INTERVIEW: Joe McCorriston On Making It As A DIY Musician
Acoustic-punk singer/songwriter Joe McCorriston started writing songs at four years old.
After a brief period of wondering why he wasn’t Robbie Williams, he put everything into music. Last Friday he released his third album. It’s a tough gig being a DIY musician, but it pays off.
The Party We Came For has been a long time coming. It’s been a year and a half since the Morecambe lad tracked the album’s first single, ‘Alive’. Since then it’s been a case of “spamming, pestering and promoting” everything to do with the album, but every hard-earned success along the way is worth it.
Joe’s been writing songs since he was four years old. He admits “they weren’t well structured, thought provoking songs. They were clearly songs written by a four year old”, but the love for song writing has always been there.
Although, thankfully, his songwriting has improved in the 18 years since then, he looks back fondly on the time: “I had one called People From the Dead, and one called Millionaire. It was the hit at family parties.
“I’ve just always been writing from a young age, and it’s something I’ve literally always wanted to do.”
At seven, his love of music took a turn for the serious: “I couldn’t sleep at night because I’d be lying there thinking “why can’t I be Robbie Williams?
“I think it must be in my blood. I love writing and playing, and the thought of not doing it makes me feel sick.”
Joe chose to throw his all into music when he finished sixth form. He confesses his luck; naivety, youth and supportive parents made it an easy choice for him. To make the same choice nowadays wouldn’t be half as easy.
He tells the story like the result would always have been inevitable: “I failed my A levels, because I was missing classes and not doing homework. This was because I was traveling and playing gigs as a 17 year old. It’s all I wanted to do and I prioritized it over my school work.
“I then did Music Technology at a local college for 3 years whilst I was writing, recording and touring, and that helped me out a lot with the “other side”, to being a performer.”
Several years, three albums, and several hundred worldwide shows later, Joe knows the ins and outs of the DIY music world very well. It’s a tricky place: “It’s very hard, obviously much harder than if you were on a (good) label that could present you with opportunities you aren’t able to get being unsigned.”
It can sound like a lose-lose situation in that light, but there’s more to it. He continues: “I feel that it’s more rewarding. Every time I confirm a gig through email with a promoter, I get a ridiculously great feeling in my stomach, that I’ve achieved something, despite how small that something is.”
The DIY scene isn’t the prettiest of places to be. It might have all the romanticised glamour of sleeping on strangers’ sofas, drunken gigs that go brilliantly, and friends across the world, but it’s as much rough and tumble as it is satisfying.
“I must admit, it is getting harder to everything by myself nowadays, I’m a lot busier and I have to juggle many things, which sometimes results in me replying to emails late, maybe forgetting to do something important.
“But this is what I do, and I can’t really afford to pay a manager or a booking agent either. Who knows what will happen in the future, things can change in an instant and I’m certainly open to working with other people in regards to my music, but this second, it’s best I stay on my own.”
It’s the way a lot of musicians are going. The DIY scene is growing slowly, perhaps too fast to support itself, and more artists are doing the whole process themselves. Why is that? Joe’s answer: “because they can. You can record a demo, and EP, even a full album in your own home now, and this means more people are trying it out. Record a demo EP, send it to venues and promoters, get a couple of gigs, put a tour together, next thing you’ve played 100 shows and you’re really going for it – trying to do it professionally.”
But there’s still no escaping the fact that making music yourself is a struggle. The musicians feeding DIY music may be increasing, but independent venues are getting shut every month, and the question is if the audience is big enough to support this surge. Joe is pretty clear on what he thinks is vital for the scene to survive: “More support. Internally and externally.
“We as artists need to support each other more, go to more of each others gigs, buy each others albums, contact share and gig swap. It really does start with ourselves. But we also need the support of gig goers, because when unsigned/DIY is involved, unless the band have a following, there really is a lack of support.
“Promoters are in the same boat when they put in DIY shows. Honest hardworking promoters will try to put great shows on for us, somewhere we can go and listen to new, undiscovered music, but they will be pushed out of the venue they work in eventually because not enough people support the event. Obviously this isn’t the case everywhere, but it happens more than it should.
“We need to help each other out.”
But this Morecambe lad has survived this far and is only growing stranger, having recently sold out his album launch show in January. The Party We Came For sums up a two year period of Joe’s life, a step forward from his previously album assembly technique: “I feel the other records I’ve released are just a bunch of songs thrown together.”
This album is also the first to feature Joe’s backing band, The Blockbuster Blues. The nostalgic reflection this name implies reflects perfectly on Joe’s style of songwriting, with live shows punctuated by storytelling.
And after all the hard work put into it, it’d be wrong not to ask how the album’s unveiling feels. Joe said: “It feels like a huge weight off my shoulders now. It’s been a fun, but very stressful build up to the album. Everything has come at once – the new album, new website, new t-shirts, new side project band, and of course the album launch.
“Then the pressure comes along when you realise the record needs to live up to the hype you’ve been building around it.
“I’m delighted The Party We Came For is finally out.”