THE music of Joseph Watt…
is exceptional and deep. I was keen to ask him about the new track, FIVE AM, and the story behind it. He discusses how he came to meet Heidi North – who co-wrote the track and supplies vocal power – and whether there is new material afoot. Watt discusses his favourite albums and artists; what gigs he has coming up; whether he has any goals for the year ahead – what his favourite memories from music are.
I ask about self-production – as Joseph Watt handles and produces his own material – and why many artists are taking control back; new artists we need to watch out for; how important London is regarding his creativity and sound – and how FIVE AM is part of an ambitious, multi-genre project.
Hi, Joseph. How are you? How has your week been?
I’m well, thanks. It’s been my favourite kind of week - with a mix of music stuff going on; with some rehearsals for drums and some studio work on vocals. It’s not always as varied as this, mind you...so I’m making sure I make the most of it!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
So. I’m a twenty-two-year-old multi-instrumentalist and producer based in London. I’ve started a self-titled project, drawing on all my influences, for which I’ve got a busy year ahead.
FIVE AM is your new single. What can you tell me about its story and inspiration?
Well, originally, I was planning to write an album titled I WENT TO BED BUT DIDN’T GET TO SLEEP; based around different emotions at different hours. FIVE AM was initially about that horrible voice you get in the middle of the night that draws on your insecurities. When writing it, I realised that it ran perfectly parallel to the insecurities of an artist - as the voice that tells them they’re not good enough - so FIVE AM became a mix of both, really.
It seems to address a certain sleeplessness and uncertainty. Were you going through fatigue and insomnia before the song came together?
At the time, I was struggling with sleep most nights - and I also found myself doing much of my writing and production in the middle of the night. It seems impossible to write in any other tone of voice at those sort of times for me.
FIVE AM was written with Heidi North. How did you come to meet her? What elements and aspects did she bring to the writing of the song?
I met Heidi at university - where we were studied together and ran in similar circles. I heard her voice on a track and wanted her involved. However, I was also struggling with writing on the subject - mostly because I was writing about a certain emotion – where, if I’m experiencing it, I can’t write and, if I’m not; it’s not legitimate. I explained this to Heidi and she offered to help write some lines and lyrics - and I loved what I heard.
Over time, we honed down these lines together to form the vocals.
I believe you are releasing more singles this year. What was the idea behind releasing a multi-genre, ambitious project like this?
I listen to a pretty broad spectrum of music, and so, I was concerned that if I were to go ahead and start releasing it wouldn’t sound coherent and it may just be confusing. It was last year that I recognised that these different influences are a key element of my style and that my music can drop into different categories depending on the nature of the song. It’s very much a case of: “I should just go for it because, truly, I’ll never know how it’ll be received until I know”.
FIVE AM is self-produced. I notice a lot of new artists producing their own songs. Why do you think this is? Do you prefer having full control over your own material?
I think that the label-market has really formulised music, at least with Pop, and that has forced the more creative artists to self-promote, self-produce and self-release. Pair that with the increased affordability and accessibility of studio equipment and we have a recipe for endless creation. Personally, I love it. I think, at least in my head, I lean towards the more creative side rather than the commercial (side) of music - and being able to have full control means I’m able to make those exact dreams come to life.
You have produced for other artists along the way. Has that experience given you the confidence to push your own music?
So. I really enjoy producing and I take great joy out of producing other’s music as well as my own. I think, being a part of the process for several artists; then watching them have the confidence to go out and release and gig (and then receive positive feedback) made me recognise that it is pointless waiting until I believe everyone will love my music. That time will never come. These artists have just gone for it and I really admired that: they’ve made me recognise that I can do the same.
Which musicians did you grow up listening to? Can you remember the first song you ever purchased?
I grew up in a relatively Classical household but, at that time, it wasn’t what I chose to listen to. I think, actually, the first song/album I purchased was The Singles by Basement Jaxx. I think, like most kids, I went through phases. It developed through into a pretty even balance of classic Jazz artists, popular Classical; Pop and Rock.
London is your base. How important is the city and its people regards your music?
For a musician, London is the place to be. That certainly is a start…
IN THIS IMAGE: Albert Man/IMAGE CREDIT: Arnab Ghoshal
Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?
I’m naturally going to have to shout out a few artists that I play for!
Sasha would be one. I think she’s a great artist and it’s always a pleasure gigging her stuff. She’s playing a communion gig on 4th March at Notting Hill Arts Club, so check her out!
Albert Man would be the next. Not so much a new artist but he is an up-and-coming artist! He recently had his new single launch for Say Something Loving and he has some great fans...and no wonder: he’s a great writer and great performer.
Last one I would say is Broadstrokes. This guy is crazy. He plays the piano, sings and plays synth through organ pedals - all at the same time. He’s got a super-chill track out, Clean, and he’s bringing out an E.P. May-time. Definitely, one to watch out for.
IN THIS PHOTO: Broadstrokes/PHOTO CREDIT: Imogen Forte
If you had to choose the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
I’m going to start with saying Opposites by Biffy Clyro
When this came out, I remember planning to listen to it the following day on my walk to school. I put my headphones on, set the album off and my mind was blown. It’s an all-round great album - but it was the drum production that really got me. It was so clear, so punchy and so tight. It’s just one of those albums that really excites me every time it comes on somewhere!
I think, next – which, I guess, in the context is a bit of a curveball - would be 99.9% by KAYTRANADA
When this album came out, I was starting to get into production properly and he put this album out and I loved it. It wasn’t really like anything I had heard before but, following it around, and I was amazed that he just had his style - and he didn’t and doesn’t change it for anyone!
Finally; I think I would choose Continuum by John Mayer
I listened to this a tonne when I was at school and, though I don’t hear it in my music, no doubt it really influenced me in my music-making. What an album.
Can we see you tour soon? What gigs do you have coming up?
Well. I’m really releasing these songs so I can have a reason to gig and tour! That’s where my passion truly is: in the playing. The thing is, with my own songs, I can do exactly what I want to play; with exactly the set up I want. So, I don’t have anything yet but keep your eyes and ears open - I’m aiming for a headline show at the end of 2018!
Any New Year’s resolutions made this year? What do you hope to achieve, personally, in 2018?
I’m not great at writing resolutions: I find it more stressful that I should. I got pen and paper and the only thing I wrote down was ‘to release four tracks this year’! It’s not quite a personal achievement, I guess.
Who knows; maybe it’ll better me…?
Looking back on your time in music so far; are there favourite memories that come to mind?
I think the most recent was my debut gig back in mid-2017. There were eight of us in the band and, though I really enjoyed rehearsals, there was that stress. I wasn’t really sure what to expect by playing my own stuff for the first time - but there isn’t a feeling that matches looking up and seeing great musicians really enjoying playing your own music.
I thought my enjoyment would come from watching the audience participate in my music but, instead, it was watching the amazing band.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Mentioned above: I’m gonna definitely say Clean by Broadstrokes!
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