Joseph Arthur: Wikis


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Joseph Arthur

Joseph Arthur playing in Barcelona, December 2007
Background information
Born September 28, 1971 (1971-09-28) (age 38)
Origin Akron, Ohio, USA
Genres Alternative rock
Folk rock
Instruments Vocals, guitar, harmonica, bass
Years active 1996–present
Labels Lonely Astronaut Records
Associated acts The Lonely Astronauts

Joseph Arthur (born September 28, 1971) is a contemporary singer-songwriter from Akron, Ohio. He was discovered by Peter Gabriel in the mid-'90s, and signed to Gabriel's Real World label.


Musical history

Early life and Big City Secrets

Joseph began writing and playing music in his early teens, after inheriting an electronic keyboard from his aunt:[1] "I couldn't play along with my records, so that's why I started writing my own. The keyboard had a sequencer so I started writing these little electronic music things. I thought I was a genius, and I would play them for my mom. And she'd be like, 'It sounds like Chinese music,' and it would crush me. I wanted her to say, 'That's the most genius thing I've ever heard.'"[2] At age 16, he played bass in a blues band called Frankie Starr and the Chill Factor, which disbanded by 1991.[3] Joseph graduated from Firestone High School in 1990 and continued developing his music.[4]

In the early '90s, Arthur relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, continuing to record home demos, playing local clubs and working as a guitar salesman at Clark Music Store.[5]

Harvey Schwartz, Peter Gabriel's A&R associate, was presenting Gabriel new artists at his apartment in New York City, with one of the demo tapes being Arthur's first EP, Cut and Blind. Gabriel offered him a deal with Real World Records. Both Gabriel and Schwartz arranged a live audition at the Fez in New York City, where Arthur flew up from Atlanta. The night was clearly a success; not only was Lou Reed a guest in the audience, but within a few months Arthur was officially signed,[5] making him the first American recording artist signed to Gabriel's label.[6] Recording for his debut album began at Gabriel's Real World Studios in England with producer Markus Dravs (Björk engineer; co-producer of Coldplay's 2008 album Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends). The debut album Big City Secrets was released worldwide in spring 1997, and Arthur joined Gabriel's WOMAD tour in Europe.[7] Two years later, he recorded a mini-album called Vacancy, which earned him a Grammy nomination in 2000 for best recording package.

2000–2003: Come to Where I'm From and Redemption's Son

In April 2000, he released Come to Where I'm From which, for the first time, exposed him to a larger audience (also thanks to opening up for Ben Harper and Gomez). During the same period, a live album recorded at the Gypsy Tea Room in Dallas, Texas saw a promotional release. After releasing a series of 4 tour-only EPs called Junkyard Hearts, his third album, Redemption's Son, came out in May 2002 in the UK (and November 2002 in the US, after being dropped by EMI in North America).[8]

In the middle of a long and successful tour during which performances were, to a large extent, recorded and sold immediately after the last note had been played, he found time to release one more album: an alternative rock project called Holding the Void (featuring Arthur on vocals and guitar, Pat Sansone on vocals and bass, and Rene Lopez on vocals and drums).[9]

In Summer 2003, he went on tour with Tracy Chapman in the US.[10] After signing a new recording contract with Vector Recordings, Arthur began recording his fourth official studio album, Our Shadows Will Remain.

2004–2006: Our Shadows Will Remain

Our Shadows Will Remain was released in October 2004. While touring the US alone and with Joan Wasser in promotion for the album, a new EP called And the Thieves Are Gone came out in December 2004. Shortly afterwards, Arthur went on a brief tour with R.E.M. throughout Europe.[11]

Arthur spent 2005 again on tour in both the US and Europe. Arthur staged his first art exhibition in 2006 at the Vertigo Gallery in London from February 10 to February 12.[12] In August 2006, Joseph was invited to help launch the project A River Blue, where one hundred young people in northern Uganda were brought together to participate in a music, drama, and art festival.[13] Joseph also recorded the song "A River Blue" for the foundation:

"A River Blue" is a song I recorded with over one hundred orphans of the LRA nightmare in Northern Uganda. I wrote the song before I went to Uganda...I felt a little embarrassed about singing this with them as I could never understand the depth of their plight. During my visit there I was more interested in their own songs and paintings and...their incredible beauty. However upon coming home and mixing this whole event together, the song ("A River Blue") and our collaboration has gained power for me and strikes me now as a landmark blow against poverty and ambivalence.[14]

2006–2007: Lonely Astronaut Records, Nuclear Daydream, and Let's Just Be

Also in 2006, Joseph, with longtime professional partner Lauren Pattenaude, started his own record label, Lonely Astronaut Records. He released an artbook with accompanying instrumental CD in May 2006, titled The Invisible Parade (CD) & We Almost Made It (book).[15] He simultaneously recorded his fifth official studio album Nuclear Daydream in Berlin and Los Angeles, and released the album as the first on his own label in September 2006. Following the new album, Joseph set out on a worldwide tour, the first to feature his new backing band The Lonely Astronauts.

