Only three singles in, rising pop star Joesef has quickly established that he’s someone going places fast. As we speak to him from his flat in Glasgow though the only place he’s going is to the gym to recover from a weekend playing his first hometown headlining shows. “I’m still trying to get the hangover off from the weekend there,” he laughs in his distinctive Glaswegian brogue. “I’m getting my shit together and going to get back to the gym today. Get back on the straight and narrow. I had a house party after the King Tut’s gig on Sunday, and my house looks like it’s been destroyed.”
It’s been a swift rise for the singer who only a couple of years ago was kicking around Glasgow with his pals with no intention of making any music. Now, he’s a star in his hometown. “At my mum’s bit where I grew up, I went to get a loaf of bread for my mum, and the guy in the shop asked for a picture,” he exclaims. “That was so weird that I can’t even go for a loaf of bread anymore.”
Joesef is a modern pop artist doing things outside the parameters of traditional music industry boundaries. The three tracks he has released so far, ‘Limbo’ ‘Loverboy’ and ‘Don’t Give In’ highlight a dynamic performer who is making universal pop to connect on an emotional and physical level. Entirely self-produced and made in his bedroom it’s the work of someone unafraid to follow their own convictions and be successful on their own terms.
There are no artistic pretensions to Joesef. No high minded perception of himself as an ‘artist’. Indeed, the fact he is even making music now wasn’t some industry concocted master plan but the product of a typical night out. “I’ve always sung in the house, but I had never really taken it seriously,” he explains of his musical background. “I never really thought I would be a singer and never thought it was a viable career path. I was at an open mic night with my pal, who is now my manager, and I got completely shit faced so I went up and sang a song and he was like, “Oh fuck, you can actually sing!” He just said if you want you can be a singer. He came back to me and said he wanted to start a management company and wanted to be my manager. I was like, ‘Aye, if you want’. He said I should write a couple of songs, so I did, and that ended up with ‘Limbo’. It was all pretty recent. It wasn’t a lifelong thing; it was a pretty recent turnabout.”
The casual ease with which Joesef tells the story of his musical beginnings is in keeping with his supremely engaging and frequently hilarious character. He’s not afraid to speak his mind something that he puts down to his Glasgow upbringing. “Glasgow is very colourful and vibrant,” he says proudly of his home city. “I’ll always be in love with Glasgow. I was born in Glasgow, and I’ll die in Glasgow. Musically it makes me more honest because I feel like people in Glasgow are very honest. There’s no beating around the bush. If you’re a prick, you’re a prick, and they’ll tell you that. They’re so passionate as well. That comes out in my music it’s do or die, all or nothing.”
The music that he has made so far is rich in emotion and is the product of a melting pot of different styles and genres. Jazzy, soulful and with a nod to the past and an eye for the future it suggests a lot of directions for the young singer to go in. In typically blunt style Joesef describes his music in simple terms: “It’s sad music, but you can still smoke a joint to it. You can shag or smoke a joint to my tunes, but they’re quite sad.”
The sadness is born of recent experiences and the break-up of a long term relationship. His new EP details the whirlwind of emotions he experienced during that time. “It’s a body of work where all the tunes are connected,” he explains. “It’s the story of my first love and my first break-up and everything in between.”
Heartbreak is a central theme of Joesef’s music, but it’s couched in a spirit of defiance rather than weary despondency. “Everyone has had their heartbroken,” he says. “It’s one of the most universal feelings and a unifying experience. My experience is expressed through music. I find it quite hard to articulate my feelings so I can only really do that through tunes.”
Joesef’s musical ethos is centred on self-sufficiency, and an insular way of working that emphasises his singular approach. “I’ve always been a DIY or die person. I don’t like people touching my shit,” he laughs. “I’d rather just do it all myself. I’m a bit of a control freak that way. When I was making the songs, they turned out to be quite personal, so I feel like if I had people helping me out, it would feel quite weird. Because I was so limited with my resources just working in my bedroom, it forces you to be more creative. At first, that was a hindrance, but it’s worked out in my favour because my music doesn’t really sound like anybody else.”
“It’s a good time to be young and making music and to be whoever you want to be,” says Joesef as he prepares to make the next big leap in his musical journey. Full of confidence and belief he’s ready for the next level.
Words: Martyn Young