In music, is where I find purpose, it gets me up in the morning. Sharing music, creating music, using music as a medium to connect with other people.
Amy Gabay 00:05
We chatted with Mark Joseph. We talked about his connection to La Crosse, his bands, producing and promoting live shows, as well as touching on his new album Vegas Motel. Though Mark doesn’t live in the area, he has an ongoing presence in the La Crosse music scene from playing in his various full bands to acoustic sets all over the area. You can find more conversations, food reviews, live music and events on our website lacrosselocal.com. I’m Amy.
Brent Hanifl 00:31
Amy Gabay 00:32
And this is La Crosse Local.
Mark Joseph 00:33
My name is Mark Joseph and I was born in Northfield, Minnesota. I got into music by sort of I had a very musical family. My grandfather played piano, you know, real jazzer kind of the 40s, 50s Stride Jazz Piano variety, and also singing in church a lot as well. You know, it’s kind of the start of it. My mother also is an avid, just music fanatic, loves all kinds of music. And we grew up showing horses, so a lot of country music in the truck ride into the horse shows, and what not. But uh, she definitely put a lot of different music in front of me as a child. I do remember one of my birthdays, probably eight or nine years old, she gave me a rack of tapes, she had specifically picked out all these different genres of music to make sure that I had all these different, you know, flavors kind of going through my years and everything from like native american flute music to Rod Stewart’s Greatest Hits, Van Morrison, and, you know, classical Mozart, you name it.
Brent Hanifl 01:58
Just thinking about those sort of influences, all those different cassettes, you’re talking about, I first heard of you when you were in Down Low. And I believe it was in the early 2000s? I don’t remember so much.
Mark Joseph 02:08
Brent Hanifl 02:08
So no, but I remember seeing you in different variations of different bands coming through the area, playing with different groups. What is your connection to La Crosse? How did that start?
Mark Joseph 02:17
Well, yeah, Down Low was the, Down Low was where I first first performed in La Crosse, the Down Low days. And that was, it would have been about 2004 or 5 right in there. Yeah, we came down and played the Popcorn Tavern, of course, because that’s what you do when you’re the band trying to come into town. We really hit it off with a lot of the local musicians. Cheech being one of them, Greg Hall, and the Smokin Bandits, who I believe he was playing with at the time. And there was also a band called Hooch, my brother Derek who’s in that band, and the TUGG guys, and just all these really great La Crosse musicians who all were very welcoming and very, very friendly. And everybody wanted to hang out and collaborate and wanted to do shows together. I remember, you know, after the first couple shows we did in La Crosse, everybody was just like, yeah, we just we love it there, let’s go back. Let’s go do it again. We kind of started in a sort of an era where I played La Crosse frequently. And that’s never really ended, I guess, you know, it’s come to think of it. I’ve been playing there ever since really.
Brent Hanifl 03:29
Yeah, it seems like you’re passing through town at least quarterly in some sort of iteration. Kind of moving on to like the pandemic years over here, you know. Over the last couple of years, you know, I’ve seen you in a number of different bands, you’re producing, you’re promoting shows that you know, are live. But then also streaming, seems like you know, I’ve seen a lot more of you recently with the streaming activities. What keeps you hustling, you know what I mean, even during a global pandemic like this?
