Posted by: Drew | January 15, 2010

Jody Joseph – One Diva…One Legend…One Woman…One Great Interview

NEWS FLASH Jody Joseph will rock NY’s WNBC-TV‘s (Channel 4) Weekend Today in NY on Sunday, January 17th around 7:45am. Jody will recreate one of Janis Joplin’s mega hits, “Piece of My Heart,” one of many songs she will perform on Saturday, January 23 at the New York Premiere of ONE DIVA…ONE LEGEND…ONE WOMAN, at The Gramercy Theater (7:00pm).

Jody Joseph.  I had heard the name before around Asbury Park. When I was asked if I would like to interview her, I was at first befuddled about what to talk about.  What I found is a woman with many layers who has a passionate heart for music.  She has dealt with the good the bad and the ugly in the music business but has still managed to come out of the experience not sounding trite or jaded, no Jody Joseph speaks with the wisdom of a superstar.  We caught up with Joseph via phone just as she was wrestling her two Labrador Retrievers in from their morning walk.

The Best Place To Start Is Usually The Beginning…

Jody Joseph came into this world in a hospital in the town of Perth Amboy, NJ and grew up in Metuchen.  With any artist you always wonder if the talent was raw or was developed.  Joseph told me, “I was always the one at all the family parties that was the entertainer”. You can just imagine the scene while the other kids were in the pool or playing Joseph would be asking , “Can I sing or can I do the alley cat… I was always the entertainer. ” she recounted.  She recalls having the lead in a  5th grade production but she wasn’t the typical theater major and didn’t develop her real drive for music until high school.  “I started singing in high school, when ever somebody had a guitar in their hand… Or I’d steal my sister’s guitar and teach myself.”  Joseph reminisced.

The First Shot

It turns out it was Joseph’s mother who encouraged her to preform.  Joseph tells it like this, “…Not until I was out of high school, my mother said to me “You love to sing, why don’t you see about doing something with one of your brother’s friends”   This led to the formation of Joseph’s first trio “Thirty Three and a Third” with friends  Jim on Drums and Willy on guitar and Joseph on tambourine.  She started  to develop her passion even further while working a handful of jobs including in the airlines, banking industry and for many years as a bartender.  Joseph says, “I started taking vocal lessons and realized that I enjoyed it, it was better than any thing else I was doing”, but she also reminded me of the doubled edged part of being an artist and following your heart,   ” It’s a hard living, it’s a dream”

Name Dropping

Joseph comes from a long background of performers.  Among these Robert Hegyes of Welcome Back Kotter fame and opera singer Mario Lanza. During the interview I tapped into another topic, you see she has a famous cousin, a Jersey Shore legend, big time Rock & Roller… No not him, the other guy…

Joseph quickly admits, “It was tough for me for a while there, since my cousin was so huge at that point…I kind of felt like what are the chances of lighting striking twice in a family?”

She married young, at 23 and had to make a decision to move forward with her career. Her second cousin gave her encouragement and she decided to give it a whirl.  That well known cousin brought her into “The Power Station” and she cut a few songs.  There was no looking back.   She counts the experience as her defining moment, the point in which it went from “I’d like to be a performer” to “OK I’m serious”.

She soon after formed a band and took a rehearsal space in an abandoned bank in Perth Amboy, NJ.  In a roundabout way that little baby that was born in Perth Amboy had returned to the scene and was being reborn as singer / songwriter. About 9 months later she recorded her first record at the Power Station. During this period she made an MTV video, appeared on Howard Stern and even had a tour bus. There was only one problem.

Identity Crisis

“I was out there as Jody Bonjovi… The ridicule… The “Oh your riding on the coattails of your cousin”…”  Joseph tells me.  Here she was a serious performer with a budding new career, blessed with a great voice and raw talent.  In fact at one point while in Nashville a sign read “John’s Famous cousin Jody Bonjovi”   She counts her well know cousin as a dear friend but it was her handlers at the time that figured they could cash in on the name and even had her dressing  “Like a mini Jon with a dress” as she puts it.  You could sense the how the backlash had an impression on her.

It was under the guidance of Scott Welch (Alanis Morrisette), who saw her talent and took on the managerial role to help Joseph develop her craft.  At his advice she dropped the look & the last name.  “I didn’t want to lose my identity completely and not give my father any credit, so my father’s (first) name is Joseph…”  Hence, Jody Joseph and she has never looked back.

