In today’s world we like everything to be easily digestible. With so much going on, all the time, we like to be able to quickly characterize things, and file them away in the appropriate box.
As lesser songwriters scurry to include topical references to websites or Apple products, Blaney has no interest in jumping on that, or any bandwagon. “I saw Kris Kristofferson recently, playing songs he’d written forty years ago, and they still resonated. That’s what I want to do, and you can only get there using complete honesty in your art. I don’t want to be that guy rocking out when I’m sixty, because that’s what I’ve been told is going to sell records.”
“I don’t write what sounds cool,” he says seriously, “I write what’s honest. If someone asks me if it’s good, I tell them it’s honest. Is it a catchy record? I don’t know, it’s an honest record. It’s about universal truth. I want to evolve as both a person and an artist. One feeds off the other. There’s a continuity to all the other things I’ve done, but I’ve evolved. There’s money out there to be made writing songs for strippers and talking about ‘bitches,’ but that’s not who I am, so why would I want to. Everything, good and bad, on the record is just me.”
Blaney moved to Los Angeles from home town New York after a successful run with his band Dead Blonde Girlfriend. He went solo, looking for a different sound, audience, and life.
“My audience I can’t really define, but I’m sort of the king of the misfits. I’ll get my own island eventually, from which I’ll then want to escape,” he laughs. “My music has become Bob Dylan ate the Ramones, while listening to The Replacements, and I’m not sure people get it yet. The whole music scene now is about money, and how much you can bring in, and I don’t approach things that way, so it’s been really hard to find a scene here in L.A., and I’m not sure I want to be in a scene anyway. I just want to do what I do.”
Blaney plays what he terms ‘Acoustic Punk.’ It’s just him with an old Martin guitar he customized to suit his needs, playing faster and harder than most would dare, and a lot of great songs torn directly from what his heart has experienced along the way.
“On the earlier records I wasn’t able to be as vulnerable, to be as honest as I am on this one. I just played fast, and turned up the volume, but I’ve gotten to be more introspective, and that feeds the music I make now. I like to explore all the different perspectives: Mine, yours, and the truth. I leave a little bit of hope in a hopeless world. Live who you are. People say love is all you need… no, no, pain is the universal language, it’s what we all understand.”
Blaney is very old-school. While he loves electric rock music as much as anyone, the electric guitar just never felt right to him- it distracted from what really mattered to him.
“I always had an acoustic to write on, and I’ve been given lots of electrics through the years, but they never felt right to me, so I always gave them back.”
“It’s really vulnerable to play with an acoustic, especially when it’s just one guy up there. It’s so vulnerable and honest. You can hear all the mistakes. I love the intimacy of getting lost in the music on stage, which I can do because I don’t have all this equipment that constantly needs to be messed with. I love the honesty that can follow from that.”
Vulnerable, but bold. Bold enough to venture down brand new roads, not just lesser traveled ones. Robert Frost would swoon for “I Was Here.” Blaney has created his own genre, somehow.
“What I play is born from a genre in New York called The Antifolk scene. I never liked the name,” he laughs, “but I liked the people. It’s lyrically driven music, that was about the truth, that didn’t allow the guitar to overwhelm everything. The scene was like a very good friend who helped me get through the part at the start where I wasn’t really very good.
“Anti-Folk quickly morphed into other things, and pretty quickly I knew I was done, because I didn’t want to follow that crowd, or any crowd. In the people I liked, there was sort of an unconscious permission to do what I wanted to do, using what I’d learned as a base. The scene was more gimmicky and clever, and I would rather kill myself than write ‘gimmicky’ songs. I’m putting the deeper parts of me into songs, not forcing a clever persona onto people- that’s awful.”
Blaney is fearless about using what he likes, and refuses to hide behind anything. The result is deceptively simple, allowing the lyrics to pull in his audience like few others can. It’s always the simple things that are the most difficult.
“Without a drummer, the cadence comes from the lyrics. It’s not really been done before. I’m more interested in what’s real. Who I am on-stage is who I am off-stage, well, except louder. I never understood what ‘AntiFolk’ meant, and I hate the name. I play Acoustic Punk, and I’m not sure people know what that means either. If you take adolescent rage… I listened to three records growing up, in my family’s house, Johnny Cash’s “Live at Folsom Prison,” “The Best Of Bread,” and Richard Harris reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Oh, and Barry Manilow. I have no idea how I got to where I am from those things.”
However he comes up with his music, the results, as on “I Was Here,” are simply stunning. Don’t expect any songs about tweeting from his iPhone. Joie Blaney pulls you into the dark places we all know, but are afraid to look at, talk about, or certainly to sing about.