Mark Joseph 03:54
I got three kids. So there’s that. Keep you working hard. It’s in my nature to be I think just to be kind of resilient. Anybody who has to survive in the music business, and make, tries to make a living doing it has to be extremely resilient. Whether or not there’s a pandemic, or whatever the issue of the day is, you know, there’s a lot of different challenges that continuously face any of us who try to make a living in the arts. It’s part of who I am, I’m a little bit stubborn in general. So I think that’s probably served me well, to a certain degree, at least when some of these things go on. You know, this pandemic thing has been really challenging. Obviously, for many people, you know. Music to me, music is life to me. So, you know, without it, it’s pretty tough. It’s pretty tough to get by pretty tough to find, you know, that’s where, for me at least, that I believe that others feel the same way is that in music is where I find purpose. It’s the thing that gets me up in the morning, sharing music, creating music, using music as a medium to connect with other people. So in some ways then having certain things shutdown or taken away via this pandemic, it’s pretty alarming to me. So you know, we all kind of went through those first few months as a complete shutdown. And to me, it was like, we immediately have to find, figure something out. And so that’s what landed me streaming. Because that seemed like an immediate way to sort of get the music out there and start connecting with people, especially with everybody was disconnected or couldn’t leave or travel or whatever the situation was, depending on where you live. So that’s what brought on the streaming was like, well, this is our avenue, this is our opportunity to connect to people trying to bring people together through music. You know, after the first few months that just became evident that we had to do something to keep people. It’s not just music, right? It’s joy, it’s laughing, it’s celebrating life, it’s communicating things that make us feel human, you know, all those things are integral to a normal and healthy life. I’d say whatever normal means, but you know, I think you don’t I mean, it’s so I just had to keep going. And it’s very interesting, I find a lot of people that come back, that come to the shows now will oftentimes thank us, thank me for doing that. Because it was really meant a lot to them. It was something to look forward to. They felt connectivity, even if it’s just a screen, type in comments, you know, they were there on the comment boards with people they know, communicating, talking about good times talking about reminiscent of the great times they’ve had the past it obviously be in the future, too.
Brent Hanifl 06:37
With that, you know, you have a new new album, Vegas Motel.
Mark Joseph 06:42
Brent Hanifl 06:42
What was it like recording that new piece?
Mark Joseph 06:45
Sure. The Vegas Motel was an interesting process writing that, you know, as part of the pandemic stuff. I was doing these commissioned songs for people, people would ask for a song for Christmas present or special Valentine’s or you know, all kinds of different things. And so I was doing these songs to do it. Actually, it can create an opportunity for me to write some pretty interesting songs, I felt were interesting about people, subject matters that was a little bit outside of the norm for me. Different things that included some stuff all the way from like stories about a you know, a hard working guy who risked it all to create a recycling business and live a life of meaning to like a guy who was fighting for his life with cancer and fighting COVID all at the same time. All these things that writing the songs, I was really inspired and moved by what came out, and the stories that I was writing about. And primarily, they’re also stories about people that I know, in my life, or I’ve met. And the recording process, what’s different about this record to anything else I’ve ever done, is that we turn this record around extremely fast. So I wrote probably six or seven of the tunes around Thanksgiving, Christmas of 2020. And then we were the studio six weeks later, tracking them. It was a fast process as far as that goes. But I really liked it because it didn’t really give me a chance to overthink anything. And I really feel like we captured the songs in a very sort of raw form, in a way that they’re sort of fresh to me as an artist, but also just fresh as they were conceived, you know, and it felt good. I was really blessed to have JT Bates as a co producer. JT is an amazing drummer and a musical genius, in my opinion, you know, and as like just so many other artists, was not touring at the time. This is a guy who you can’t get he’s never available, you know, whether he’s, you know, doing tracks for Taylor Swift, or he’s touring with Bonnie Light Horsemen or Bon Iver, all these cats. You know, he’s a good buddy of mine, you know, he was around and he was excited about the project. So I jumped out of it. I kind of just like cancelled a bunch other stuff. I said, mo, we’re doing this. This is an opportunity to work with JT. So that’s kind of how it went down. And, you know, he had this engineer named Alex Proctor, he was just going to have us help on the first day of the sessions. And after the first day, working with Alex, I was like, okay, we need you on the whole thing immediately, because he’s so talented. Alex was all about it, he jumped on board too. So it kind of the project evolved sort of organically like that. And Alex Proctor is just a world class engineer, too. So really, that whole working with those two guys was really what made it possible and what it is, the record that it is.
Brent Hanifl 09:40
So are there any particular tracks that stick out for you, that you, that are your sweethearts or anything?
