Joe's Solo Album

My good friend Joe Rebrovick recently released his debut album "He's a Quiet Man." He asked me to do a write-up to go along with the release show, so I thought I'd leave it here along with a link to his new album:

When I first heard “Niagara,” it stuck to me like velcro. It moaned, it tossed and turned, it touched my madness. It did that thing that poetry does so well — make you realize that your secrets are everybody’s secrets. I knew then that Joe Reb was a poet. A story-tellin’ kind of poet, a folk-singer-with-literary-moments kind of poet.

Here’s a snapshot of Joe from my perspective: Joe’s not a pack-man, he doesn’t do herd-thinking — he stands alone, almost awkwardly with height. He’s relatively burly, but a clean kind of burly. His singing voice is as big as his beard once was, but also as smooth as soft serve ice cream. In speech he’s quite charismatic. He tells a story like an old man who’s great great uncle fought for the Confederacy. He’s a warm soul, but not like an electric heater or a radiator, he’s more like a wood-burning stove. You can tell Joe anything and I’ll bet he won’t flinch. 

When Joe began sharing his songs with me I knew he had a gift. And I’m not hesitant to say he’s captured that gift in his debut EP He’s a Quiet Man, which feels like a thorough introduction of Joe’s orbit. He holds up a mirror for us with his melancholy, he doesn’t hide that he’s a fool (none of the great ones do), and he bites hard into experience with blunt and pearly teeth. He bares his fantasies unabashedly and paints gritty scenes that smell like smoky motel rooms and look like they came off a disposable camera. 

I hope you enjoy this EP as much as I did. Here’s to celebrating Joe’s first release, and to allowing me to be the first to call him — Joe the Rebelator. 

-Joey English

Joey EnglishComment
Happy 2018

There's something about January that I've grown to like. Albeit the weather is terrible, all the trees are dead, utility bills run high, the nights are long...  

After all the holiday shenanigans, the nostalgia of being with family, the sad tinge of remembering the past, the behaving strangely to avoid certain memories -- I come home and feel the need to shut down. Close the blinds, turn up the heater, turn on Frasier. After a couple days the misery of being a useless human being begins to set in. Then comes the nagging thought that you can't go on like this -- that you'll have to get up and pick up wherever you left off in December. 

That's where I'm at. And this is the part of January I've grown to like. That day when you decide to get out of your mindless cocoon, when you dust yourself off and write a to-do list:

  • send xmas stuff to attic
  • also put suitcases in attic
  • organize all the scattered paperwork in workspace
  • continue email newsletter
  • look into gym membership
  • have spiritual workout
  • read and write
  • do dishes
  • go back to soda stream, cans of seltzer getting expensive
  • FaceTime your nephews
  • spend time with wife without phone
  • get rid of telephone wires in house
  • fix the door knob
  • get wheels aligned
  • need new brake lights

And so the new year begins. It's a hazy list, but it's enough to get the wheels rolling again. 

Happy New Year!

Joey EnglishComment
A Norman Rockwell Christmas Tale
from my Norman Rockwell plate collection

from my Norman Rockwell plate collection

I've put out a small collection of Christmas songs free to download at

"Christmas On My Roof" is an original song inspired by my attempt to put Christmas lights on the roof (this turned out to be more dangerous than I anticipated). After writing the first couple lines the song somehow turned into a story of self-pity and heartache -- a relatively common holiday experience right?!

Norman Rockwell also made his way into the chorus... He's always on my mind this time of year. That's because about four years ago at an estate sale I bought a large amount of collectible Norman Rockwell Christmas plates (at least 100 plates). I figured this would be the start of an eBay empire; but, alas, they're still in my attic literally hanging over my head. Every year I bring a few plates down to add some Christmas flavor to our home and I always find a kindred spirit in Rockwell's little snapshots of the common American. 

I hope there's a kindred spirit in these Christmas tunes as well.

So, thank you Norman Rockwell, and many thanks to Ashley Roxanne Murray for donating her angelic voice on "What Child Is This."

I hope you enjoy this gift and have a merry Christmas!


Joey EnglishComment

I wanted to send a big THANK YOU out to all those who came to the EP Release show on 11/17. It was a beautiful experience being face-to-face with all of you. As I said at the show, art really is a two-way street and your presence completed the circle. 

And to all those who have supported me in some way, whether in the form of donations, listens or words, it means so much. I plan to do more non-traditional shows, and to invite an atmosphere of openness and connectedness. Hope to see you again!

Joey English
Rebelling by Growing
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A few nights ago I played a show with the Blond Bones in East Nashville. It was an old venue in a re-budding neighborhood with one of those if-these-walls-could-talk histories. It was a tiny theatre -- black walls, black ceiling, a few rows of old wooden seats facing a catty-cornered stage. Great vibes and a listening audience, what more could you ask for?

After the show a friend of mine introduced me to an older gentleman, probably a baby boomer, with short white hair and a collared shirt tucked into his blue jeans. His shoes were loafers. He seemed uncomfortable. The first thing he said to me with a nervous smile was, "You look like you live under a bridge." And just like that my good vibes disappeared. Instantly I felt it, the same dirtiness I knew as a kid, the feeling of being dipped like a piece of bread into the wine of sadness. Old voices whispered through me, "You're an embarrassment ... you'll never make it." I've learned to dismiss these voices as remnants of my false self, but the sadness of this strange generational dynamic remained.

A few days later I'm still thinking about it, and rather than pout I figured I should try to make use of it. So to be fair, here are the external facts: I had just taken my relatively long hair out of a two-day bun so it popped out of the back of my head like a frizzy perm; on top of that poof I wore a trucker hat; I had not trimmed my beard in weeks. The fact is, his description was fair, and I giggle at the thought of his perspective. I had the look of Forrest Gump toward the end of his running days. But it still saddened me. It still felt like there were knives in his words. And maybe there weren't any knives, maybe I created them. But what about the music? Couldn't he at least lead off with the performance we just poured out?

