Joseph Arthur

If there’s such a thing as the opposite of writer’s block, Joseph Arthur has it. The Akron, Ohio-bred/Brooklyn, N.Y.-residing singer/songwriter, who once released four EPs in the span of as many months, has demonstrated his unwavering proclivity yet again with the release of Redemption City, a 24-song double album.

Growing up in the ’70s and ’80s in Akron, Arthur’s musical life started off like many others, with mandatory piano lessons. But once he realized he could use the piano to conjure up his own musical worlds, he took to the instrument and began writing songs, eventually playing in bands while in high school. Days after graduation, he moved to Atlanta with a band, playing bass and supporting himself with day jobs at a music store and tattoo shop. At the time, Arthur aspired to be a world-class jazz or fusion bass player in the vein of the late Jaco Pastorius. But when a demo tape of Arthur’s songs somehow made its way to Peter Gabriel and his Real World Records label, “I came to find out that Peter thought the bass playing was weak on my stuff, but what he liked was the lyrics.”

Next thing Arthur knew, he was playing at Gabriel’s WOMAD festival (despite having played solo acoustic “maybe one time before”), jamming with Gabriel and Joe Strummer in Real World studios in Bath, England, and was subsequently signed to Real World Records. “It was crazy,” Arthur says. “I think I like repeating the story more the older I get.” And while Arthur’s 1997 debut, Big City Secrets, attracted a substantial following abroad, the artist didn’t connect with Stateside listeners until Come To Where I’m From, which features his signature song, ‘In the Sun’. That track was covered by R.E.M.’s Stipe and Coldplay’s Chris Martin in 2006 on a charity single to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina, having previously been recorded a decade earlier by Gabriel for a Princess Diana tribute album.

Redemption City comes fresh off the heels of 2011′s The Graduation Ceremony, which saw Arthur team with producer John Alagia, at whose Village Studio Fistful of Mercy (within which Arthur plays alongside Ben Harper and Dhani Harrison) had played its first public gig in 2010. Alagia had previously produced ‘You’re So True’, Arthur’s 2004 contribution to the Shrek 2 soundtrack.

Previously nominated for a best recording package Grammy for his 1999 EP Vacancy, Arthur is an accomplished painter, having displayed his works in galleries around the world. His online-only Museum of Modern Arthur (www.musumofmodernarthur.com) serves as a repository for his creations.
   

Production Notes from Joseph Arthur

Redemption City started out as an attempt to make a spoken word album with some minimal and mostly electronic background but wound up being a discovery of a different kind of songwriting and a playground for musical exploration.

Albums for me tend to come in phases and this one initially took two weeks. I thought I was very close to complete, but as art has a will of its own, it led me down a path that lasted three years. Not three years of constant work! But three years of phases of development and thought. The whole thing was recorded, played and mixed in my studio in Brooklyn called 'Rebel Country' and it's the first album I've made where I played and mixed everything without taking it into an outside facility to make it sound more hi fi. Instead, I mixed it all in Pro Tools and then sent it out through a Dangerous Two Bus which can help give it a similar dimension and depth as when it gets mixed on an actual board. It was mastered onto tape to give it additional warmth and for lack of a better word VIBE.

Most of the tracks started out as electronic compositions or came from programming drum machines but evolved into tracks with real drums usually blending with the machines or coming in later to suit the arrangement. Likewise electronic or Moog bass often became Tele bass and vice versa. Also I used Moog guitar and plenty of electric and acoustic. This gave me more dynamics to play with and more options as to where the tracks could go. Many of the compositions are based around one progression with no changes so the dynamics of the songs had to come from how the instrumentation was arranged and led me to blend electronic with acoustic instruments, and which is why I was very wrong when I initially thought that it was near done in two weeks.

The whole time I worked on the record I was never sure when, if or how it would ever come out. The truth is I don't really like spoken word albums so for the life of me I don't know why I set out to make one, but my disdain for the form I was attempting led me to sneak choruses and singing into the mix and I think I got to something like songs. I hope you enjoy them/it and thank you for allowing me to be a part of your Society of Sound.

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