Get to know the Austin-based, indie rock/electric soul artist and NFL player, Joe Barksdale! In his words, his latest track, “BLACK MAJIK”, “is about temptation. It’s about fighting temptations, and the struggle of realizing that something is not good for you, but also acknowledging that it feels/tastes/sounds/etc so good to you. It’s a struggle that people are familiar with and something that people go through on a daily basis.”
The song will be on his upcoming release, Sincerely, due out this Fall. A former NFL player for the Oakland Raiders, Los Angeles Rams and San Diego Chargers, Barksdale has been featured in articles for sites, such as ESPN, The Los Angeles Times, Fender, San Diego Tribune, and CBS Sports, among others.
Barksdale first fell in love with the guitar at the end of his 2013 season of football with the Rams. Though always an avid music fan, it was not until he suffered a tragic loss that, in searching for a way to heal, he discovered a passion for playing guitar. Not too long after, he began playing with some of the best musicians at local blues jams in St. Louis, MO.
Continuing to hone his musical skills, influenced by the blues, rock and soul genres, Barksdale announced his first project, Butterflies, Rainbows, & Moonbeams in 2017. Subsequently, he released Electric Soul in 2019, produced by Grammy award-winning Narada Michael-Walden and formally retired from his successful football career to pursue music full-time in Austin, TX. Now, free to focus solely on recording, Barksdale is determined to become a household name in the music world.
Learn more about Joe Barksdale in the following All Access interview:
When it comes to your music, what are you most excited for this year? How has 2020 been treating you so far?
The thing that I am most excited about this year is continuing to release music and establish a musical catalogue with some cornerstone songs and ideas that I will be able to build off of to further define my sound. 2020 has been great, or as least as great as It can be in a pandemic. There has been a lot of positive feedback for my single “Black Majik” (and the music video for it is also doing well) and I will soon be releasing another single titled “Moonbeam.”
How do you think your hometown has influenced the kind of music that you make? If not, why is that?
I would say that growing up in Detroit, with the history of both Motown as well as very well established gospel artists, the biggest effect that growing up in Detroit had on me was my love for “soulful” music.
Growing up, how important was music in your life?
Very important. I cannot imagine being alive without music. For me, music is everything.
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be a musician? What exactly happened at the end of your 2013 season with the Rams that you discovered your passion for playing the guitar?
I would say that the first time that I thought that I could be a professional musician was after a 16 week standing gig at Humphries in San Diego, Ca. I noticed that people were really enjoying the music and that is what motivated me to get in the studio and record my first album. I had a very significant death in my life earlier during that season. The man who died was like a dad/big brother/mentor all rolled into one and it devastated me; it still hurts to talk about…My head coach (Jeff Fisher) talked to me about doing something during the off season to not just take my mind off of what happened, and help me process it. Something that I could funnel all that pain and suffering into, and that’s exactly what I did with the guitar. Playing guitar was the first time that I truly felt that I was able to communicate with others and let them know exactly how I am feeling without saying a word, it was so freeing.
What was it like transitioning from an athlete to a musician? Was it hard to make the huge change in your day to day life? Would you say that being a footballer has prepared you at all for making music?
It wasn’t as difficult of a transition as you would think. I’d say the hardest part is just getting people to take you seriously as an artist at first. People assume that you suck because you’re a pro athlete and a lot of them end up making music that, quite frankly, sucks. Football has definitely taught me things on and off the field that have translated into good traits for music such as: professionalism, being aware of making every member of the team feel like they matter, and the importance of working on technique just to name a few.
Let’s talk about your brand new single “Black Majik.” What was the inspiration for this song?
The song is about temptations, big and small. The temptation to lie if you know that it will benefit you, the temptation of a certain vice that you have, the temptation to eat candy! We all face different temptations on a daily basis and while some are larger than others, we all know that temptation is real. This song is about fighting that temptation even though it gets so hard and seems so impossible that sometimes we may give in to a temptation and end up regretting it later that’s where the line “why won’t I leave? She won’t let me be. It’s like I can’t breathe” sometimes your temptation just smothers you.
How do you think this song prepares listeners for more music from you? How does it compare to the rest of your forthcoming collection, “Sincerely”?
This song is setting the stage for the rest of the music that will be released the rest of this year. It gives me an opportunity to pay homage to some of my biggest influences in the Blues/Rock/Soul genres and it’s also new and original while still being fun and exciting and those are traits that I value in music and aim to always have in my music.
Did anything surprise you about the process of putting this new album together? What were the challenges?
The biggest surprise that I had when putting this album together was seeing how far my voice control has come since the release of my fist project “Butterflies, Rainbows and Moonbeams”. It’s nice to hear more vocal confidence when comparing the new stuff to the old stuff. The biggest challenge was finishing the album. I moved to Austin, Texas before the completion of the album but fortunately we live in a time that distance isn’t the hurdle that it once was so we were still able to get the album done with some FaceTime calls and satellite studio sessions.
How does this new music compare to your 2017 album, “Butterflies, Rainbows & Moonbeams” and your 2019 one, “Electric Soul”?
This music is the next step in the evolution of my music and myself as an artist. I look at each project that I releases a snapshot of where I was at the time fo recording: What I was feeling, the kind of music that I was listening to and inspired by the most, the messages that I want to get across and so forth.
How do you think you have grown as a musician since you first started making music?
I have grown in every possible way from understanding of the instrument and theory to writing more complex chord progressions and even being able to self produce a surprise project of all instrumental tracks that is coming out this summer. I can’t really think of an area that I haven’t grown in and I still want that to be my answer 20 years from now.
How do you feel about social media? What do you think social media has done for your career so far? What is it like keeping up with all your different accounts? What is your favorite way to connect with fans?
I think that social media has its benefits as well as its costs but all in all I think it is a great way to interact with and keep in touch with people. I’d say that social media has helped me reach more people, being an indie artist, then I would have a decade or two prior. Right now it’s not that difficult, but I know that that won’t always be the case. My favorite way to connect with fans is playing live at a show. There’s something about the intimacy and energy associated with a show that there is nothing quite like it in my eyes when it comes to interacting with fans.
What musicians would you absolutely love to work with in the future? Who has been inspiring you and the music that you make?
I would love to work with Arctic Monkeys, Kanye West, Young Dolph, Anderson Paak, Masego, Frank Ocean, Tyler the Creator, Kid Cudi, John Mayer, John Legend, Stevie Wonder, Gary Clark Jr., MGMT, Hiatus Kaiyote, Tame Impala, Badbadnotgood, Drake, The Weekend, The Dream, Adele, Jennifer Hudson, The Killers, and Coldplay…just to name a few. All of those people mentioned above have inspired me along with people who are no longer with us like Teddy Pendergrass, James Brown, Freddie Mercury, Prince, Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix, Duane Allman, Jackie Wilson, Johnny Cash…just to name a few.
Where would you love to hear a song of yours played?
The Grammy Awards