On 4th Street in downtown Santa Rosa the sounds of a mellow blend of country and folk music float in the air. They’re the words and music of local musician, ‘Big Joe‘ who sits there singing to his moving audience.
Originally from Ghana, 38 year-old ‘Big Joe’ came to the United States nine years ago, finding his feet in the home of country music, Tennessee. He lived there for a couple of years but it was his move to California that truly inspired the friendly singer songwriter.
Singing in various bars and venues in the Santa Rosa area, ‘Big Joe’ found his voice and has written nearly 300 songs, and that doesn’t include a book of songs that he lost somewhere down the line. Surprisingly though, there are no CD’s on offer today, and that’s because he’s yet to spend a day in a studio.
“I want to play my songs for a while, if not a long while,” he tells me as he tunes his guitar and flicks through his book of songs. “I want the songs I write to be part of my spirit before I get to record them. Most of the time when you write a song, it takes a while before you get it imbued in your spirit. When you do you’ll be able to sing it with more meditation, so that when people buy your CD they don’t just buy the words, they buy the spirit.”
It’s an interesting perspective on recording, and I can’t help but wonder if he’ll ever feel like he’s ready to lay down his tracks in the confines of a studio. ‘Big Joe’ seems to be right at home strumming out his songs live, where he can see the reaction of those who watch him play. It makes me wonder if maybe he’s got a point, and perhaps there are some songs that just aren’t meant to be captured and caged in some studio perfected production.
His guitar is shiny and new, a bargain from Best Buy the day after thanksgiving he tells me. His cowboy hat though, looks like it’s seen more than a few days in the California weather. “Oh yeah, I see it as a kind of trademark,” he says as he straightens it on his head. “I’ve got other hats but mostly this is the one I like to wear.”
We finish up chatting and I let ‘Big Joe’ get back to what he clearly loves to do. I watch as a people walk by, some paying attention, others seemingly unaware of the gently notes that infuse the air. He’s playing his songs because he’s a man who loves to play his songs and follow them to wherever they go.
He told me that he was looking for a side job, but as I watched him play I got the feeling that while ‘Big Joe’ could indeed ‘wear other hats,’ he’s absolutely got the right hat on at the moment.
The year is drawing to a close, and the end of 366 pictures is fast approaching. But if you’re enjoying this blog then I’d love to hear from you. Maybe you’ve never commented before, but with just a few days left consider leaving a comment on this post, or indeed any that you like (or dislike perhaps?) I read all comments and love hearing from YOU!