His song "In the Sun" was covered by Michael Stipe of R.E.M. and Chris Martin of Coldplay in 2006 for a Hurricane Katrina Relief EP (available exclusively on iTunes). The EP includes 6 versions of the cover, one of which has Arthur himself singing with Stipe, and another remixed by Justin Timberlake. On March 26, 2007, 14th Floor Records (Joseph's label in the UK at the time) released a re-recorded version of his 2002 song "Honey and the Moon" as a special single in the UK only. April 17, 2007 saw the US release of his sixth studio album, Let's Just Be, the first album recorded with his band The Lonely Astronauts. 16 of the reported 80 songs[16] that he and the band recorded in late 2006 yielded the Let's Just Be album (though it is uncertain whether the remaining 64 songs will ever see the light of day or not). A US tour followed the album's release.


Joseph quickly started working on the follow-up to Let's Just Be. In January 2008, it was announced that Joseph would be releasing 4 brand new EPs and one new full-length album throughout 2008, beginning with Could We Survive on March 18; the second EP, titled Crazy Rain, released on April 15; the third, titled Vagabond Skies, released on June 10; and the fourth, titled Foreign Girls, on July 8.[17] Joseph played seven solo shows during the SXSW 2008 Festival: six in Austin and one in Dallas.[18] Live dates in Europe and an extensive US solo tour coincided with the new releases.[19] Temporary People, his seventh full-length studio album (and second with The Lonely Astronauts), was released on September 30, 2008. Following the release of Temporary People in Europe in late October, Joseph embarked on a solo tour, as the opening act for Tracy Chapman on her 6-week "Our Bright Future" European tour,[20] followed by tour dates in Canada.

Arthur recorded a cover of "Step Into the Light" by The Afghan Whigs (original on their 1996 album Black Love) for the tribute album Summer's Kiss: A Tribute to The Afghan Whigs. Following UK tour dates with The Lonely Astronauts in July, Joseph embarked on a solo tour of France in October 2009.[21] A reissue of his 2006 album Nuclear Daydream with six previously unreleased bonus tracks coincided with the French tour.[22]

Joseph's first solo studio album since Nuclear Daydream is expected to be released in 2010.[23]

Personal life

Throughout his life, Arthur has battled alcoholism and substance abuse. In a 2008 interview with NPR, he said:

I think once you're an addict, you're always an addict. I think I drank my first beer when I was in sixth grade, and I just remember knowing I was an alcoholic then. It's definitely something I've been dealing with for quite a long time, and it's something that I feel I'm on the good end of right now... It's kind of a result of how prolific this year has been, is just through sobriety... I'm not one of these sober people that thinks drugs are bad, but I do know for me, in this point of my life, clarity is definitely much more interesting and exciting to me.[24]
"I can be really down and go to my guitar and write something, and it can elevate the situation. ...That's such a wonderful gift. In and of itself, that's enough."[25]

The Museum of Modern Arthur

The opening of Arthur's art gallery, The Museum of Modern Arthur, occurred in June 2007. Located at 25 Jay Street in Brooklyn's DUMBO District[26], MOMAR is an exhibition space for art and works created by Arthur himself. A mission statement on the MOMAR website explains the goals of the gallery:[27]

  • MOMAR seeks to broaden the parameters of the fine art world by fostering a multi-disciplinary interaction among innovators in painting, music, poetry, performance and the visual arts.
  • MOMAR encourages innovation and challenges convention in art, but reveres the traditional artistic values of beauty, craft, spirituality and history.
  • MOMAR rejects the notion that art can be valued or devalued on a purely commercial level.
  • MOMAR seeks to create a new approach to art patronage that includes but extends beyond the conventions of financial support and criticism, and allows for nontraditional contributions to and from the community, including volunteering, charity work and education.
  • MOMAR is founded on the principle that art has a conscience, is relevant and can foment positive social change. MOMAR believes that artists are responsible for illuminating truth.
  • MOMAR answers the eternal question "What is art?" with another question: "What isn't?"
  • MOMAR encourages interaction between artists and audience, and partners at will with like-minded organizations.
  • MOMAR is finite. It is not an ongoing concern. Its building and its organization will disappear.
  • MOMAR can, and will, party.

According to an article on, Joseph and the MOMAR were evicted from the building: "...and the big bad landlord is giving us the boot. (We pay our rent but other things factor into this up and coming thriving metropolis known as Dumbo.)" Joseph held a record release party for Temporary People before the closing of the gallery in September 2008.[28] As of February 2009, however, the gallery is still operating out of the same location, but has morphed into an online gallery.

You Are Free documentary

On October 2, 2008, a documentary film entitled You Are Free premiered at the 2008 Pop Montréal Film Festival in Montréal, Quebec, Canada. The film, directed by Bryan Johnson and cinematography by Grisha Alasadi, documents the first show of Joseph Arthur's 2005 tour at The Troubadour in Los Angeles, California, and is described on his website as "an unforgettable blend of music, art, and drama. You Are Free goes beyond merely documenting the performance, it allows the viewer to truly get to know this unique artist. Performances are inter-cut with scenes of Arthur speaking with moving sincerity about his career, his life, and his spiritual journey as a person and a musician."[29] A film trailer is also available for viewing online (link). Screenings outside of Canada or a DVD release have not been mentioned.

