INTERVIEW : 2005-10-25 Chat before Later with Jools Holland (by BBC)

We had a chat with Joseph in his dressing room before his Later...with Jools Holland debut.

Welcome to Later...
Is it true that you were discovered by Peter Gabriel?

Yeah well I was living in Atlanta Georgia working at a guitar shop and just basically making recordings at home and I was handing them out to friends. One of my friends gave it to this guy who worked at a label in Atlanta who then sent it up to this guy in New York who used to work with Peter. Eventually the tape made it into his stereo and he was really into it and eventually signed me up to his record label.

A lot has been written about your use of looping and similar technologies in your music. Has this always been part of the song writing process for you?

I've been doing it a long time, since just after my first record. So it's been a part of my music for a while now. But to be honest, when it comes to the writing process, the initial ideas stem from just me and an acoustic guitar really. The whole looping and layering of music comes into play at a later stage. I think that's why it works, because the solid basis of a good song has to be there in the first place.

Have you always been a solo artist?

No, I've been in bands. I was in a blues band initially.

So what made you decide you wanted to go solo?

Well in Atlanta the whole thing used to be seeing if you could make people bang their heads and how hard you could rock, because it was the early nineties... I don't know. But when the band I was in fell apart I just got into writing songs on my acoustic guitar and really started concentrating on melody and lyrics in a way I hadn't before and it just made sense to me to keep on doing that.

You're renowned for painting huge canvases as part of your performance. Where did the idea to paint on stage come from?

This is like the fourth tour I've been doing it on now. It came from that fact that I paint a lot at home, I have canvases all over the floor, and I was thinking about how I could make my stage show more dynamic and I thought well I'll take some of these paintings and use them as backdrops to add a bit more atmosphere. But then I thought why don't I do some painting live in front of the audience? So I could kind of combine singing and painting into the whole thing. I'd start off with a blank canvas and as the show progresses I'll set a loop or two going and do some more so that by the time the show is over there is a finished painting. And what surprised me about it was that I though it would be something cool for my live show, but it turned into something that was really good for my painting. It added a sense of focus and energy which wasn't there before.

Could you tell us a bit about the song you'll be performing for us tonight?

I'm playing a song called 'Can't Exist'. The chorus goes "sister don't be scared" and it's sort about the idea of my sister worrying about me...something like that...but... I find it fairly difficult to really talk about what my songs are about. It's not something I like to do really.