A remarkable journey was one of the influences on the latest album from Joe Topping who plays Southbourne’s Tuppenny Barn on Saturday, February 25.
“I did a very silly walk about ten years ago, travelling across America from Chicago to New Orleans,” recalls Joe. “It was about 1,400 miles, just walking with my guitar on my back. It took about three months.”
It wasn’t possible to plan everything in advance: “I didn’t know which roads I could go down.
“I couldn’t walk down the interstates. That would be illegal to walk down them! So really I was having to adjust my route, but I started walking down Route 66 which was great.
“For a long part of that, it was the old Route 66 with the new one next to it. I could walk down the middle. It was a hell of a journey.
“It was just after Hurricane Katrina, and I wanted to do something for musicians in New Orleans. There were also selfish reasons. I thought it would be fun!
“Since then I have got married and had children, so I am not allowed to do anything stupid any more. Touring is now my outlet for my itchy-feet travelling bug.”
Joe plays Southbourne alongside his friend, acoustic guitarist Scott Poley. Scott (Pedal Steel) started his professional career at the age of 13 playing blues, pop and rock music. By age 18, he was playing with top British musicians and artists.
“We are a sort of duo, but it is all my material we are playing, helped by his fast fingers. He is a wonderful musician.”
Joe hails from The Wirral: “Liverpool is a fantastic place.
“There is a lot going on musically, and the musicians I have found in Liverpool have inspired me a lot.
“My music is roots music, folk, Americana and also quite a lot of influence from Ireland, like you get a lot of in Liverpool.
“My dad was born in Ireland, and I grew up with Irish music. I also grew up listening to a lot of American folk music as well. I have travelled a lot in America which has inspired me.
“I turned professional when I was about 26. I am about to turn 39.
“I was working as a labourer, so it was a fairly-easy decision to turn professional!”
And things went well from the start.
“The opportunity came up to join a band that was touring regularly, and in tandem with that, I was doing my solo work which I am looking to do more of.”
He is loving the independence, the control and the self-reliance which go hand in hand with being a solo performer.
“There is more job satisfaction. There is more pleasure. You get to do your own songs. I would like to tour with a band doing my own songs, but that would be expensive.
“I am lucky to be able to do my own songs with a guitar. I like the idea of that self-sufficiency.”
Joe has played on stage and in the studio with many legends of the British folk scene including members of Fairport Convention, While and Matthews, Andy Irvine and most recently as stand-in lead vocalist in the BBC2 award-winning best live act Home Service whilst John Tams recovered from surgery.
Joe also currently plays in the bands Elbow Jane and The Rainbow Chasers (with Ashley Hutchings).
More details and tickets on www.tuppennybarn.co.uk/musicthebarn.
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