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Today our Spotlight – Joe McLeod. We got to sit down and chat with Joe recently about his music and the release of the debut album Cloud Berries and Alaska. Check it out now.

Hi Joe! Thank you for giving us some of your time. The normal question seems to be ‘What have you been up to during lockdown’, but with building a music studio, and writing and recording an album, it looks like you’ve been keeping busy! With the world in a weird state these past few years, how was it to have those projects to busy yourself with?

I am one of those people that need to be busy ALL the time. Honestly, It has been a journey of ups and downs. Building the studio was its own beast; between the excitement of having a studio and the frustration of learning how to construct a proper building from the ground up, it was emotionally involved, to say the least. Once it was finished I realized, now I have to use it! Writing and recording this album has been the salvation of my mental health during this crazy time. Having the ability to collaborate with a good friend during an extremely difficult time of my life was a blessing. It was such an impactful experience that I have actually started LP #2 as of last week! I am trying to keep the train rolling. 😉

You’ve stated in past interviews what a large impact Gord Downie had on you as an artist. What is it about Gord that drew you to him?

Oh boy, Gord is someone I wish I had the chance to meet in a different life. He has made a HUGE impact on me as an artist. I have never felt so connected to someone I have never met. His energy, his stage presence, his brutal honesty, and his ability to be unapologetically himself make me feel connected to him. He and his music make me feel like I can be the person I see inside my head.

Like Gord, I find a lot of your lyrics have a beautiful honesty to them. How important is it for you as an artist to have that rawness to your lyrics?

First of all, thank you for saying that. To me, honesty is extremely important, especially for my own music. The reason I started writing music is that I did not have any other way to express myself, and without it, the feelings would just be pushed down. Over the years of practicing and writing hundreds of songs, I now feel like I have the ability to package my feelings and truth into an accessible format. At the end of the day, anyone who listens to my music is a real person with real emotions, and I hope that they can hear and feel the honesty I put into the songs.

For those that don’t know, you have got quite an awesome collection of tattoos. What are some of your favorite pieces, and do you have any new pieces in the works?

I absolutely love tattoos and what they represent to me. Choosing my favorites is so tough because they all hold some sort of significance BUT the ones that really stand out to me are a form of tribute. I have one that says ‘1946’ which is both a homage to my late father who was born in 1946 and to the song with the same name on the record. I have 2 that are tributes to Gord Downie; one is an arrow that says ‘introduce yerself’ and the other is an image of one of his hats from the Hip’s final tour. The song “Introduce Yerself” makes me cry every time I hear it because it makes me think of my Dad. I actually just decided that I am going to get a Cloudberry tattoo in honor of this album and the journey it took to get here, I am pretty stoked for that one!

What would your reaction be to seeing a tattoo inspired by some of your work?

I would be utterly and completely honored. I know that for me, the tattoos that are inspired by Gord are significant because of how much he impacted my life. If I saw someone with a tattoo inspired by me I would have to assume a song I wrote made them feel something significant, and I don’t think there could be anything greater than that.

Walk Me Home was such a great hit in 2019. How did it feel to get such a positive reaction to your work? How much have you changed as an artist since Walk Me Home was created?

Thank you so much! It felt amazing. I was completely shocked at the reception of the song and it made me feel confident in my decision to pursue music. “Walk Me Home” felt like the first step in a long journey and I am really thankful that people like it as much as I do. I have changed significantly as an artist and I think that goes hand-in-hand with how I’ve changed as a person. I have experienced bitter heartbreak, profound love, and extremely confusing, challenging emotions through the death of my father. I think this growth as a person, has made me a better artist. I am no longer scared to look into the mirror and reflect on what I see. I feel like I will always hold a duality of being able to see the world through rose-colored glasses, and then on the flip side being able to take them off and face the reality of any situation.