Ping Pong Champion

After an false start with a record deal,  she landed a deal with Warner/Chappell Music as a song writer.  Joseph spent time learning how to write , traveling to Nashville and back. It seems that Nashville thought she wasn’t country enough, and New York felt she was too much county!  As she puts it, “I was like a ping pong ball!”  She was given the chance to record some of her songs in Nashville where she still feels, ” They are some of the greatest musicians (to work with)”

Scott Welch backed the 2000 release of her debut CD , “The Only Way Out Is Through“.  With limited distribution and air play, Joseph was back at the drawing boards again.  The reality was or as she puts it “The Journey” is always filled with false starts and hopes.  By 2001 she had reached a dark space.  Despite having Chris, her incredibly supportive husband and daughter Gena to rally around, she went to that dark place. As most artists know it is only through reaching into your soul, into the hurt and the blackness that true creativity springs forth.

Conversations with God

Joseph was telling a friend one evening,  “I’m done, I’m done, the well is dry, I’m finished, I can’t follow this anymore” she recalls that she was at a “Pity party for one”. Her friend listened for a while and said, “Why don’t you just shut up and write a song… You’re writing anyways while you’re talking to me…”  a bit miffed  she hung the phone up thinking “what do you know…” And with that that she grabbed her guitar and wrote the song “Insecurity”, she added, “It was a conversation with God”.   To this day she counts it as one of the best songs she has written. It was also what led to her forming Jody Josephs and the Average Joes.

Joseph considers herself a spiritual person and is currently working on a Non Secular release via christian radio.  Like any good artist she always ha\se several works in progress. It is the twists and turns and the learning process that are part of the journey.

Paying Tribute

I asked Joseph’s where she finds her voice / energy, “The Audience & my Band drive me, they fuel me… If I have just one person in that audience that appreciates me… I’m on like a light bulb. ” she says.

So how does a performer with an identity crisis pay tribute to Janis Joplin  & Stevie Nicks?

I didn’t see the hook between the two and I asked her about that.  “You know you start listening to your audience… ‘play a Stevie Nicks song, play some Janis Joplin, you look like Stevie Nicks, you sound like Janis Joplin’… ‘You go through 20 some years of that and you start thinking…” Joseph explains.

In a chance meeting, Joseph met Rene Ludwig, who started talking to her about finding some new outlets for he music and locations to perform. The topic of doing a Janis Joplin Tribute was discussed but Ludwig was concerned that Joseph could become pigeonholed as a cover/ tribute artist. Then also the name thing came to mind and Joseph wanted to remain true to herself while still doing something creative using another performer. So Ludwig came up with the concept and together, Joseph and Ludwig collaborated by creating the one woman show: One Diva…One Legend…One Woman. It is a trio of performances, all of which could stand on their own, comprising of Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks, and Jody Joseph.

This isn’t just a simple three sets of music. No Jody Joseph embodies both Joplin and Nicks and creates something special while retaining that which is important to her, her own personal identity. This is performance art at it’s best.

Joseph transforms herself physically and vocally in the live nostalgic show – first as the mystical, ethereal visual style of Stevie Nicks singing a selection of her over forty Top 50 hits including, “Stand Back” and “The Chain”, among others. Then as Nicks disappears, Janis Joplin boldly emerges when Joseph takes center stage as the rebellious hard rocker, belting out hits that include “Ball & Chain,” “Piece of my Heart,” among others.
She counts both Nicks and Joplin as long time inspirations as well as Joni Mitchell.

The Payoff
Riding the roller coaster has it’s up’s and down’s but Joseph has found that sweet spot performers look for most of their career.  In 2006 she performed with Janis Joplin’s band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, though not as a impersonation in full stage dress. In November 2009, Joseph was honored by The Asbury Music Awards “Living Legend Award”. This prestigious award is presented to artists for a lifetime achievement of excellence. Prior honorees are Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen and Max Weinberg, now that’s some company to share the limelight with. To top it all off Sid Bernstein, the man who brought the Beatles to America said “…A Magnificent Performer. She is absolutely a must-see”, about Joseph.

Joseph is proud of the fact that she has taken local people, Jersey Shore folks who have been there for her and has made sure that they worked on the show. The show played at the historic Paramount Theater in Asbury Park and packed the 900+ seat house. The show did better than anyone including promoter Live Nation could have dreamed. So now what?

GET YOUR TICKETS NOW!!
SATURDAY, JAN 23, 2010, 7pm
NEW YORK PREMIER
ONE DIVA-ONE LEGEND-ONE WOMAN
Jody Joseph’s theatrical tribute to Janis Joplin and Stevie Nicks at The Gramercy Theater, 127 E 23rd St, NYC
Call her studio to order tickets
732-544-8513
$25 each
or order online @ http://www.livenation.com
additional charges apply at Live Nation.

Jody Joseph lives in Monmouth County, New Jersey, with her daughter, husband, dogs and cat. She teaches music from her studio and by night you can find her guitar in hand at local clubs around NJ.

Additional Links:

http://jodyjoseph.net/

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Responses

  1. Jody Joseph is a wonderful example of ‘having the courage of your convictions”. She has worked hard and stayed true. A wonderful woman, a roll model.
    The article read like a conversation. Easy to read.


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