Joesef is the angel-voiced Glaswegian singer-songwriter whose otherworldly vocals have found their closest comparison in Amy Winehouse. His soulful earworm ‘Loverboy’ made waves in 2019, with British Vogue calling him “the summer sad boy we didn’t know we needed” and the BBC including him on their ‘Sound of 2020’ list.
He’s since released a series of equally addictive tracks that hit you right in the feels: ‘Think That I Don’t Need Your Love’, ‘The Sun Is Up Forever’ and ‘I Wonder Why’ feat. Loyle Carner.
In the lead up to the release of his new EP, Does It Make U Feel Good?, we caught up with the fast-rising soul-pop artist from the “bit of a shit hole” East End of Glasgow (his words!) to chat karaoke, working with your best friends, and singing about heartbreak to a roomful of strangers.
Did you sing in a choir or school musicals or anything like that?
I had to sing in music for exams and stuff. I went to catholic school so singing hymns on the daily was pretty brutal, and musical theatre kind of makes my eyes water. I was more interested in drinking cider with my pals at 15.
What about karaoke? Have you been blowing people’s socks off for years?
Karaoke freaks me out. I love it when people go up and give it their all, and I know I sing for a living, but honestly I’d get too nervous to get up and murder a classic.
Given that your voice is so unique (I mean, from what I’ve read the closest comparison people can come up with is Amy Winehouse), did you have any insecurities around it?
I’m not really sure… People thought I was a woman at first. I could always sing quite high. The Amy thing is cool though, but it kind of scares me because she’s such a legend. I suppose it’s class to be compared to her rather than someone shit!
I read that your manager is your best friend, and the reason you got into singing was cause he heard you singing at a pub night and asked to manage you. What song did you sing and how’d you feel when he asked you that?
The Mamas & the Papas’ ‘California Dreamin’’. I didn’t really take him seriously but I wasn’t doing anything else so thought ‘fuck it’!
Did you ever think you’d be a professional singer?
Nah, I just thought I’d be a bartender or a bit of a waster.
What’s it like working with your best friend?
It’s class — him and my other manager Nathan, we are family, I’m so lucky to have them and work with them. I don’t think many artists share that sort of dynamic with their managers, being mates first, etc. It’s cool.
How do you think he’d describe working with you?
Fuck knows… I’m quite all over the place and I’m partial to going off the rails now and again — maybe they’d say it’s never a dull day looking after me?
How do you write your songs?
I sort of just build it all at the same time. A lot of the time I just write as I make the music. I’ve started trying to separate the writing and the production but usually if I’m onto something I just projectile it out in one sitting. I don’t really have a process — it sort of just occurs.
Had you been writing songs before you started doing it professionally?
Nah, I’d only written one song. It was really shite, but my managers were like “just keep writing more” and I found my feet eventually. I think you just need to get the shite tunes out of the way to get to the goods.
It’s been about a year since ‘Loverboy’ came out, and I’ve honestly heard it played in my house (by my housemate or I) more than any other song over the past year. It’s just such a fucking great song! I was wondering how your life has changed since it came out?
I actually wasn’t mad for it when I wrote it, which is mental cause everybody loves it, but I love it too now. I think just doing music for a living after that, not having to go back to a bar job, that’s been the most dramatic change. I’m still sure I’m about to wake up and I’m an hour late for a ten-hour shift.
You’ve said your most recent release ‘I Wonder Why’ is about losing someone, and I wondered if you could share more of the story that inspired the track?
I had a bit of a shit break up at the start of the year and it was just about their absence; the loss felt so palpable it was like a separate entity in my house. That tune still kind of fucks me in the head singing it.
Is it weird writing about really personal things like that and then having to perform them again and again and again? Like, is it like reliving the thing, or the more you sing it do you become less affected by the memory of the thing? Does that make sense, lol?
I think I live every tune every time, otherwise what’s the point? I think it’s part of the job to tell the story as accurately as possible. If I was in auto pilot, I may as well pack it in. I do think enough time passes for it to not get to me as much but yeah it’s brutal at times.
What’s your dream collab?
Tyler, The Creator defos.
Who’s your hero?
My dog Frank — he’s class.
Dream fashion campaign to be in?
Gucci. Praying they give me a call.
What’s your idea of happiness?
In the pub with my mates.
How do you like your eggs?
Eggs give me the fear!
Who’s your favourite comedian?
My oldest brother is funny as fuck.
What’s a sound you can’t stand?
Someone eating a banana.
Where do you want to be in 10 years’ time?
Hopefully still alive and still enjoying life. Maybe have a family. Anything else is a bonus.