Interview by Natalie K.
May 5, 2009

Estrella: Just for the record can you state your name?
Joey: Joey Degraw.

Estrella: What did you do differently between your debut album, and your latest Say Something Strong?
Joey: Well, the last record was recorded without ever playing any of the songs live. That’s a major difference right there because they always change when you play them live.
Estrella: Did any of your songs change on Say Something Strong between when you wrote them and when you recorded them?
Joey: I played them live before I recorded them. I swore after that first record I would never make another one without playing them first.
Estrella: When you say live, do you mean for audiences?
Joey: More so you wind up doing them before an audience, definitely playing them through with a band.
Estrella: Have you been testing out your new material before you recorded it?
Joey: Yeah, I’ll play one or two at a show; a lot of times just one if I’m playing old material. When I’m touring I’ll play one or two new one’s just to play through them; you get better when you play through them.

Estrella: What’s the first single going to be?
Joey: I don’t know, I have not really thought about it in those sort of terms. The one’s I have been playing on television and radio shows have been “Another Mistake” probably because Joss (Stone) did it too which gave it some exposure. “Our Own Time”, I have been doing that one too. We are still talking about that stuff too, and as of today it looks like this record is going to be put out on a label called National Underground Records, that my brother (Gavin Degraw) and I started. We own a bar a bar in Manhattan called The National Underground and we are starting this label based out of the bar kind of thing. We are getting our distribution through Sony Red; apparently, it is not one hundred percent yet, but as of today I just had a conference call with them so it looks like it is going to happen.
Estrella: Well that’s cool!
Joey: Yeah, it is pretty cool because of all the advantages of being on a major label without having to worry about satisfying their quotas or get involved with them artistically. It is more like a business partnership, not an artistic partnership.

Estrella: What wouldn’t you want to get artistically involved with them about?
Joey: Any kind of suggestion by them to me about music is I’m at a point where no. It almost seems like that’s the reason they aren’t musicians, because they aren’t musical. If everybody touches it, it’s dirty.
Estrella: You want it to be yours.
Joey: Yeah, it’s better the less it’s touched, the less infected it is.

Estrella: What is your song writing process usually entail?
Joey: I’m a topic driven writer. I like writing out of spite.
Estrella: So current events?
Joey: Yes, stuff like that, and when something kind of powerful happens, politics even. I try not to go on that too much but they all make me sick enough to write about it. Anything that has emotion and anybody that fucks you over is always good topic.

Estrella: How did you end up on tour with Tony Lucca?
Joey: I think Tony’s manager called and asked if I wanted to do a tour with him. I wasn’t planning on going out until after the record (Say Something Strong) was released. I was just doing some one-offs, opening up for my brother and some sporadic unannounced stuff here and there. They called and said they were doing this thing and I said, “Yeah, I’ll do it, why not?”

Estrella: How long is this tour going to run for?
Joey: One month, about a show a day for one month.
Estrella: Where are you guys hitting?
Joey: It starts here in Chicago and it ends in Orlando. Goes to Michigan, Nashville, Pennsylvania. It covers a good amount of ground in a month. Then from there I go straight to Holland and I am going to be in Europe for about a month.
Estrella: Oh that’s cool! Who are you playing with there?
Joey: I am opening up for my brother, so acoustic like I am playing here tonight.
Estrella: That will be fun, have you been there before?
Joey: Europe, yeah it’s great, I actually have a really good audience there, bigger than in the states. They are really into singer/songwriter stuff and melody. Especially somebody like me they have never seen play a steel guitar and shit, some real Americana.

Estrella: How important do you consider networking sites such as myspace, purevolume, facebook, etc?
Joey: Apparently, they are the only important thing.
Estrella: Really?
Joey: Yeah, look at who is famous, they are obviously more important than your talent level, that’s for sure. The bigger you are, the more of that stuff you are involved with. You can’t ignore it if you are trying to have any kind of career. I’m on twitter now and I find it torture, I don’t even know what to say. “Oh I’m taking a piss, oh I just stubbed my toe.”
Estrella: Why did you sign up for it then?
Joey: I thought it was the thing to do, did you see apple looks like they are buying it today for seven hundred million dollars. I wish I would of known I would have given seven hundred and fifty.

Estrella: Have you ever bought something that seemed like a good idea at the time but later regretted it?

{Estrella friend points at Joeys Iphone}

Joey: Yeah, how about the Iphone. That’s right, I fucking hate it.

Estrella: What is one of your favorite lines in one of your songs?
Joey: I like, “Your open minded ways did you in”. I like that one.
Estrella: Which song is that from?
Joey: It’s from the song ‘Tragedy’. I like that one because it is so true everybody is like, when did open minded become such an amazing thing to be? We don’t even really know what open minded means anymore, it is such a highjacked term.

Estrella: Do you have a definition of open minded?
Joey: Yes I do, it’s not listening to what other people’s definition of open minded is. (laughter) An original thinker, let along forgetting what they tell you open minded means. That may mean it to them but that does not mean it to me.

Estrella: What is something you have always wanted to do but have not done yet?
Joey: Be able to draw big rooms. Not too big, my desire is not to play Madison Square Garden. I would love to have a career and be able to play like 800 to 1,000 seaters. The Irving Plaza, Park West, those sized venues. That is what I would like to do, if I could draw consistently 1,000 people in every city that I’m in.
Estrella: I like venues that size.
Joey: Yeah, they are not too big, but they are big enough to make a living.

Estrella: If you could see any band or artist perform any song live what would it be and why?
Joey: I saw the guy I would like to see perform the most a lot of times, I was lucky. Which is Chris Whitley; I would probably like to see him perform “To Joy” live right now. It was inspirational to me, it kind of changed my thought process as far as performing. I never wanted to be a performer; I just wound up with all of these songs that I wrote and realized somewhere along the line if I did not start to sing these, nobody was going to hear them ever. I was never like, “I want to be a performer” I never thought about that. I always liked to play guitar and practiced because I enjoyed it. I never thought about making a living as a performer. There are artists and there are entertainers, I’m not an entertainer. I’m just a guy who writes songs and is forced to sing and play them.
Estrella: Forced?
Joey: In a way, yeah. Who else is going to do them if I don’t do them? Sometimes people are covering them, but the only time people ever hears my stuff to cover them is when I do it; in a way I’m a salesmen, just kind of selling my songs and that’s why I’m kind of forced to perform them. I have found some ways to enjoy it, but that’s not my first love. My brother loves performing, loves it, that’s his shit. He writes songs so he can get up on stage to sing them, that’s his inspiration behind writing. I sing songs because I write songs. At the end of the day is there a difference, we are both up on stage singing songs that we wrote. At the end of the day maybe there is no difference, I don’t know but that’s what my dad says.

Estrella: Any final comments?
Joey: My brother, I think his new record is great. It’s really great; he is really talented. Too be honest, I don’t really have a lot of respect for most of the music that I hear. Most of it to me is so repulsive, especially if you put on the fucking radio, what happened, what happened? It’s like selling shit to deaf people.
Estrella: Don’t look through my Ipod.
Joey: What happened to any type of artistic attempt in music. People like Bob Dylan and Jackson Browne, all those people that were so talented. There seems to not be a market for that stuff anymore.