Talk Music: Joe Koenig plays Yoakum Gin and Feed, gets back to Texas roots
June 19, 2013 at 1:19 a.m.
Joe Koenig made a split-second decision to get out of Concrete and into California when he was 18.
After years of playing rock and pop-punk in San Luis Obispo, Calif., Koenig, now 35, is finding that his Texas roots were never far behind.
He caught up with Get Out to talk about the thumbprint his father left on him, getting back to the basics and growing up in Concrete.
What's it like having grown up in a place that doesn't really exist anymore?
I never thought about it too much. It was all I ever knew.
I went to school in Yoakum, which is a little bigger, and there was more going on. At heart, I've always been a little more simple, and I've always liked that vibe. I like coming from a place that's anonymous but has a big, heavy name like Concrete. I didn't mind it being so small. I never was like I needed to get out to the big city.
With Father's Day just over, I'm curious what sort of advice your dad gave you when you moved off.
My father's approach was basically freedom.
My father never really asked or told me to do things. He was never over my shoulder watching me. He basically would explain the mistakes he made in life but never said, "Don't do that." He just told a story.
He let us explore as much as we possibly could. I feel like that's the thing I'm going to pass on to my child. You've got to figure out who you're going to be on your own.
So who have you become?
I'm still trying to figure it out, just like anyone else. I have a story that I'm just starting to tell.
I've found out I have something inside me that makes me really want to be a super good dad. I guess it is all based around my father. If I can somehow leave a mark on this earth that is one-quarter as awesome and heavy as my father is to just the general population ...
I just want to be a good person and have people feel good around me and, maybe, leave them with some music they can relate to and keep close to their heart, like I keep close to mine.
I have a hard time imagining you on stage with pop-punk bands like Sugarcult considering what you play now. Is it a surreal change?
It is. It's much better for me.
I enjoyed my days in a rock band. I had hopes and dreams of doing more than we did. As soon as I started doing my own thing and just shooting from the heart, it all felt very natural.
I started feeling like I missed out on 15 years of solid music I could have been making.
I really am proud of all the rock stuff we did, but I wish I had been doing more on my own.
It's a whole other ballgame when you're a solo act.
What's on tap for you?
I have a whole other batch of songs, an album's worth, that are ready to go. I just need to find the time to record and put them in people's hands. Now, I just play them at shows for people.
I've started preproduction. I just need to start the recording process. I'm really hoping by the end of the summer to have it fully started and start recording in the fall, then tour in the winter and spring.
You've said there are some songs you have written that are too emotionally draining to play. Has that changed?
No. I keep writing them, too. There's probably three songs and two are newer.
I'd probably cry every time I sang the songs the first 25 times I played them for my wife or people who are in them.
I don't know why I do that to myself. The song came to me; I didn't dig in deep to do that, it's just what came out. Maybe I'm a softie, too.
There's a song about my mother who passed away in 2001; that song is heavy. It's called "Look for Me."
I've written a few that are unreleased that have that same kind of weight.
What do you want to accomplish on the California music scene?
I don't think I have any huge goals of domination. I just love to be able to put out a record every couple of years.
If I can continue touring and building upon my fan base, I'd just like to keep playing music for the rest of my life.
I don't feel like I'm ever going to get rich or famous; if I do, that'd be icing on the cake. I just want to keep doing it and getting better.
When was the last time you were in Texas or back home? How was it?
Concrete, Texas, is always going to be home to me.
We come back two or three times a year, and I always play music and try to set up a few shows. December was the last time, and we're going back in July as well.
I'm playing a private party. They're flying me in, so I wanted to book some extra shows and spend some time with the family.
I basically call myself a half-time musician. I'll fly to the East Coast and play a string of shows, or I'll do a quick drive into Arizona and play a few shows. It's always short touring spurts for me.
It seems like your dad played a big role in your song "Attack of the Hand." Did he encourage you musically?
He's 100 percent inspiration for that song. Those memories are the main inspiration. It's basically a thing my father used to do. He'd basically attack his own face with his hand. As kids, we thought that was the funniest thing on earth.
I had no guidance, no push whatsoever. I was the kid begging for piano lessons, but no one ever gave them to me.
He never pushed me toward an instrument or said music could be a career, but he also filled my ears with amazing music from the time I was a child - Joe Cocker and the stuff I needed to be hearing.