Live performances

Arthur's one man band live performances incorporate looping techniques and several distortion techniques. His live performances are recorded through to the last note and then burnt to CD-R. They are sold immediately to fans after the concert.[30] Beginning with his fall 2006 tour, Arthur incorporated a full band, The Lonely Astronauts.

The Lonely Astronauts are:

  • Joseph Arthur – vocals, guitar
  • Kraig Jarret Johnson – guitar, keyboards, vocals
  • Jennifer "Jen" Turner – guitar, vocals
  • Sibyl Buck – bass, vocals
  • Greg "G. Wiz" Wieczorek – drums, vocals

Musical instruments

Of the guitars that Joseph utilizes, his primary acoustic guitar is an Irish Lowden 012C.[31] Some of Joseph's other guitars include:

  • Garrison G-50-CE
  • Gibson ES-335
  • '70s Fender Strat

He makes great use of an Alesis Micron analog modeling synthethizer which boasts the same sound engine as the acclaimed Alesis Ion.

He often plays a diatonic harmonica in the key of G.

Sound processors

To incorporate his looping techniques, Arthur uses a myriad of rackmounted units of the Lexicon JamMan.

He plays his guitars through an impressive floor of effects pedals including a Vox Tonelab SE multi-effects, Mooger Fooger MF-102 Ring Modulator, a Boss Octaver and DD5, an Electro-Harmonix POG Memory Man, a Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler, a Countryman DI unit, a Fulltone Vibrato, a DigiTech Whammy, a MXR Phase 100, a Z.Vex Seek Wah, and many more.[32]

Vocals are processed by a TC-Helicon VoiceLive floor unit.


Studio albums


Song appearances in television and film

Joseph Arthur soundtracked the 1998 film Hell's Kitchen[33], as well as making a cameo appearance in the film.[34] Joseph also provided three songs for the 2006 documentary Deliver Us from Evil.[35] Joseph starred as a character's father in the 1999 film The Dream Catcher[36], though he did not provide any music to the soundtrack. Many of his songs have made appearances in film and television:

  • "Exhausted"
    • Long Way Down (first aired October 28, 2007 through December 2, 2007)
  • "My Home Is Your Head"
  • "Walk Away"
    • Lie to Me (episode "Undercover," first aired April 29, 2009)
    • Hung (episode "Do it, Monkey!" first aired August 2, 2009)
  • "Killer's Knife"
    • Numb3rs (episode "7 Men Out," first aired October 9, 2009)


  1. ^ Joseph Arthur - Biography - CRACKERJACK BOX
  2. ^ Joseph Arthur - Biography - CRACKERJACK BOX / Paste Music Interview, November 2004
  3. ^ Rock 'n' Roll and the Cleveland Connection - Google Book Search
  4. ^ Joseph Arthur biography -
  5. ^ a b Joseph Arthur - Biography - CRACKERJACK BOX / Creative Loafing Interview, 1997
  6. ^ Lonely Astronaut Records Artists
  7. ^ Joseph Arthur - Biography - CRACKERJACK BOX / KCRW Radio interview, July 1999
  8. ^ LONELY ASTRONAUTS - SONGOGRAPHY - "Redemption's Son" / Open Letter, 2002
  9. ^ Joseph Arthur's Official Online Shop: Holding the Void
  10. ^ Tracy Chapman beefs up North American tour itinerary (article May 21, 2003)
  11. ^ NEW THRILLS FOR REM FANS! | News | NME.COM (article November 22, 2004)
  12. ^ Joseph Arthur Readies Three New Albums (article February 8, 2006)
  13. ^ A River Blue
  14. ^ A River Blue: Joseph Arthur
  15. ^ - We Almost Made It
  16. ^ Joseph Arthur - NEWS ("Let's Just Be" press release, January 8, 2007)
  17. ^ Joseph Arthur - NEWS ('Five New Releases' press release, January 10, 2008)
  18. ^ South by Southwest Festivals + Conferences
  20. ^ Joseph Arthur - Tour Dates (Fall 2008 solo tour starts November 12 in Brussels)
  23. ^ Joseph Arthur - NEWS (posted December 30, 2009)
  24. ^ Joseph Arthur: Nonstop Rock: NPR Music
  25. ^ Joseph Arthur Comes Clean - Paste Magazine Interview, October 1, 2004
  26. ^ Dumbo NYC, Brooklyn >> Archive >> Joseph Arthur
  27. ^ Museum of Modern Arthur - About Us
  28. ^ New Joseph Arthur Video / MOMAR, August 26, 2008
  29. ^ Joseph Arthur - NEWS
  30. ^ Joseph Arthur ~ Online Store - Live Shows
  31. ^ Acoustic Guitar Central
  32. ^ Taken from Guitar and Bass magazine, pages 76-78, October 2005.
  33. ^ Joseph Arthur -
  34. ^ Hell's Kitchen (1998) - Full cast and crew
  35. ^ Deliver Us from Evil (2006) - Full cast and crew
  36. ^ The Dream Catcher (1999)

External links

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