Mark Joseph 09:44
Yeah. Yeah. They all do their own way, I think but um, you know, a lot of the feedback we got about the record is that they’re all sorta, all the songs are unique, because they all have their own little micro verse universe in them. And so I like them for that reason. I like them all for that reason that they all sort of have their own mini experience that you should go through and story. But you know the Vegas Motel, the title track is just a classic country ride you know. It’s sort of in the vein of my you know, one of my heroes Merle Haggard the pedal steel crying in the night. And some of the other ones you know, like Life of a Pipe Welder. There’s a story about that individual I was saying, this man named Mr. Kane who was fighting for his life with cancer and then he gets COVID in the hospital. And you know, I wrote that song for him on Christmas Day and we sent it to him that day, because he was alone in the hospital. You know? Like, that’s always meant a lot to me for that reason alone. But it turned out great, too. And Love You Till I Die. It’s Valentine’s Day, so I wrote that one for the love of my life, Carly. And so that’s a super special song to me. They all have a lot of meaning to me. They’re all dear to my heart.
Brent Hanifl 11:17
So for people who want to check you out, you have a double release album that’s happening at The Main event center in La Crosse coming up April 15. With Greg Hall, who also just released a new album, what can people expect from that show?
Mark Joseph 11:31
It’s going to be awesome. Greg is a longtime friend and collaborator of mine. He’s got a great new record out. So yeah, we’re just going to bring all the new music together and we’re going to, both bands are going to play our own sets. Then we’ll inevitably jam together at the end. You know, it’s always a treat when I get to play with Greg and we’re just kind of kindred spirits. He’s my brother. He’s the guy you should call in the middle of the night if you need to reckon with somebody or you need some advice at six in the morning. He gets up early too you know, he’s just a good brother and an incredible talent and brilliant writer. His new album is awesome. And so we both were kind of thinking like, why don’t we just team up and do these together? So we’re actually gonna do like a four show run here. And I’m sure we’ll do more beyond that. Yeah, it’s gonna be a really good time. Just a lot of guitar music, a lot of great country music, rock and soul stuff. Yeah. Everybody gets to come check out these new songs.
Brent Hanifl 12:29
Yeah, it seems like you have a, you know, a lot of irons in the fire. Is there anything in particular that you’re really excited about coming down the road?
Mark Joseph 12:36
Yeah, I am. I’m currently writing a new album right now. I can’t say a ton about it for various reasons other than it’s along some of the lines of the Vegas Motel that I’m writing about. Some particular subject matter approached me a little differently than some of these other records I’ve done. I’m doing field research and going to the places and meeting people like it’s kind of an amazing experience actually. I’m doing a lot of this in the Deep South. And so I am super excited about it. I’ve been working on it for about a year. And a lot of the demos though, have started to really take shape. I’ll be very excited to continue that process and hopefully get the studio here by you know, the next month or so to start to track it. It’s sort of I guess, musically, it’s along the lines of like a little bit old western kind of thing like an old throwback, western song and some gospel stuff, Southern gospel roots and a lot of like outlaw stories, true stories. If you know me, you’ll know that I’m a nonfiction guy. So really into true stories, hearing the accounts of things that people went through through time. And so it’s gonna be definitely a lot of that. That’s part of what I’m doing this research for and traveling down there working on with some of these individuals who were in these stories themselves, absorbing those stories, absorbing that experience and then turning them into songs.
Brent Hanifl 14:07
Well stay busy man. So where can people find out more if they want to check out that show in La Crosse or just kind of keep tabs on you?
Mark Joseph 14:14
Yeah, you can always go to the website, it’s the best move. We’ve got all the socials as well. Website is markjoseph/music.com. That is the calendar you always want to check. It’s got all the official dates, info on it. Yeah, tickets are on sale now for April 15. So make sure you grab those. It’s at The Main I believe, which is a really beautiful room and it’s going to be a great night so make sure you grab those. And yeah, hit me up on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. We got Snapchat, well I’m on Tik Tok now.
Brent Hanifl 14:44
All the things.
Mark Joseph 14:44
You know it’s getting real, I’m on Tik Tok now.
Amy Gabay 14:51
La Crosse Local Podcast is a production of River Travel Media. Do you have an interview idea you’d like to share with us? Message us on Facebook at La Crosse Local. Find out more about us at lacrosselocal.com and you can subscribe to the La Crosse Local Podcast on your favorite podcast app. If you like us, rate us five stars. We appreciate it.
About La Crosse Local
La Crosse Local is an arts, food, and entertainment podcast and publication for La Crosse County and its surrounding communities.
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