Cloud Berries In Alaska touches on some very emotional experiences, and you have shared some very deep moments on this album, such as the loss of your father with the song 1946. Was it cathartic to go through the songwriting process for a topic like that, and how does it feel to have this lasting legacy to your father out there for the world to hear?

It was extremely cathartic to process my feelings through songwriting. My father was the biggest supporter of my music and encouraged me without fail to continue chasing the dream I have. For me to reflect on his life, our memories and my emotions surrounding his loss was a privilege. It did not come without difficulty or hardship, but I think I have really left my heart on my sleeve in songs like “1946” and “Those Days”. Having this record as a lasting legacy to my father means everything to me. If anyone purchases the Vinyl, on the insert you will see a sentence that reads “Dedicated to Curley McLeod.” For me, this album will forever honor his memory and my love for him.

What other experiences did you draw on for this album?

During this hardest chapter of my life so far, I was fortunate to have a wonderful relationship blooming that provided me with such comfort and love. Throughout writing this album I consistently found myself crossing between the emotions of sadness, grief, and loss versus love, joy, and hope. Some songs capture this love such as “Smile Always” or “The Way You Move”! I leaned into the feelings of uncertainty and self-worth, the concept of change and fear, and finally the ideals of wanderlust and discovery.

As a multi-instrumentalist, how was the recording process, and how important is it as an artist to have the ability to cover so many aspects of the recording yourself?

Great question! The recording process was amazing. Between myself and the producer of the record (Feurd), we could cover most instruments ourselves which made the creative process smooth and free-flowing. I find myself going back and forth on the idea of an artist needing to have a hand in so many aspects of recording. I think there is so much merit in an artist knowing what they want to create and having the ability to craft or articulate it themselves, BUT I think at the end of the day, collaboration is magic, and being fortunate enough to have that is well worth it. I learned SO much from working with Feurd and through having a hand in the production at my studio. This album would not be what it is today without the collaboration I have with Feurd, and I cannot see myself making a record by myself after how much joy I had collaborated on this one! Philosophical ideas aside; I love being able to play multiple instruments and help bring the sonic landscape I hear in my head to life!

You recently had the chance to open for The Rural Alberta Advantage. What was it like getting that experience to play with them, and to be able to do it outdoors in a great musical city like Kingston?

I opened up The RAA at a staple Kingston venue called The Grad Club and it was amazing. The folks in that band are extremely generous and kind, plus the audience was so energetic. It was such an honor to open up for a band that I admire. PLUS, I love Kingston. I lived there for years before moving to Toronto and cut my teeth within that musical community. Kingston will forever hold a very special place in my heart.

As we’re opening up (hopefully for good), it seems to be great timing for Cloud Berries In Alaska to be released. Are there any plans to get out there to perform these tracks live?

OH YA! After moving shows and tour plans so many times I am so happy to finally be hitting the stage in support of this record. March 14th will be the official release concert at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto and then starting in May and throughout the summer my goal is to take the album across the country. The Toronto show will be special since it’s a hometown crowd and I have some of my best pals opening up: Francesco (from The Elwins) and Rubber Tire Peep Show!

What tracks from Cloud Berries In Alaska are you most excited to play for live audiences?

I think the songs I am most excited to play from the record are “Smile Always” and “Have You Ever Been Afraid”! One has the fun, high-energy vibe that I love to bring to shows and one is more soft and dynamic. These have been sounding really good with the band in rehearsal!

Other than getting back out and playing, what does the future have planned for Joe McLeod?

I am really hoping to keep my momentum moving forward by finishing up my second LP with hopes of releasing it next year. It will be a longer album than CBIA and I think the material is a really good evolution of writing. I hope to broaden my horizons, meet new folks, collaborate more, and try to build back the community we had before the pandemic. I am confident that we’ll get there and be moving along stronger than ever!

Our Spotlight – Joe McLeod is complete. Big thanks to Joe for taking the time to chat with us

Check out Cloud Berries in Alaska right now

Keep up with Joe right here

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