Jimmy Fontaine

The Many Lives of NJ’s Beloved Joe P

In between bonding over our newfound admiration for the horror movie genre and our shared love of record stores, Joe P and I got into the nitty gritty realities of being an artist. He showers The Aquarian and our mutual home state with love, however we can practically hear him blushing upon talking about his art’s ever-growing global reach.

French Blonde, the new musical installment of Joseph Parella, is a neat and tidy alternative package down to the artwork. It’s cohesive, at that, especially for teetering just on the edge of evolved and experimental. If We Run, in similar fashion, takes the singer down a new path, one of writing, producing, directing. This short film directed and co-written by Anthony Yebra is thrilling and predatory in nature, but is polarizing in the way it combines that energy with melodic musicality and almost quaint relatability. As he shares with us in our lovely 30-minute phone call, nothing is missing in the scenes of the movie and it feels serious in its production and its honesty. “e were just kind of figuring it out as we went, so all the dialogue is taken directly from our real lives as far as like the little weird things the [characters] say.”

“They were designed to kind of go hand in hand,” Joe P tells of his screenwriting debut and his latest EP – both of which have spent the last month in the hands of fans near and far. The singer-songwriter admits that while the timing didn’t work out perfectly, it came together wonderfully, encapsulating the themes of both each other and the month as a whole. And we get it. What’s more fall-tinged and October-esque than a horror movie and some indie rock tunes? Not much!

Joe P, one of the Garden State’s finest musical exports, knows this. Alongside fellow creatives and local stars, he put together a new era for himself which involved new projects, like building a mini movie world from scratch, and subtly working on a documentary about the real lives of musicians. He’s no starving artist, but he’s not Beyoncé and he recognizes that. Not only is Joe aware of the timing of releases and the intricacies of artistry, he is keen on showcasing to the world the reality of doing such. The life of a musician isn’t a cake walk, but it is a rewarding and fulfilling path to take. For the years he has been in this industry, he is still in awe of how there are people from all over the world tuning into his short film, coming to shows, and putting him on the musical map.

He asks himself questions about this often. “In every city, I’m like, ‘Why would anyone be here? How does anyone know about me? It’s weird.” 

His humbleness precedes him. On Spotify alone there are well over half a million monthly listeners to his name. The top cities where listeners reside are Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, Atlanta, and London – yes, London-across-the-pond-in-Great-Britain. Still, we love him for this. Music and movies and art and expression are simply the makeup of Joe P, all of his heart and mind and body and soul.

“With all this stuff,” he explains about the four songs in his movie, “the sell of the whole thing” became the music. Sure, the script was relatable and the story was blasphemous in the vein of the best scary movies, but Joe’s most known for being a ‘song guy.’ “Being able to get the budget to even make the whole movie was that I pitched it as how I can make something out of it no matter what happens. [Investors] were still gonna get four music videos out of this.” (The movie was ultimately produced by Metro Vision Pictures and his label, Atlantic Records.)

“The first thing we shot, over two days, was all musical performances. It was two days of basically standard music video style shoots, and once we had that, it was like, ‘Alright, cool. If all this goes to hell, we still have four videos – four, full, essentially live performance music videos with cool themes around them. That’s good enough, now let’s make the movie and try to bake them into it.”

These songs and their videos are out in the world and do, in fact, stand well on their own both next to the 20 minutes of chill indie rock that make up French Blonde, but also as their own entity. They’re a fun, integral part of the short film in addition to that and the score that Parella did. Whether you’re a horror fan or not, you can get a healthy dose of Joe P thanks to this immensely detailed endeavor he embarked on. “The plan was always to release [the music videos] on their own. […] Songs from a motion picture, I was thinking, draw people back to the movie. It’s like a shorter video that someone might look at and be like, ‘Where is this from?’ Of course there’s all these weird, I guess, marketing opportunities when you kind of think of it like that, but just knew to be like, ‘Let’s shoot all these separately so that they can live on their own without the film’s dialogue.’ And it worked out! Sure, there are edits and cuts of the movie and videos that run differently, but it came out how we had hoped… the whole thing and the four shoots. […] It’s just a fun little way to get people maybe into [the film] if they’re not trying to watch a 30 minute video outta nowhere, but still like the music.”

Because being a musician is such a whirlwind career to have, but when you’re as forward-thinking and passionate as Joe, it becomes worthwhile to do that work and jump through those hoops in order to create… not only for yourself, but for those tuning into what you’re doing. (ie: The ever-growing hundreds of thousands of Spotify fans.) Continuing to share with them and keep up with them, the NJ native is bringing shows, signings, and meet-ups to their door… or his door, even.

Jack’s Music Shoppe, a beloved South Jersey record store, hosts Joe P this very weekend on November 27. It’s a hometown stop, which is special, but it’s also one of the few stops that celebrate indie music stores; a dying breed of of an establishment but a beautiful part of local arts culture. “Red Bank will be cool because it’s literally two minutes from my house,” the performer shares with a smile clear in his voice. “I walk by there every day with my dog. I’m even thinking about just going to the event in a robe with coffee and my dog!”

