Joey Dosik discusses the history behind Inside Voice, his work with bands like Vulfpeck, scoring a game winning shot in basketball, and more in our exclusive interview.
Don’t say Joey Dosik hasn’t suffered for his craft. Years and one ACL surgery later, Inside Voice has released to praise. Not many debuts contain such fervor, soul, and passion, but Dosik has exceeded the many expectations set on him after the release of his Game Winner EP, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
Work on Inside Voice began years ago, with tracks dating back to 2013. However, a bad knee injury left Dosik with no other choice than to take a step back from music. During this time he found additional inspiration sources and soon started working on a new collection of songs. The result was his Game Winner EP, a trove of love ballads centered on basketball.
What sounds like a weird subject matter turned into a hit. Dosik began expanding and his listeners grew hungry for new material. With Inside Voice, Dosik delivers. Despite the roadblocks in his life, Dosik has persevered and shown an intense commitment to his craft and musicality. Atwood Magazine recently spoke with the soul singer-songwriter on the history behind his debut, the collaborations with bands like Vulfpeck and other artists, and the highlight moments in his life that continue to resonate with him. Gain additional insight into the mind and music of Joey Dosik with our exclusive interview, and purchase or stream Inside Voice, out now.
A CONVERSATION WITH JOEY DOSIK
Atwood Magazine: I want to first say congratulations on the new album. It’s been an absolute treat listening to it.
Joey: Thanks, man! I really appreciate that.
How does it feel to have it finally out?
Joey: It feels pretty crazy. It sat on my hard drive for a while on various forms and now it’s just out there and the fan response has been overwhelming. I’ve been really stoked so thank you for your kind words.
So I want to bring it back to an older cut of the song “Inside Voice.” There’s an older video, 2013 I believe, of the track and has me wondering how long has this album been in the works? Was there a lot of material already written before the ACL surgery you had?
Joey: Yeah, exactly. I actually had a version of the record I thought was pretty close to being done but then, you know, I tore my ACL playing basketball and I was like ‘whoa, I need to get my knee right and figure this out.’ And then I ended up diving into a whole new EP, basketball, therapy, concept EP, and I just let the music from the record take a breath. Once I finished Game Winner I went back into the record and wrote some new songs, cut some other ones, remixed some as well, and kind of reproduced some things and basically just gave it a whole ‘nother look.
And also so much had changed about the world, too. I mean, Trump is president, I went through different heartbreaks, different triumphs, and struggles. So I thought this was the opportunity to make the record more ‘me’ and more 2018.
I find your lyricism to be extraordinary. I loved the flow on the chorus of “Past the Point” with the “we’re past the point of no return, how could something so right turn out so wrong. Keep you hanging on.” I absolutely love it. What does that writing process look like for you?
Joey: Man. That song, actually, uhm. Well, I was going through this period where I was – and I had multiple other inspirations for the song as well – but yeah I was going through this period where I was listening to the NPR show ‘The World’ every day. I heard someone say – and I don’t remember what they were going through only that is was a personal interest story – but they said that they were past the point of no return.
Then that popped into my head and so I started trying to write a chorus and then it just brought up one of those seminal relationships and the image that just came into my head was when you kind of get to a point with someone who is your best friend and who is the person who, when you picked up your phone, was the first on your favorites, you know? And then I thought how I can’t even talk to her on the phone anymore, what a drag. So that then just fleshed into that song.
You have many heartfelt and personal tracks, like “Past the Point” and also with “Take Mine.” How much do you draw from your own personal life when creating your music?
Joey: Ooh lots, man. I feel like you can only write what you know and the miraculous thing of song is, and here’s maybe a paradox, but you’re writing what you know but then you never know what might get revealed in the moment or even later. So ‘Take Mine’ for me was a lot of different things. But, for me, in this post-Trump world – well, current-Trump world – it’s taken a new shape and we just have to look out for the people that we love and we have to look out for the people who we don’t even know who are in need of help and who feel threatened under this administration.
And I couldn’t have predicted that when I wrote the song, so it was kind of a ‘Lean On Me’ type of vibe and how it special that song is and how special that song to your best friend is which always feels very personal. But it also has the political context and a context for compassion, investing in the care of humanity, and of justice, I think.
You have a handful of tracks that see multiple renditions, most recently the track “Grandma’s Song,” which I loved hearing on the most recent Vulfpeck album as well as the rendition on your album. When you write these songs, do you have a specific sound in mind? So for this track, did you imagine it with a whole band like on the Vulfpeck album or more so with the piano-focused melody you put out?
Joey: When I write I generally write at the piano. Sometimes I write on other instruments but I always eventually end on the piano. After that, I get to the studio, but at the piano, specifically for this album, I utilized an old-school writing process where the song is 97% complete by the time I get to the studio. So I make the song where it can exist with just my voice and my playing of the piano. And in my experience with the process, it kind of opens up a lot of possibilities for the studio because if the song is strong enough to exist in the most simple level then you might be able to have a lot of fun with it.
So your example, “Grandma’s Song,” on my record is just me with the solo piano and vocal that I recorded live and overdubbed some other stuff on top of it. And then the Vulfpeck version it’s a live band playing it with, you know, Antwaun Stanley who’s from Flint, Michigan singing about a Jewish grandmother [laughs]. So somehow that is working and I can only give credit to the work I put in before we even went into the studio. As far as creating the potential for something to work, that is.
Sometimes I get into the studio and I’m like “eh that one didn’t work.” I recorded “Take Mine” three times before the fourth time where I went into the studio and thought I got it. So it still might not work even though you put in all of that time.
Was that a common occurrence, those multiple takes?
It depends. Sometimes I would go through the demo-ing stage, like, for example: when I recorded the Game Winner EP I had written this song and I thought it was so weird this basketball love song. So I started recording it using a mid-‘70s sound machine which became the sound of the record. The record is this home-recorded thing.
