In a summer state of mind: A Q&A with Joe Moorhead

Courtesy of Joe Moorhead

Anthony Bartoli, Assistant A&E Editor

Just because it’s cold enough outside for icicles to form from your nose doesn’t mean the winter blues have to keep you down. This Thursday, the Wilkes University Programming Board will hold a special “Summer in Winter” luau party.

The event, which hopes to bring a taste of the tropical to the snow-frosted Wilkes campus, will feature a variety of activities to thaw the chill from your bones.

“Everyone’s really excited for the Summer in Winter party, especially because we’ll have a live band, Maui Wowi smoothies and make-your-own splatter-art sunglasses,” programming board member Thalia Garzon said, rattling off just a few of the offerings available to those who attend. In addition to the live entertainment, there will be hula hoop contests, hula dancing contests, leis, beach balls, Hawaiian punch and pizza.

At the focal point of the festivities will be Cleveland, Ohio-based band Joe Moorhead, playing original acoustic beach music to help students forget the below-zero temperatures outside. With two releases, 2011’s “Hammocks, Huts & Coconuts” and 2012’s “Chasing the Sun,” under his belt, the man himself, Joe Moorhead (for whom the band is named), is hard at work on a new album. Nevertheless, he managed to make time to sit down and answer a few questions for The Beacon, so Wilkes students can get to know the band a little better before the luau.

So throw on your Bermuda shorts or your itsy-bitsy teenie-weenie yellow polka-dot bikini, break out the sunblock and get yourself in a summer state of mind.

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First things first, how did the band start?

Me, Jon Morrow (lead guitar), and Matt Vertock (drums) all grew up together. Everyone went their own separate ways after high school, but after years apart we all managed to move back around each other and form the band under the music I had written as a singer-songwriter. We were still in need of a bass player. That was quickly fixed when Tyler Lovell heard about our project from a friend and relocated up to Cleveland, Ohio, to be a part of it. Shortly after that, we hit the road and haven’t looked back since.

How have your band and your music grown since the beginning?

When we first started playing as a band, we were playing for less fans and less pressure. We have worked and concentrated on growing the music to a wider audience and more technical playing. The vibe has never changed, and probably never will as we all feel strongly about the message about fun, love, and living life through the good and the bad.

Who were your biggest inspirations?

Everyone in the group has their own inspirations and musical tastes. I believe this comes out in the music and makes for a really unique sound that has grown into a staple of ours. Personally, I grew up on classic rock records. My biggest inspirations, and what most people compare us to, is Jack Johnson meets Sublime, two of my favorite bands.

Tell me about yourself.

I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. When most people hear that, they ask where the heck the island vibe came from. I spent, and still spend, a lot of time in the Caribbean Islands, U.S. and British. I have pretty much always been a free spirit and loved music. Taking those two things into account, I had no choice but to start a band.

What song or album means the most to you? Why?

One of the very first songs I wrote with the band was called “Susie’s Song.” I wrote it for my wife and it means the most to me of anything I have ever written. Even though I consider her my muse for a lot of the music I write, that was the start of the whole project.

Do you have a favorite venue?

Our favorite venue to play regularly is definitely The Greenville Inn outside of Cleveland, Ohio. We love it because we are home and get to see all of our families and friends after a long tour. My favorite venue ever is Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke Island in the British Virgin Islands.

What other venues have you played?

This is too long of a list! We have played all over the country and other parts of the world.

What has been the band’s biggest accomplishment since it started?  

This new album has probably been our biggest accomplishment. We have worked really hard on making this something we are all extremely proud of. We had the opportunity to have some amazing musicians behind us who believe in the music and wanted to be a part of it, which was more like a dream coming true than an accomplishment, but that’s what I’m sticking with.

Where do you see the band in one year? Five years? The future?

I can only hope to be fortunate enough to be playing music with my friends and touring the country like we are now in one year, five years, or 50 years from now. As long as we can have a roof over our heads and enough food to survive, I think we all would prefer this life over any other life.

So you’re recording a new album. What can we expect?

This album is definitely a big step forward for us. We had an opportunity to record with Leon Mobley (who’s worked with Ben Harper, Jack Johnson and the Dave Matthews Band) and Jeff Sipe (Jimmy Herring Band, Trey Anastasio and Keller Williams) on this album. We had too much fun recording with those guys and it really shows through. The songs are definitely a great representation of the growth and direction we hope to keep moving towards.

What are you looking forward to most about coming to Wilkes University?

We love playing colleges in general, but driving through the Pocono Mountains is always amazing. Just from the few people we have talked to over at Wilkes, we can’t wait to hangout, play some tunes and meet some cool people.

Where can fans purchase your albums and find out more information about the band?

Fans can visit our website, joemoorhead.com for music downloads, tour schedule, videos, etc. They can also download our music from iTunes, Rhapsody and pretty much every other digital distributor.