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Joe Hood's Showtunes

This singer/songwriter is garnering attention on the live cicuit and talks to Dazed about why he takes karaoke very seriously.

At just 22, singer/songwriter/composer Joe Hood’s individual,  somewhat indefinable style has garnered him a cult following on the live circuit and his brilliant music rightly seems now destined to come to more prominent attention. In the last six months he has composed for Channel 4, worked at  Strongroom with Lee Slater (who has previously worked with the Klaxons, the Guillemots and Late of The Pier), and been featured in Music Week’s Top Ten London Songwriters. I caught up with him after a recent gig in the East End to see what all the fuss is about and what he plans to do from now.

I wrinkle my nose up at being taken to a jazz bar to conduct the interview, yet his all accepting approach to music is refreshing and his relentless enthusiasm infectious. I am grateful to see that the energy and joviality that he brings to his performances continues off stage.

Dazed Digital: I’ve heard your music described as showtunes, classic pop, theatrical, do you think that you fit into any of these categories?
Joe Hood: Actually, this is becoming a bit of a problem for me. I just can’t afford to think about stuff like that. If I did, I think I’d end up drooling in an armchair. I’ve never understood the ‘genre’ thing. It just means you miss out on loads of interesting stuff. Actually, I thought I’d invented a genre a few years ago, I called it ‘Flunk’. I think it turned out to be Rockabilly or something like that. I was gutted.

DD: What do you think of as your inspiration?
Joe Hood: I don’t know. Karaoke? I did Karaoke in Tokyo when I was a teenager with this big group of Japanese kids. It felt ridiculous at first but after a few songs everyone just starts grinning. It happens so quickly and it’s so infectious, just this big grin being passed around. That’s exactly what a good gig feels like. That was inspiring. I guess that’s the real double-blind test of a song. If it can be played by a crappy little machine, be sung by a Japanese schoolgirl and still sound good, it must be really, really good.

DD: You seem very much involved in the songwriting scene, how do you approach songwriting as an art form?
Joe Hood: I think you have to be patient. Patient and honest. I’ll see some tiny little thing, a phrase, an advert or maybe I’ll just get snubbed by a’ll just grow into something. When that happens it’s the easiest thing to write... you just sort of fill in the dots

DD:  Who do you admire musically at the moment? Who would you like to work with?
Joe Hooe: I’m quite into royalty at the moment. I like Prince. I like Queen. I’d love to work with Jacques Brel, but I think he’s dead. And he’s Belgian too, so there might be a language barrier.

DD: You regularly play a large number of gigs and appear to very much enjoy being on stage with a presence that is equal parts entertainer and musician, is this more important to you than your recorded work?
Joe Hood: Its different. Basically, recording’s tough. In some ways it’s more draining than playing live. When you play live you can cover most mistakes by saying something ridiculous, doing a moonwalk or something stupid like that. That doesn’t work with recording. Its very precise, very anal and someone will be paying a lot of money for it. You can’t just be an idiot. Since I started working on the album this year, I’ve noticed that producers develop these funny little nervous tics. They’re always washing their hands or arranging biscuits. Playing live is always a good test of whether a song is worth bothering with. It’s the nicest thing to hear an idea go down a storm with an audience and then converting into something real.

DD: Do you have any other elaborate musical projects in the pipeline?
Joe Hood: Yes. Actually something that I’ve always wanted to do, and, until now, have been told is utterly ridiculous and unworkable is to tour the English countryside. I guess nowadays there is more of an appetite for unusual gigs in unusual places. It’s crap for people that live in remote places to always have to go to London or Manchester when they want to see their favourite band. As a Londoner I guess I feel a bit guilty about that. I thought it might be nice to go to them for a change; to storm a village for a weekend and then move on. I suppose I’ve just always been really jealous that America has this great tradition of folk music; Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash, Gospel music...and we don’t really have anything like that. I’m going to play in villages, cricket greens, bandstands. I’m starting on the beach at Hastings...William the Conqueror style. We’re going to film all of it too. No one really knows how it’s going to work out yet, but we hope to do something really, well, fucking be honest.

Joe Hood is playing at Cocomo in Shoreditch on the 1st June.