Most recognized for her time on season 14 of American Idol and as a member of the vintage jazz group, Postmodern Jukebox, Joey Cook is an unforgettable, quirky musician to be reckoned with. We sat down with Joey to talk about her musical journey and to find out what she’s been up to since American Idol.
How did you get started in music?
I started out on piano. A family-friend of ours had an organ and it sat in our house for a while until one day when I was around 5-years old, a jingle came on TV and I played back the jingle. My mom was stunned and at that point she realized she wanted to put me in formal piano lessons. I hated practicing, but my mom was set on me playing until I was able to at least play sheet music (I was more of an ear player). Eventually in elementary school I played upright bass and actually came to Music & Arts to rent it and get more rosin than anybody would every need in their life! And, looking back on it, I’m thankful my mom made me stick with piano because that’s the only reason I can play the accordion now.
Who or what influenced your style of music?
My family has always been my #1 supporter of music; they’ve always just pushed, pushed, pushed for me to do it. My grandfather bought me my first ukulele, my first mandolin, and my first piano. He actually thought I was going to be a Dixie Chick my entire life (but don’t tell him I don’t play country music). My mom was actually the one with the weird taste in music though. Like when I was little, my favorite band was Styx and I loved Prince and Guns n’ Roses, Chaka Khan…it was just all over the place. But, it’s what really influenced my style of music. Actually, to this day, one of the scariest questions to answer is, “what genre of music do you play?” because my style is bit of everything.
What are your thoughts on getting private music lessons?
So, I had piano lessons as a kid and it was something I hated doing when I was younger. But, it paid off because I had that base of knowing how to read music, which prepared me to be able to pick up just about any instrument and teach myself. It’s important because it gives you an advantage.
What advice would you give to a young musician who might be overwhelmed by the music world?
I would tell them doing music lessons right now might suck and you might hate it, but it’s worth it. When I taught piano, I would have the student learn theory and learn classical piano, but at the end of every practice, I would have them learn a song that they were interested in learning; a song they could play for their friends and impress them. I think it’s important to include music that interests you as a student, so you stay engaged with it.
You play quite a few instruments. How’d you pick your arsenal of instruments?
It all started on the piano and from there, I started writing songs. I really believe the only reason I started playing instruments was so I could externalize these songs I could create. But, in middle school I started messing around with the guitar, but my hands are so small so I ended up on ukulele which led me to the mandolin. And, randomly, I started obsessing over accordions because I’ve always been a huge fan of French music. So I got an accordion and was pretty darn good at it. Most recently I have been messing around with a banjo. I’ve always just wanted to learn more and know more. What I have no concept of yet is wind instruments, but that might change soon being in New Orleans.
So, we’re hanging out at Music & Arts right now, what are 5 things that would be on your shopping list here?
What was it like being on American Idol?
So I was on season 14 last year and was the token quirky girl with my ukulele and squeezebox. Being on the show was a crazy experience because I had never auditioned for anything in my life, I never watch reality TV, and, I actually did the whole thing as a joke kind of to prove that they wouldn’t let somebody like me on national television and, wow, did that backfire! But, it was amazing. Whenever I think reality TV, I think it is all scripted, but none of this was; that was all me on the show. The show was the first time in my life where I saw myself as a singer and not a musician or an instrumentalist. It gave me a huge confidence boost.
Are you working on any new projects these days?
I actually just finished recording my first “big girl” album. To be 100% honest, I have never been more proud of anything else I’ve ever done. I chose to do the album independently and without a producer, which is terrifying, but I put my whole self into this and I am so excited for people to hear it. It’s the type of album where I have been able to be professional, but in a very personal way. Every song is a different genre and is co-produced with someone else. And, side note, we actually did a “fan art” contest and the winning cover design is actually by a 9-year-old. The project overall has been insane, but I am so proud of it and can’t wait for it to come out this summer.
I’m also finishing up the Tiny Tour 2015. This tour is really about my love for playing small venues. I miss the personal part of playing a coffee shop gig, like playing a chord, stopping it, and hearing dead silence. In large venues that rarely happens, so this tour is me trying to revive that feeling.
And then, starting November 3, I kick-off a tour with Postmodern Jukebox who is touring all over Canada and Europe. It should be awesome because I have always been a HUGE fan of the group. Actually, while I was on American Idol, I got a message from Scott (the creator of Postmodern Jukebox) telling me he loved my cover of “Fancy.” From there, things just took off with them.
What about the big picture for you, Joey? Where do you see yourself down the road?
It has been me, my ukulele and accordion forever and I think down the road, I just want a band. I want to play with other musicians and mix-up styles. The end goal is really to be connected with my friends’ music and to have each of us push for each other’s music; I think it’d be easier if we all helped each other.
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