A little back story here would be helpful to understand my sensitivity. I grew up in Orange County, California, and in that place image was important. The baby boomers saw a monumental growth in their home values and from my pubescent eyes they pretty much ran the show. They set the standards, the look, the talking points, the fences. Fifteen-year-old me was always seeking their approval while dismissing them as quietly oppressive. Sure they provided top-notch education, incredible community pools and strong family values, but that stuff's invisible when you're a kid with a big ego and a small self-esteem. 

My main complaint was always how narrow or small their world seemed. A world that emphasized the shell, the pyramid, the hair. A relatively primitive world at its core --  "We have an image that makes us feel safe and your chances of survival greatly increase with your adherence to it." I could never put words to it as a kid, but it never sat right with me. And if I'm being honest, it still doesn't sit right with me. But it's no longer the "grown-ups" who are to blame for this model of thinking, it's simply the homo sapien.

If I could add a verse to Lennon's "Imagine," I'd write, Imagine there's no combs or barbers  / It isn't hard to do / The hair that grows out of my head / Would look like yours too.

I think the '60s already said this stuff pretty well so let me take this in a different direction. And if you've read on this far let me be the first to admit, this feels pretty emo...

Getting back to the boomer with the short white hair in the nightclub... How about I take comfort in my awareness, lift my eyes off of my ego and consider what his reality might have been. What glasses was he seeing through? I bet he felt pretty out-of-place. Everyone there was under 35 and part of their own tribe of sorts. He was definitely there out of obligation and I'm certain it wasn't the environment he'd choose for himself on a Friday night.

So there he is, feeling uncomfortable and out of his element, and we come face-to-face. He says, "You look like you live under a bridge." But then, guess what, he says -- "Let me buy you a drink." Maybe he realized the asshole in him came out for a second, the same guy that made fun of the computer whiz in high school reared his head in the same way my old black cloud came back to haunt me. Maybe he realized that he was doing his old trick to maintain a sense of control. Maybe he just said what he was thinking out loud and regretted it immediately. Maybe he didn't realize that was a button of mine with a deeper history. I don't know, but the point is, maybe he didn't want to be that way. Maybe it's just a learned behavior that became instinctual somewhere along the way. 

I don't mean to make excuses for everybody's behavior but I hope I'm getting closer to the reality about the gap between us. And I don't want to remain stuck in our division, on my side of the line with my finger pointing across, perpetuating the long-standing human stalemate. What a poor contribution to history that would be. Which is why I must at least try to step into his shoes (loafers). It's also why I must continue to grow my hair. The short-hair model is just a system that works for a short period of time. Let's outgrow this stuff. So I rebel through growth (the hair of course). And then one day I'll cut it to rebel against the system of growth I've grown comfortable with. Ahhh isn't life charming.

**alternative ending -- Ahhh welcome to my shoes.

Joey EnglishComment
Red Letter (single) + backdrop


I'm releasing the song "Red Letter" from my upcoming Dining Womb EP. Initially I thought I'd keep this song to myself, as I do with many things religious or political. I tend to avoid conflict to keep everybody happy. If you're familiar with the Enneagram, I'm a number 9 with a 4 wing (peacemaker and individualist). My desire to avoid conflict generally results to some degree of withdrawing from life (I highly recommend checking out this personality system). But in the spirit of openness I'm beginning to inch out of my closet.

"Red Letter" stems from my long history with the evangelical church. I grew up a Lutheran and through social circles wound up in the non-denominational realm ("fundamentalism on rock-and-roll," I heard it on a Pete Enns podcast). Without getting off topic (although I'd love to get off topic sometime) I'll stick to why I called this song "Red Letter." It's in reference to certain versions of the Bible that used red ink to identify the words of Jesus. 

Since my youth I often found these red letters to contradict some of the loudest voices of the mainstream evangelical church. I never connected with the Jesus who sits on the advisory board of the Department of Defense, who drops bombs on enemies (yes that includes covert drone strikes), who chants at the courthouse steps against the minorities and the oppressed, who writes policies that prioritize the wealthy, who advocates the importance of walls and rules with the iron fist. To me this all sounds like a Messiah we've created in our image... like a totem pole, or a Zeus, or a Lamborghini. 

It always seemed to me that Jesus was more of a threat to those in power, not uniquely on the side of those in power. He posed a threat even as an infant! (i.e. King Herod ordered the death of all baby boys in Bethlehem, just in case that little Jesus was in the litter). From what I've read (and I'm being sincere here), Jesus taught about returning hate with love, about welcoming the stranger, about not living by the sword, about forgiveness. His teachings are often at odds with our power structures. They would not be a good template for sustaining America's role as the global superpower. 

Basically I'd love to see an end to the idea that God is on one particular side of a two-party political system. This is classic tribalism, classic dualism, classic Rome. What if the church had a louder voice for the people than the party?

As I've reached a grown-up status (maybe?) I've returned to the tradition of my upbringing. Much of my 20s were spent deprogramming my mind and my spirit from doctrine, dogma and our other king rational thinking. The words of Jesus make me more awake, more compassionate, more engaged, more thirsty. They remind me that the imaginary lines I drew as a kid between me and my sisters really were, well, just imaginary. 



Joey English Comment
Dining Womb EP coming soon

recordings are complete! 

track list: 1 - Freddie Mac  2 - My Old Friend  3 - Rapture (Antony and the Johnsons cover)  4 - Miles From hOMe  5 - Red Letter

Joey English