"Jo is one of those rare writer-performers where you get the sense, whatever your belief, that something greater is being channeled through his music and voice. Like Patti Smith, Grant Lee Phillips, Thom Yorke, he trances, and the voice, the meaning, becomes bigger than him, bigger than a few pop chords or words strung together. It touches something very deep and universal." – Michael Stipe-R.E.M.
For his decade-long recording career, Joseph Arthur has been a fountain of creativity. He has an ongoing exhibition of his paintings at Toronto’s 360 Gallery and his music has shown up on TV shows like House and Hung. He released a coloring book called ‘”Color Me Courageous,” maintains a poetry blog, and has a continuing residency at NYC’s City Winery. He bikes, he paints, and he’s currently crafting his new album All You Need Is Nothing in his Brooklyn studio. Arthur is both lyrically inventive and musically restless. His two previous full lengths, released just nine months apart—Let’s Just Be and Nuclear Daydream— showcased two different sides of his musical leanings—raw, Stones-y swagger on the former, and meticulously produced atmospheric pop on the latter.
From Akron to the “Real World”
Joseph Arthur was born and raised in Akron, Ohio, and in the individualism of his approach, he’s often been compared to the idiosyncratic artists who hail from the same region—from Devo to Pere Ubu to the Pretenders. Arthur’s musical life started off like many others, with mandatory piano lessons. But once he realized he could use the piano to conjure up his own musical worlds, he took to the instrument and began writing songs, eventually playing in bands while in high school. Upon graduation he moved to Atlanta with a band, playing bass and supporting himself with day jobs—from a music store to a hipster jewelry/tattoo shop. Cat Power’s Chan Marshall was on the scene at the same time, serving up pizza just across the street from a store where Arthur worked, and urban performance artist Benjamin was turning heads in his shambolic ensemble Smoke.
When a demo tape of Arthur’s songs somehow made its way to Peter Gabriel and Real World Records, next thing Arthur knew, he was playing at Gabriel’s WOMAD Festival, jamming with Gabriel and Joe Strummer in Real World studios in Bath, England, and was subsequently signed to Real World Records. Arthur’s debut, Big City Secrets, was a smashing success in France, putting Arthur in front of large enthusiastic crowds but the album made barely a stateside ripple. His second album however, Come To Where I’m From, was placed in Rolling Stone’s Best of the Decade issue where David Browne named it his favorite album of the decade. The album features one of Arthur’s signature songs, “In The Sun” which, with its emotionally vulnerable lyrics, touching on open-ended spirituality, has had an active second life, with a 2006 iTunes single featuring six covers of the song (from R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe and Coldplay’s Chris Martin, with remixes by Justin Timberlake and will.i.am) to benefit Hurricane Katrina relief.
Armed with an acoustic guitar, little electronic boxes and some fairy dust, songsmith and visual artist Joseph Arthur will work his magic at the Iron Horse on Friday, August 6th at 7PM. Tickets are available at Northampton Box Office, 76 Main Street, 413-586-8686, and online at IHEG.com