So with the Inside Voice LP I had recorded a few things and, ultimately, it’s a kind of combination of recording at one of these L.A. studios with these amazing musicians who just happen to be friends [laughs] and that I am so grateful to have in my life. But yeah, a combination of that and just recording in my mom’s house, the basement, places where I was at while on the road, like friend’s houses. So all of that combined I think it really helps give it a homey feel.
When you’re collaborating with other artist and bands like Vulfpeck, what sort of mindset are you in compared to when you’re working solo on your own material?
Joey: It’s all about being part of a team, even when it’s just me, but I just happen to be the coach and the point guard and the guy selling concessions also [laughs]. But with something like Vulfpeck I get to fulfill whatever role I’m in like if I’m playing keys on the track or the saxophone. I’m there to listen to a mix and think “wow that’s amazing.” There’s a leader to the band, who’s Jack, and then there’s my role and I think it’s important to know your role and to help execute it with the team and to put the team in the best possible position to succeed.
More than just Vulfpeck, you work a lot with Mocky, Nia Andrews, and others as well. How has working with them influenced your own work?
Oh my god, I’ve been influenced by them in so many ways. We used to have this jam session we’d do once a month at the Ace Hotel in L.A. at the rooftop and, you know, we’d all play each other’s songs and we’d make stuff up on the spot and I’ve just been so influenced by that and by my community as well. I’ve been so lucky to have been surrounded by amazing performers and songwriters and it’s so helpful.
Your friends are the first people you play your songs to – excuse me, the first you play your songs for – and it’s sort of like your focus group. When you do that your friends also become your muses. Like, I want to play a song for a friend that they are going to like and identify with. So when I listen to their songs I think “wow, look what they did there” or they might have shown me, through their song, some kind of potential in myself. Like, “oh, maybe this is something I should try utilize.”
And I’m not stealing their concepts or anything but it’s like “oh wow they did a key change there” or “wow they used an odd meter there” or even how they made themselves so vulnerable, used a lower register of their voice, or whatever it is. So playing for and with my friends and hearing them play has been hugely influential on me.
I love how sincere you are when talking about your friends. It’s really endearing.
Joey: [laughs] I’m lucky, man. So very, very lucky.
What was a bigger life highlight moment for you: being endorsed by Quincy Jones or helping in the revitalization of Henry Grimes?
Joey: Ha! Those were both major, major highlights. However, I’d say the real highlight of my life was when I was six and I scored the winning shot in a community organized basketball game. My dad captured it on his camcorder and I can’t imagine any other moment that was as exhilarating as that one.
The game-winning shot that changed your life, right?
Joey: Exactly! I peeked when I was six, man.
Oh man I bet a lot of people would disagree and say you’re still going.
Joey: Thank you [laughs]. But they’re not living it so who knows [laughs]
You have a multitude of influences, a huge one being Carole King. What more recent artists have you been eyeing and digging recently?
Joey: Oh totally. I love Ethan Gruska who is an amazing singer-songwriter who played a lot of piano on his latest album Slowmotionary. We also went to the same high school but he was a bit younger. His album really just amazed me. I’m a really big fan of the producer, singer, and MC Georgia Anne Muldrow. I love to listen to her and she’s been a big influence on me. I don’t remember what label she’s on now, I mainly just keep track of her through Instagram. But she’s living in Las Vegas now and she is just tremendously inspiring.
Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, the man who does all of the strings on the album, is also phenomenal. He’s an artist that the world will soon not be able to stop talking about. He’s working on a double album right now and I’m super, super excited about his music. I feel like he’s on a mission to inspire peace in the world through music and I’m so excited. I think that’s a good mix right there – oh, and they’re all L.A. musicians, too.
I’m going to be seeing you on the 9th in Seattle and I’m so excited for that.
Joey: Oh hell yeah!
Anything up your sleeve or hints at what the audience can expect?
Joey: I don’t know really. I’m just now starting to get to play the songs from the record live and we’re only three shows in on the tour. So Seattle will have that benefit and what that means for us is that we’ll be more comfortable and in our own skin when we play the songs and letting them evolve. So, yeah, I’d imagine Seattle will have a great show and just exploring more with these songs is just a new frontier for me.
We don’t want to play it like on the record and we use that as inspiration to see where the songs take us because putting the audience there is a whole new experience because they are just as much as part of the show as anything. I like to see my shows as a co-creation between me, the band, and the crowd. So I’m excited to see what Seattle will bring and hopefully Seattle brings friends.
I’m thinking Seattle is going to be very welcoming!
Joey: They can expect me to talk about the Supersonic, though. I always talk about them when in Seattle because they mean a lot to the city and anyone who cares about fair play and a sports team who kind of embodies a city. So I will definitely have something to say about that.
Speaking of the tour, do you see big difference in the crowds in the UK versus the ones in the US?
Joey: I do actually. Each country has a different flavor and feels different, and to a certain extent each city in the US is like that, too. I think in Europe – some countries are more reserved – but for the most part I feel they wear their hearts on their sleeves and are looser and bit rowdier than in the states. Another big thing is the food spreads in Europe are more on point [laughs]. Finer bread, cheeses, and wine – all that stuff.
Lastly, what’s next for you?
Joey: The big thing is touring this record and sharing it with fans. That’s the thing foremost on my mine, but I went into the studio with the band at my album release show and we had strings and a towering figure in music, the drummer James Gadson, in the studio also just playing with us. So I’m looking at the footage and hopefully will be putting out some of that footage soon.
This has been great! Thank you for chatting with me, Joey!
Joey: Absolutely, man! I really appreciate how thoughtful this was, thank you.
— — — —
📸 © Curtis Essel