THE DENMARK VESEYS: Carry On

Jerry Joseph

“I’ve often wondered at what point someone is considered an artist,” Jerry Joseph says, lighting the first of what will be a multi-cigarette interview, “and the best answer I’ve been able to come up with is that it’s the point where you know you can’t turn back.”
Jerry Joseph

“I’ve often wondered at what point someone is considered an artist,” Jerry Joseph says, lighting the first of what will be a multi-cigarette interview, “and the best answer I’ve been able to come up with is that it’s the point where you know you can’t turn back.”

Joseph knows a little something about standing his ground. The 46-year-old singer/songwriter has stared down adversity for much of his nearly 30-year career, from his battles with drug addiction to the backlash he’s faced for voicing his often-controversial political opinions, to his struggles in an industry where moving units is more important than moving people.

“It’s unlikely that I’ll go take six years of community college now to get my law degree, though it might behoove me to do that,” he says with a laugh. “I’m a musician, and although I do get frustrated with the business some times, I still love music and I can’t imagine a world where I wouldn’t write songs.”

The latest addition to Joseph’s extensive catalog-The Denmark Veseys, named for the leader of a failed slave revolt in South Carolina-is a duo project that began when Joseph reunited with long-time friend and former Dexter Grove percussionist Steve Drizos.

“I first met Steve in 1995 when I was booking this little bar in Bozeman while I contemplated quitting the music business,” Joseph recalls. “We stayed in touch over the years, and Steve eventually moved to Portland and we started playing. There was just something about it-it didn’t sound like The White Stripes, The Black Keys, Two Gallants or any of the other duos that are out there. So we decided to make a record together.”

The two descended on David Barbe’s Chase Transduction studios in Athens, Ga., for a week of recording sessions guided by three simple rules: no rehearsals, no bass players and no guests.

“Most days, I’d play him [Barbe] the song once through on an acoustic guitar and Steve would play along with his hands on his knees. He would make some editing comments and then we’d roll tape. That was it.”

The debut includes some of Joseph’s most optimistic lyrics to date, such as the brilliantly simple love song “Elastic” and “Cochise,” a tune Joseph calls “the best thing I’ve ever written.”

“I’m not dropping my basic themes of God, sex and politics, because the whole thing for me has always been about writing about what’s going on,” Joseph says. “But as I get older, I’m learning to really appreciate a good love song and a good pop song. I hope we all get to a point where we realize that life doesn’t suck; it’s f@#$in’ awesome. If you can capture that sentiment and make it believable for other people, that’s a task in and of itself.”


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