Joe Barksdale spent years playing offensive tackle in the NFL as part of the Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams, and San Diego Chargers, but after eight years of gridiron glory he’s hung up his helmet and is now focusing on music full-time in Austin, TX.
Today he’s dropping his latest single “Black Majik,” a dark and funky helping of shot-in-the-veins blues.
He discovered his passion for the guitar at the end of his 2013 season with the Rams, when a personal tragedy left him looking for a way to heal, and the guitar offered him respite and reprieve. In the past seven years he’s been honing his skills in the St. Louis blues scene, he’s since released two solo records, and is now preparing his most recent album Sincerely, which is due out Fall of 2020, and which Barksdale describes as an “open letter” to his fans.
Barksdale gave some insight into his work ethic and process when it comes to songwriting and preparing this next group of songs for release, telling American Songwriter, “I started working on this album almost a year ago. I had recently finished the process of bringing Electric Soul to market and was excited to start work on my next project. I wrote all of these songs in different areas of the house that I was living in at the time and made the demos with an iPad Pro, a guitar and a USB condenser microphone. I like to use a bare bones setup when writing demos so that the songs have time to grow and mature in my mind so that when I get to the studio to record them there are so many more ideas that make the songs that much better and the process that much more fulfilling to me. I look at my songs like children and children need time to grow and develop before you release them into the world, and I keep my songs very close to my bosom until they are ready to become public songs.”
According to Barksdale, the song wasn’t one that struck him immediately, and its origin is a bit serendipitous.
“’Black Majik’ was actually the last song that I wrote for this album,” he said. “I was on the phone with Allan Phillips – the producer of the album – and he was telling me that while there were a lot of uplifting and happy sounding songs that we had to choose from for the album, there was a shortage of more aggressive and darker sounding minor songs. He told me that I should try to see what I could come up with before the studio session that was scheduled for the following week and that he would help me out if I couldn’t come up with anything. The moment that I hung up the phone I came up with the guitar riff for the song. As I played the riff over and over for a few minutes, I started to think about darkness and dark sounding music and I finally settled on the idea of voodoo or black magic.”
And “Black Majik” provides a heavy dose of gritty blues with a traditional call-and-response interplay between the straightforward lyrics and the infectious, wah-heavy guitar riff. The song is a steering-wheel-palm-slapper for anyone driving around at night trying to resist the tornado of temptation that’s sometimes just a phone call away.
“’Black Majik’ is a song about temptation. Temptation to do the wrong things when the right things are in front of you,” Barksdale said. “The power that certain things, people, etc. have over you can often be described as black magic. “Black majik, in my phone” is an example of such temptation. How many contacts do you have in your phone that you need to delete because there is too much temptation there? “Black Majik, got me a car. Black Majik won’t get far” While whatever is tempting you will be good to you and often get you what you want in the moment, you later realize that it won’t get you far in the bigger scheme of things.”