Joseph Arthur…When was the first time I heard Joseph Arthur? I’m sitting here asking myself. Well, it’s funny because the first time I ever heard of Joseph Arthur, he actually was not present. I was watching Austin City Limits featuring Coldplay when they asked Michael Stipe onstage to sing a Joseph Arthur song, In The Sun. Little did I know at the time that the R.E.M. front man was in the works recording six different versions of In the Sun for a digital EP that would go to efforts to rebuild New Orleans neighborhoods devastated by Hurricane Katrina. You can read more about it here.
Listening to this beautiful song, the lyrics, the music, tears running down my face–I had to find out more about this Joseph Arthur! Well, many albums, side projects, art shows, podcasts and tours later, I have come to adore and respect the work of this singer/songwriter/visual artist/poet …and the prolific rate at which he creates.
What has he done? you ask. The better question is What hasn’t he done? Joseph has released over 20 albums, ranging from solo records to collaborations with the likes of Fistful of Mercy with Dhani Harrison and Ben Harper; RNDM with Pearl Jam’s Jeff Amet; Holding the Void with Wilco’s Pat Sansone; Twilight Singers with Afghan Whig’s Greg Dulli; and the Lonely Astronauts with Kraig Jarret Johnson of Golden Smog and the Jayhawks. And, not to mention, producing art and poetry books, owning an art gallery, and hosting a podcast called Nothing To Talk About.
But let’s start with his being discovered by Peter Gabriel alongside Lou Reed and come full circle to Arthur’s recent tribute album to his deceased friend and hero, entitled, Lou featuring Arthur’s interpretation of twelve Reed tracks. In a Rolling Stone article, Arthur says, “The only way I know how to give new life to something as rich with life as Lou’s songs and recordings is to go about them in a completely different way…It’s odd dancing around death, odder still if the death you are dancing around is that of a legend…There’s no blueprint. I loved Lou and we were friends…what better way to honor the man and his music than to celebrate it and sing it and record it?”
And speaking of coming full circle, Arthur returned to Real World Records, Peter Gabriel’s label, for his latest studio release, The Ballad of Boogie Christ, a trilogy which he describes in a Billboard article: “ ‘I like this idea of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost’ He says of the 3 album cycle, conscious that at the center is a character he’s created called ‘Boogie Christ’-sometimes an alter-ego, sometimes a contemplation of deity, sometimes any-man.” But this theme is not new to Arthur who continually explores the chiaroscuro of life.
So what’s Arthur up to now? After a run of touring The Ballad of Boogie Christ joined by R.E.M. bassist, Mike Mills, he is currently opening solo for the reunited Afghan Whigs. And when I say solo I mean, yes, just Arthur, his distortion and looping pedals and a canvas. Have I piqued your interest? Well lucky for you, Arthur was gracious enough to sit down with Satellite Farm back in September at The Loft in Atlanta, GA for an amazing exclusive to talk about the Lou Reed tribute album and life as an artist. Now you are wondering, What’s he going to do next? That’s the big question. However, while we are pondering this, as it states on his art gallery, MOMAR’s website: “Arthur is on to the next project; ‘Andy Warhol’s approach to art is an ideal for me: make art, and while people are deciding whether they like it or not, make more art’.”
Check out the Satellite Farm Exclusive here:
Many thanks to Joseph Arthur, R.E.M. HQ, Michael Stipe, Peter Wark and Randy Frostig.
In the words of Joseph Arthur himself, “May God’s Love Be With You…”