By ERIC SCHELKOPF
Chicago musician Joe Rian writes songs that tap into the human soul.
His latest album, “Midwest Boy,” is set for release on Friday. Rian was adopted as an infant and raised in Rock Falls.
Rian and his band The A.M. Drinkers will perform at a record release party at 8 p.m. Wednesday at The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave., Chicago. Also on the bill is Chicago based singer-songwriter Vivian Garcia.
Tickets are available at hideoutchicago.com.
I had the chance to talk to him about the new album.
Q – Great talking to you. In a recent interview you talked about how, through your songs, you try to tap into experiences that people might go through. How do you think your own experiences have shaped your songwriting?
I'm not sure if my experiences merit songs but, as time goes on, you can put more experiences into your conscience. I've been through recessions, wars, suicides, obesity, molestation, alcoholism, drug death or abuse; the list goes on and on.
I figure if I or my immediate circle has been through that, there are probably many others that have too. I think that once I tapped into what I have been through or what my circle has had to go through and experience, you can pull a little deeper than the same old love song stuff.
Q – In making "Midwest Boy," what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?
Making records is the fun part. I just wanted to make a record of songs that were real stuff, with no particular sound or production.
The hard part is finding the funding to get it heard. When you are an independent like myself, everything comes from your pocket.
My goal was to find funding for Midwest Boy and I wasn't going to put out another record without some type of funding. That's when I went into the music NFT space, took a year to learn the platform and built a community of NFT collectors. They act as the label and provide the funding for publicists and that type of thing.
Q – I know that after you moved to Chicago, you started working at Buddy Guy's Legends. Did you get any one-on-one time with Buddy Guy? If you did, what did you guys talk about?
I would always ask Buddy how to play certain guitar licks or ask him about some of the famous pictures on display or his stories. Like, there's a photo of him and Junior Wells on one of Junior's records.
They looked happy and toasted. I asked him what was happening when that shot was taken.
He told me they were playing poker with Clapton and some others. I think he said that Clapton took the pic but I could be wrong.
I asked why he'd always come to the open mic nights and hear the struggling beginners. He said that the mistakes would give him ideas.
We discussed things like the train ride across Canada where he opened for the Grateful Dead and used Steve Miller in his backing band.
Q – You also started busking around the city. What did that experience teach you? Do you think that helped you to connect with listeners?
I think that busking is the loneliest and rawest type of performing. It does provide you with some great connection methods.
It also teaches you quick that you need to negotiate a corner. Sometimes I would need to buy my corner.
If four guys are working a bridge, one musician is going to steal the money from the passersby. To get that corner, sometimes you would need to pay off whomever staked it out and figure out which adjacent ones had been claimed.
Connection methods on the street are different than on stage. You can't make the city or a group of gatherers go silent like you can in a club where there is no outside noise.
It did teach me things, though. You had to be more flamboyant on a street to get the hustle going.
You don't really need that on a small stage.
Q – What do you like about the Chicago music scene? How have you tried to set yourself apart from other Chicago musicians?
We are apart from the other acts since no one really knows me and I don't travel in the "cool kids club." I gave up caring if people liked my stuff a long while ago.
Either you get it or you don't. We definitely don't sound like other acts.
I'm just a guy with a good band who writes tavern music. The Chicago music scene is very cliquey. There are some popular clubs that book the same bands over and over and over.
I'd rather be a band from Chicago than a band in Chicago. The money is better out of town and, believe it or not, small towns are dying for original music.
Here you compete with the same acts that play the same clubs and have to deal with a bit of gatekeeping. Get out of town; you'd be amazed how hungry people are for something original.