It would bring well-deserved comfort for the hard-working star whose last couple of months have been busy in an extraordinary, albeit seemingly overwhelming way. He did some concerts with Spacey Jane, he has these record store shows still going on and under his belt, a new EP release in October with all that excitement, a short film with a Halloween tie-in… a robe, coffee, and a walk down the block with a dog would be worthwhile.

On this exciting and hectic time in his life, both personally and professionally, Joe P dove in deep. “It is the greatest thing in the world, obviously, but it is insane. Someone that works at Atlantic [Records] is my friend Mitch, someone who actually worked on the movie a lot and flew out for like the last five shows or so of the tour. He came out and his role was to kind of just bring a camera and documents stuff – make us look cool. It’s essentially what that is when you say, ‘Film us on stage playing shows and meeting people and whatever!’ At a certain point though, we were in this green room and there was basically a basement with all this stuff. I was like, ‘You know what, Mitch? Start filming.’ I think it’s just that I have a sickness where I always want to move on to the next insane project that’s gonna ruin my life, but, alas, I said, ‘Let’s make a documentary. It’s gonna be the documentary I’ve always wanted to see, which is what it’s really kind of like to be on tour and what it really takes to do the stuff you want to do.’ We started filming things and just kind of captured all of the…. It’s not negative things, but just the things on the inside that might make people go, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t know that!’ You see this cool video of me singing in slow motion and playing in front of a thousand people and all this stuff, but then it will cut to me on my phone while I’m driving to the next place, booking the Holiday Inn that we’re staying at tonight, and then us pulling up and putting the guitars on like bellhop things – all of that real stuff and not just the craziest stuff. I want people to know that is what it actually is like.”

As a self-proclaimed “freak of nature from nj,” Joe P is wild. Wild in the fact that he never stops; whether it’s on the road or on the stage or in a car or in a hotel room, he has something going on. This keeps fans, like ourselves, well-fed, which is something that many artists do in this day and age to maintain listeners, keep people on edge, and fill out their career in an over-saturated entertainment market. 

“With the movie and everything, we were still reviewing all these scenes, because each scene basically gets mixed by someone like a song would before it gets sent from them to me and Tony. We have to listen to it and watch it and give revisions like, ‘Hey, when she walks in the room, the score is a little too loud. The little sound that pops up when the killer comes out is too quiet,’ or whatever. We would be sitting there with no wifi, moving in a van through like the middle of nowhere, editing a movie and songs. We finished this whole movie in the middle of Nebraska in a car with no wifi. The movie is out and I still haven’t seen the full thing technically because the final watch we got was in that van. We put it on a phone on a holder mount in a car and watched it. I was driving to the next show, too.”

Everyday is something more. It makes you think, “Damn, is Joe P diligent or what?” He is that, but he’s also just a curious man exhilarated by trying something new and working on something special. In order to have content to listen to, watch, and fall in love with, as well as events to buy tickets for, look forward to, and attend, you need to be making things… constantly. Joe P does that. “We go to the show,” he explains of him and his band and his team, “like one of the record store ones at 4:00 p.m., and then right after that at like 6:00 p.m. and we play the show again. After that we talk to fans, do merch, load in everything, and then again get in the car, drive like two hours to a hotel, and do it again. There really is no downtime as much as people think. ‘Oh, you’re on tour, you’re seeing the cities and you do stuff like that.’ There’s really no time to do that kind of stuff, because you actually have stuff to do as soon as you get to that city. Then on top of that, the movie thing had us getting emails and texts constantly from all of the team, like the producer Millie and all the people working at Atlantic that were on the team to make the movie are like, ‘We need permission. Can you sign off on this cut? Is C3 done? Oh my God, we can’t use this cover.’ There was supposed to be a cover of ‘Hey Joe’ by Jimi Hendrix. It was in there, it was done. Then they hit me up and we’re like, ‘We just found out. I know we said we could do this and it got cleared, but we’re not allowed to do it, so you have to come up with a new thing.’ […] The whole thing has just been this crazy process where it’s so much fun and great, but I know there are people that are thinking, ‘This is so cool! Joe got to make a movie! All these people are working for him!’ It’s amazing, that’s true, and the team is amazing, but there’s so much craziness that has gone into it.”

As he laughs, we can’t help but agree. Nothing is perfect, not even the life of an artist. “It’s just that there’s a lot of stuff I think that people don’t think about and I’ve seen every documentary of every band and every artist. Every time I get done with it, I think about how I loved it, but I just feel like they skipped over the really important part that no one ever talks about – the kind of insane, grueling, weird part that I like, but is very hard to describe. It’s very hard to articulate to someone in a way that they’ll kind of relate to it because they would just think like, ‘Well, why just not make that movie? Just make an easy music video. What are you doing?’ Trying to explain to someone that if you want a certain  level of art to come out of you, put to your name, and is what you want people to associate with you, you kind of do have find the resources to push for, kind of stretch everything a little bit too far because that’s when I feel like you get something good… or at least that’s when you’re having fun making things… like If We Run or French Blonde.”