For every artist the creative process is different. Some find inspiration in the arts whilst others seek isolation to get into their own head. For rising star Joe Fox his chosen method is to seek solace in the big city, “The city can be frustrating, it can be really lonely, difficult and cold and really unloving, you know, a dark place to be and you just want to go to the beach or the countryside, just somewhere that is close to nature. However, there is something about being in a city that helps me write and I think that’s why I always gravitate towards London or New York, Paris; where I have written my best songs.”
Joe’s rise to fame could easily be taken out of the pages of a fairy-tale – a modern day rags to riches story, if you like. Discovered by A$AP Rocky whilst busking on the streets of London Joe’s encounter with the New York rapper couldn’t have come at a more poignant time. For some time, Joe had no permanent address and was flitting from one couch to the next staying with friends and lovers.
The day before his life changing encounter with A$AP, Joe had experienced an unpleasant exchange with his estranged grandmother who he’d called in an act of desperation to find a bed for the night. “I don’t really know her but I remember meeting her once or twice. There was some beef with her and my mum, because it’s like a white/black thing. Both families are very old school. I remember her saying, ‘No you can’t stay here, sorry I don’t like your mum and I don’t want anything to do with your family.’” Whilst this would have broken a lot of people for Joe he saw the positive in the homelessness experience and even credits it as having made him a better writer. “You ask a lot of musicians and they will probably tell you that they feel like they don’t have a set home anyway. I think the only reason why I got out of it was because it wasn’t such a scary thing. I was quite positive, I quite liked not knowing where I was going to end up. A lot of people find that quite scary but I found that quite exciting. But obviously, not having a house fucking sucks, but you know…”
Another positive aspect that his life journey so far has blessed him with is the fact that he doesn’t feel the need to conform.
I don’t feel any pressure. I’m quite lucky because some of the things I went through in my early life – some of it was really traumatic so I just don’t feel pressure. I’ll do the music, I’ll see what happens and if it doesn’t work out then it doesn’t work out.
I have made an album that I really love. I like the songs that I write. Even just writing the songs is a success for me. Obviously, like anybody else I would like a house. I would like some money. I like normal things, but when it comes to the actual writing of the tunes, once the songs have been written, that is enough for me. Like, ‘Autopilot’ which is one of my favourite songs. I don’t do it for other people’s validation.”
Growing up Joe thought that his calling would be acting and then he discovered his talent for writing. He still holds aspirations to become a writer one day but it is music that has his heart. “If you asked any of my friends, ‘…what would Joe do if he didn’t play music?’, they would probably say to you ‘God help him’”. When Joe talks about music you can almost feel the passion oozing out of his pores,
“I put so much effort in to song writing. Like that thing about if you put 10,000 hours of practice into something…well I put 50,000 hours into song writing.”
Joe’s dedication means that everyday things get side-lined – like cooking a meal for instance. “I haven’t cooked a meal in a long time…” The steadfast focus is paying off though because he’s attracted admiration from some major players in the industry including Danger Mouse, Mark Ronson and Island Records’ Darcus Beese, who gave him a record deal.
“There are a lot of people who have given me a lot of confidence in my song writing, that makes me better because I never thought I would be like a world-class song writer. I think if I keep going then I could be. If there is anything I could do – it is that, and there is nothing else I can do. I started writing songs that meant as much to me as the songs I grew up listening to. I thought, either I am crazy and this is rubbish. Or, these are good and I should pursue this. Song writing was the one thing where I thought I might be able to contribute to culture and stuff.”
His main inspiration? The city that holds some of his worst memories – London. “London is almost like a person to me. It’s got its own personality and feeling. When I say the word London it does feel like I’m talking about a friend or an ex because it’s been my city. But, I have a similar feeling with New York, Los Angeles and Paris. I have spent a lot of time in these cities, but London is my main city. And, London is the city that I think has shaped me.”
- Director: Musa
- D.O.P: Kier Garnet-Lawson
- Photography: Derrick Kakembo
- Stylist / Words: Ihunna Eberendu
- Make Up: Ana Fry