” Singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur, an Akron native knows how to start a two-month trek the right way. The tour supporting his latest album Let’s Just Be began with a performance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien April 13. Arthur and his band the Lonely Astronauts play the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland on Sunday night and the Lime Spider in Akron on May 20.””
Singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur, an Akron native knows how to start a two-month trek the right way.
The tour supporting his latest album Let’s Just Be began with a performance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien April 13. Arthur and his band the Lonely Astronauts play the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland on Sunday night and the Lime Spider in Akron on May 20.
A week before his Late Night appearance, he played Born in the USA at a tribute to one of his idols, Bruce Springsteen. After the performance, the Boss praised Arthur for tackling such a challenging song.
It was surreal to be sitting there talking to him, Arthur said from his home in Brooklyn. He’s the songwriter’s songwriter. It was a weird series of events. I was standing there watching the Hold Steady from the side of the stage and he’s standing right next to me. I was like, ‘Jesus.’
Springsteen isn’t the only artist Arthur admires who has recognized his work. Chris Martin of Coldplay and Michael Stipe of REM recorded Arthur’s song In the Sun for a Hurricane Katrina benefit album.
Working with Stipe introduced Arthur to aid group Six Village, which took him on a mission trip to northern Uganda. There, Arthur taught chidren to paint, some of whom who were orphaned by paramilitary group Lord’sResistance Army.
Arthur brought home 300 of the paintings and is working on opening a gallery in New York to showcase them. He said going to Uganda was a life-changing experience.
Every time I think about it, I think I have to do more, Arthur said. Going there was enlightening in a lot of ways and I feel like I’ve given something, but I feel like it’s not enough. I want to genuinely help, and I don’t think I have yet.
Marathon recording sessions
For Let’s Just Be, Arthur and his band locked themselves in the studio for three weeks and recorded 80 songs.
In the past, Arthur always worked solo. After taking a four-piece band with him on tour of this last album, Nuclear Daydream, Arthur kept them around for the recording session.
I’m excited about it because now it feels like a genuine band and not just a solo record, he said.
Let’s Just Be is much looser and bombastic than Arthur’s previous releases. Bluesy lead single Diamond Ring would fit nicely on any Rolling Stones album and Arthur often launches his groggy voice into a falsetto suitable for any Beck recording.
Arthur wants to keep the band together for a long time and become even more collaborative. That’s already evident on Let’s Just Be where he shares songwriting credits on six of the songs with bandmate Kraig Jarret Johnson, who previously played with the Jayhawks and Golden Smog.
Arthur said performing in Cleveland or Akron is like coming home.
It’s definitely got a certain type of energy to it, he said. Hometown shows, you always get people you went to high school with and my parents will come.
Arthur left Ohio for New York four days after graduating from Firestone High School in 1990. In New York, he caught the attention of Peter Gabriel and was the first artist signed to his Real World record label. Having support from Gabriel gave Arthur confidence, but there were other ramifications.
It’s a dramatic boost of confidence, but you’re also going onto a larger playing field and your work is going to be scrutinized more, he said. That’s when you really need that confidence boost even to just put your stuff out there.
Although Arthur’s career has had a steady increase in popularity, he said he’s still working hard to become a better musician. This fall, he’ll release another album. Like Let’s Just Be, the songs were culled from the 80-song session.
There’s a deep need to keep recording because I still work for my survival, he said. I’m not comfortable on the material level, so there’s a lot of motivation that comes from the animal side of my nature so I stay hungry and motivated that way.