A Conversation With… Joseph Israel

10:14 am by

A Conversation With... Joseph Israel
Photo by B “Café con Leche” Gutierrez.

Joseph Israel wrapped up his tour in Fayetteville, AR. His last show was at George’s Majestic Lounge on Sunday, July 11th. He took a few minutes to answer some questions for BOT before he hit the stage that night along The Jerusalem Band. Check out the conversation after the break and stay tuned for a photo review of his show at George’s.

Café con Leche: Tell me about growing up in Fayetteville and finding your way as a musician.

Joseph Israel: I grew up loving music. My dad owns a restaurant up the street, Jose’s, so I grew up with live music there. I’d go to all the sound checks and would always check out the bands that played there. And my dad really loves music, so we listened to music at the house. So I really grew up in a music world, but not as a musician. Just loving music.

And when I was about 12 years old I found reggae music. And it really musically stuck out to me, I really felt it. It attracted me, because of the messages it carried and how it was more rhythm. It didn’t have so many things going on at once, it was more of a unified sound. I liked how reggae music has one sound, it’s like a heartbeat. So that was the beginning of that.

Café: You’ve come a long way from there. Do you consider yourself successful as a musician?

Joseph: Definitely. I feel successful and blessed. Every time I get to play. Just to be able to play, to perform for people and meet so many wonderful people while doing what I love. It makes us feel good. And to be able to play the music that’s in your heart, that the Messiah has given us. To me, that’s what success is. Not having to play other people’s songs or cover tunes. The Almighty has blessed me and given me a venue, a way to speak and share what’s in my heart, so I feel really blessed by that.

Café: And your songs are filled with powerful messages. How do you go about composing your material?

Joseph: I write any time and all the time. Normally it just comes spontaneously, and not when I’m really trying to write. Just when I get a musical inspiration. And a lot of the lyrics come from stuff I study and the things I see going on in the world. They come from family life and lessons that we learn. All those things. It just comes out naturally.

Café: You played some unreleased songs at the concert at the Town Center, and I heard you’re at the end of your tour. Do you have a new record in the works?

Joseph: We’re actually about to mix our new record. It’s going to be called Kingdom Road. So that’s what I’m going to be doing over the Fall. We’ll be getting a few of the singles out and we hope to have it released in the Spring. I’m really excited.

Café: Are you going to record it in Jamaica, like your last production?

Joseph: Yes, we’re doing the mix in Jamaica and then we’re probably going to do the final mixing and mastering of it in the States, probably in California.

Café: Your sound is mostly roots reggae, but I noticed other influences in the mix. Specially in your studio work.

Joseph: The band has a mix of backgrounds. Our drummer is a gospel drummer, but we taught him how to play reggae. Then our bass player’s background is in reggae, so he’s a master of that. He gives that roots sound. And my roots are in reggae. But our guitarist’s background is in rock and jazz.

Café: Yes, I got to hear some of those rock guitar riffs the other night, I think it was on Kingdom Road.

Joseph: Yeah. So we really like to bring the fusion, but our roots are in reggae. So you could pretty much expect anything from us at any time. We keep it open and just make music.

Café: As an independent musician, what’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced and how have you or are you overcoming it?

Joseph: The biggest challenge is the commercialization of music. Commercialization takes away from the essence of music. Because music is spiritual and money is material, in the worst kind. So when they commercialize you, they make you an object– a property, a product. It takes away from what you actually are, you’re a living creature. You’re a creation of the Messiah. You’re a soul. And they can’t really market a product that way, so they cheapen it down. So then you have a band and everyone is there for money, and that’s why you’re there.

Everyone wants to make money. That’s really the greatest obstacle. We all need money to pay our bills, but that’s not why we play. And that’s why I’ve been so blessed to meet brothers like Mike, Rupert, Alrick, Marlon and all of these brothers that pay with me, and Rochelle. We perform, we make music and we actually make money; but that’s not why we do it. Because I’ve been there in times when there’s no money and they’re still there with me.

So that’s the greatest obstacle, but the way we overcome it is to keep pushing on. Keep making music.

There you have it, BOTheads. Awesome guy all around. Now go and listen to some of his music. But if you’re like me and are just crazy curious about his dreadlocks, then just keep reading. Because I couldn’t say good-bye without one last question.

Café: Hey, so at the show at the Town Center you started off with your hair up and in the middle of the show you let it down. Your dreadlocks were longer than I expected. When was the last time you cut your hair?

Joseph: [laughs] It’s been 11 years.