JOE PURDY'S Sublime Songs Find Their Way To The Big Time
An intimate, narrative voice with touches of bluegrass roots and soulful southern upbringing instantly captivates a listener upon hearing Joe Purdy's songs. Purdy's reflective folk music and rich lyrics, filled with stories vivid enough to transport one's self, have drawn him attention and praise. A number of song placements on top television shows, including Lost and Grey's Anatomy, and a recently signed publishing deal with Warner Chappell, give Purdy a solid foundation to continue broadening his fan base. This L.A.-based singer/songwriter talked with Playback about his songs, the scenes that inspired them and his latest release, Only Four Seasons.
Playback: What types of songs appeal to you?
Joe Purdy: I've always been partial to people who complete a story and paint a picture for you with the story they're telling. That appeals to me as opposed to songs that don't really go anywhere or say anything. That is why pop songs seem thin to me.
You have said that songwriting isn't the challenge, it's the easy part. Is it your therapy?
It's my therapy; it's the way that I work through my own issues. All of a sudden you're forgiven because you were able to say it out loud. When it's in a song somehow nobody judges you and they're just happy that you admitted something. Songs are like my diaries in a way. It's easier that way since there's no dialogue back and forth.
This new record, Only Four Seasons, has a very different sound than your previous albums. Is this your first time recording with a band?
Only Four Seasons is my first full band record. I've always been really protective about my songwriting. Most of my records are me pretending like I knew how to play instruments I couldn't play. With this record, I was actually using other musicians doing live takes. It was definitely a new process, but a great process. When you stop being so stubborn, you let go a little bit and you get more back. I wrote all the songs on my own, except the title track, which was my first time collaborating with other people. That was really fun to do.
Describe the recording of the Julie Blue album, which had songs used in the television shows Lost and Grey's Anatomy.
I went up to this little house on a river island in upstate New York. I had gone there before and had these amazing experiences. I had intended to record a bunch of ballads that I had already written, but I ended up with ten new songs, about my experiences there, all written and recorded in four days. I left them in the order that they were written. I would write one and then record it. They then got placement in a couple TV shows and I got lucky that way.
What's it like to hear your songs on television?
It's a little bit odd, but it's great. You never really imagine the kind of scenes that the songs will be in. Sometimes they are funny placements, others you couldn't have imagined a more perfect setting for the songs. My parents make sure everybody in the State of Arkansas knows that my songs are on television!
Were any songs written with a scene in mind?
The song "Wash Away" got placed on the third episode of the first season of Lost. An executive producer of the show had called me up while I was on the river island making Julie Blue. He got a record of mine and wanted me to write a song from the perspective of being stuck on an island. Here I was actually sitting on a river island right then, with no way to get off, so I said 'give me 15 minutes.' I quickly recorded a song I'd written that might apply and then played it to him over the phone. It was just mandolin and me. It was written like a suicide ballad about a man that was going to commit suicide because his fianc�e had committed suicide in the river. To fit the show, we flipped it around to make it a hopeful song. I got back to L.A. and took the CD over to the mixing stage where they were putting the episode together that day. It fit!
Have a lot of people discovered you from the television shows?
Definitely, between the carry-over from the shows and things that get talked about, your name circulates quickly. The Internet has been so good to me. Julie Blue has been number one on the CD Baby Top Sellers' List. It was also number one on the iTunes country charts in the U.K. for a few weeks and was on the iTunes American country charts. I don't know why they call it country, but I'll take it.