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"Music is the only constant I've had in my life," reflects Joe Fox. "I don’t remember living anywhere when I was younger for more than a year at most, so I'd been to 10 schools by the time I was 16. Music was my only real source of stability. It gave me an identity."
With his brilliant new single, "Aftershow," Fox is ready to share that identity with the world. Raw and emotional, Fox's music is bare, stripped down to its most essential elements. The young London native possesses an intoxicatingly soulful voice, and he delivers his poignant lyrics with an intimacy that communicates worlds of emotion beneath the surface. In a world of processed pop, Fox is as organic as it comes, a charismatic performer who draws his influence from the musical greats who guided him through a topsy turvy childhood.
"I discovered CDs by The Kinks, Lauryn Hill, Prince, and The Beatles in a foster home," remembers Fox. "I didn't really have a mom and a dad around, so people like John Lennon and Bob Marley and Janis Joplin became my role models. I would watch old interviews and take my moral lessons from rock stars."
Music didn't just raise Fox; it also saved him. Only a few years ago, he was without a home, playing music on the streets of London and selling self-made CDs to save up for rent when a chance encounter with A$AP Rocky changed everything.
"I did my usual routine," Fox told Fader in an interview. "I said, 'Do you guys want a CD?' Rocky said, 'No, but play something.'"
Fox didn't recognize the rap star at the time (his listening habits skew more towards the 60's and 70's), but the two instantly bonded, and before Fox knew it, they were in the studio writing and recording together. When the album was released, 'At.Long.Last.A$AP' included a whopping 5 co-writes with Fox, whose name appears as a featured artist on tracks alongside artists like Kanye West, M.I.A., and Future.
"We just connected as two real people," reflects Fox. "He saw someone who loved music as much as he did. No matter how rich or famous someone is, there's no replacement for that."
Those performances earned Fox praise from Complex, i-D, GQ, and more, in addition to landing him his own record deal with Blue Flowers / Island Records. When the label requested he head into the studio to cut acoustic demos of his songs, the prolific Fox recorded 40 in one night. Though they were only ever intended to be reference tracks, those late-night performances with just an acoustic guitar and vocals were so affecting that the label released six of them as Fox's debut EP, the 'Acoustic Alley Sessions.' The Line Of Best Fit called the songs "brilliant," while Fader praised the music as "raw" and "unfiltered," and Clash announced that "Joe Fox could be what's missing from you life."
On his new single, "Aftershow," Fox's sound evolves beyond the pure acoustics of his debut. Featuring members of the legendary Dap-Kings and Menahan Street Bands (drummer Homer Steinweiss, guitarist Thomas Brenneck, and bassist Nick Movshon) along with production by Leon Michels—best known as the co-founder of the Truth & Soul production team and record label, a collaborator with The Black Key's Dan Auerbach in their band The Arcs, and as a founder of the Wu-Tang Clan-affiliated El Michels Affair— the song blurs the lines between folk and R&B.
"It's been a beautiful transition to recording with a band because they're all such amazing players," says Fox. "The performances are tight, but there's a lot of freedom in them, as well, which is so hard to do."
Fox wrote the song in California while musing about mortality and the fleeting nature of fame. "With my heavy load / No I don't care if I self-implode / We're gonna live until it's time to go / and take our place in that aftershow," he sings. The NME praised the track's "stuttering drums" and "heavenly backing vocals," raving that "Aftershow" "is "Fox at his most assured and polished," while The Independent marveled that his "voice sounds as though it belongs to another decade," and Hypebeast declared "he’s ready to make 2017 his breakout year."
Fox paired the single with the b-side "Sweet Song," a tender, acoustic ode to a lover that shows just how engrossing one man with a guitar can be and more than lives up to its name.
"I think the meaning and value of love is lost in mainstream pop music now," muses Fox. "In the 50's and 60's, think of all the amazing love songs, or think of everything coming out of Motown or The Beatles. The message was love. I like music where you can get real deep emotions, and that's harder and harder to come by today."
Deep emotions are Fox's stock in trade, and "Aftershow" and "Sweet Song" are but a taste of what's to come. With a full-length debut recorded with members of the Dap Kings and Menahan Street Bands in the works and countless nights on the road ahead of him, Fox is itinerant again, constantly on the move with no particular place he calls home. But this time, it's by choice.
"I moved so much as a child that the musician's lifestyle is the only one I've ever known," he reflects. "Now, I'm most comfortable when I'm moving. A lot of people want to know what's going to happen tomorrow, but I've never known that."
The future is bright and it's wide open, and that's just the way Joe Fox likes it.