I don’t tend to like a lot of my own stuff. I mean, I like it because I like playing it but I feel like if I was listening, I’d be like “Yeah, it’s okay.” But I think that’s just because I’m hyper-critical. I think anybody in the creative process completes a thing and then spends the rest of their lives critiquing it. But there have been some songs, like a song I wrote called Sober that I played with Victory Falls and occasionally I’ll throw into my live set now that means a lot to me. Basically it’s about myself and my siblings coping with the loss of my dad. So it’s nice to play that. It’s cathartic.
GROMUSIC: What is the craziest thing that has happened to you at a show?
JOE: During a show they’re all pretty standard shows. But there was one time I was playing at this place in Long Beach and it was a rainy Friday night. There wasn’t a huge crowd but there were a bunch of regulars. So I get off stage and I’m packing up my guitar, and this old dude, incredibly drunk, comes up and starts talking to me. But I can’t hear him so I lean in and as I lean in, he grabs the back of my neck and plants a big fat wet smelly kiss right on my neck. And then just walks away. That’s probably the craziest thing that’s happened to me at a show. During a show, people are usually fairly tame. But then at my first solo show, it was at this city fair kind of thing, and I’m up there playing my set, and maybe two songs in, this dude goes “I’m here! I’m here! I’m your percussionist!” and gets on stage with a cajon. I tell him, “We’ve never met before, I promise.” But he insists he’s my percussionist and I can’t get him off stage. As I’m telling him to get off stage, another guy starts mic-ing him up and I’m like “okay, well, it looks like I’m going to be playing with this stranger the next 20 minutes.” So that was pretty crazy. He didn’t do a bad job. But he didn’t exactly do a good job.
GROMUSIC: If there is anything you could change about the music industry these days, what would it be?
JOE: Money. I hear a lot of people complaining about stuff that’s on the radio. If you turn on the radio, it’s either a song that’s 20 years old or it’s one of the same three people- Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars. We are currently suffering from the number one rule of economics, which is- when you pay for something, you will get more of it. And right now the only thing people are paying for is Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift, and we’re getting that in spades. If you want good-quality music and you want to enrich the scene with good-quality music, you have to pay for it. I’m not just talking about downloading. You have to go to shows. You have to buy merchandise. Musicians work their entire lives to learn their instruments, to write their songs, to bring you a product, and you expect that product for free, when you can only get it free for so long before people can’t keep making it. So then you will be stuck with what is paid for. So if you are enjoying the same Taylor Swift song on the radio over and over again, then you guys are in good shape. But in my personal opinion, I’d like to hear new stuff. One reason I started a podcast recently with my wife was to explore new music in the Los Angeles music scene.
GROMUSIC: What is your podcast and how do you use that to support local artists?
JOE: Our podcast, Whiskey and the World, is basically just an excuse for us write off our whiskey habit and hang out with cool musicians. Every week we do a whiskey tasting, a movie review, we have a musical guest, and we do our best to dig through the scene and find local LA acts that are either up and coming, or somewhat established, that we can expose people to, because the radio is not playing most of these guys. To get on a station like KROQ, you already have to be huge. You already have to be the hometown hero. The problem with getting heard is that someone who’s cool has to say that you’re cool, but someone who is cool is not going to say you’re cool unless you’re already cool. So how do you get there? People just aren’t digging as hard to find music because the modern consumer wants to be spoon-fed, because they’ve been spoon-fed for so long that it’s become comfortable. But it’s not interesting.
GROMUSIC: How do you feel services like Spotify, Pandora, and iTunes contribute to that? Do you think it’s making it harder for local artists to be found, or easier?
JOE: I think it’s both. I never had an issue with the old model of doing things. I never had a problem with gatekeepers and record labels. In fact, I grew up in an era where that was the big dream- impress the big record label, become famous, become successful. Spotify is just that. It’s just the new gatekeeper. It’s good because anyone can get on Spotify but it’s bad because in order to rise above, you kind of have to have somebody paying to put you there. You have to get on playlists, and you have to have to get thousands and thousands of spins. If you’re on Spotify and you have less than a thousand spins, nobody can find you organically. They have to search for you. So if you’re a brand new artist with no followers, Spotify is useless to you. It’s like all tools- it is what you make of it, but being a gatekeeper, it’s not the same kind of gatekeeper a record label was because you knew, like in the 90s, that if you got on a record label and you had a single, you’d be good, even if you never got more than that single, you’d already hit the wall of one-hit wonders, and you’d be good. There are dudes to this day that are living off their earnings from one-hit wonders. So it’s good and it’s bad- it’s a tool to be used. Just don’t expect too much from it.
GROMUSIC: What is the latest with Joe Lecrivain Music?
JOE: As we speak right now, my lovely wife and Eli Mizrahi, who runs EMZ Productions, are editing my very first music video. I’m very excited about it!
GROMUSIC: What song should we be keeping an eye out for, for this music video?
JOE: This one is going to be for Simple Problems from my record, Sing Along. There’s some really cool stuff. Eli is a phenomenal cinematographer. He works a camera like nobody’s business, and he’s got really great vision. Kat Silvia is the director for the video- everyone who knows her knows she’s amazing. I’m not just saying that because she’s my wife. And hopefully we’ll get into the studio again soon, and have some new tunes. The first one we’re going to record, right off the bat, already has a music video pitch for it, so hopefully in the next couple of months we’ll have another music video. And then from me this year, you should be expecting, hopefully, a new single every month.
GROMUSIC: Anything else you’d like to share?
JOE: Just keep doing good work with GroMusic. Every person you educate and every person you get to make music, makes our industry better.
In the time since this interview, the music video for Simple Problems has been released and can be found on YouTube here. Not only is Simple Problems a fantastic song, but the music video is truly a work of art, both creative and beautiful. You can hear more from Joe Lecrivain Music on Spotify and YouTube. Joe can also be found on joelecrivainmusic.com, Facebook, Instagram, and speakerdamagerecords.com. Check it out!