Exclusive Interview with Joey Stuckey
We loved a recent on-line tagline we saw describing JOEY STUCKEY: “BLIND ARTIST with an INSIGHTFUL Vision” It peaked our interest and we wanted to learn more about this inspirational performer, musician and producer. We were fortunate to catch some Q&A with the busy Macon, Georgia artist below…
Where did you grow up?
First, thanks so much for giving me a chance to tell my story of music and overcoming adversity! I love to talk:-)
I have basically lived in three different places all of which have impacted who I am. I was born and lived in Green Cove Springs FL, and loved living on the lake as a child—though it was a bit scary for a blind kid as there were a lot of snakes around the water and I can’t remember how many times my mom or dad would tell me not to move because there was a snake. My folks never let me think of myself as different even though I was a very sick child as the result of a brain tumor that took my sight and created a host of other health challenges. But, the snake thing was a real conundrum because I can’t see them, you can’t smell them, you can’t feel them, if you do it is too late and in many cases you can’t hear them again, until it was too late. My question to mom or dad or my grandmother was, which way shouldn’t I move:-) So, I don’t like snakes:-)
However, beside the snakes, Green Cove was a great place to grow up and I lived there until I was around 7 or 8 years old. I was also given the key to the city recognizing my musical accomplishments and my fight to live a successful life as a blind brain tumor survivor in 2011 and I am deeply honored!
I next lived in Jacksonville FL, and it was also an amazing place to grow up. Our house there had no snakes:-) and the home my parents were able to provide was a castle. As a kid we had so many places to play, our garden was walled off and it was like a perfect fort for us. There was also an Olympic sized pool and a large game room. It was about 2 blocks from the Florida Yacht Club and believe it or not, my mom and dad set up an account for me so I could walk down with my friends to have lunch. I’ll never forget when I first started taking mobility, which is a way for blind people to learn how to use a cane and other life skills, that I had memorized how many steps it was to the edge of the yacht club pier which fed in to the St. John’s River. I would freak my mobility instructor out by dropping my cane an running for all I was worth to the edge of the pier:-)
Finally, I moved to Macon GA, where I got my first job in sound as the tech for the Museum of Arts and Sciences for their planetarium. I was 15 years old and hadn’t been in town long.
I have lived in Macon ever since and I am very honored to say that in 2006 the Mayor and city council made me the official music ambassador for this amazing music city!
What is your musical background?
My dad and mom always made music a vibrant part of our lives. My mom loved opera and church hymns and my dad loved country! I love both those styles. My mom, before it was popular, played music to me in utereo, classical mostly.
So I lived with music surrounding me all the time as a child. As a blind person, as you might imagine, sound is my universe so music is a great way to fill the void. I have a mind that is very active and constantly seeks input to chew on, so, I like audio input whether it is music or talk radio or TV, but I need that info to process. Of course I am obsessed with music and live it. I get up listening to music, work 12 to 16 hours a day doing music and then, go to bed, you guessed it, listening to music.
When I was around 7 years old, my mom bought me my first record that wasn’t Disney or the Chipmunks:-) It was, The Beatles, Yesterday and Today.
I wore that record out! When I was around 15 years old, I got that job as the sound tech for the museum. Well, other kids, most older than I, heard I had some primitive recording gear and asked me if I would record their band. I did and It wasn’t long before I was making a living recording. I moved to a real studio building in downtown Macon when I was 19 and haven’t looked back. I started wanting to play, sing and write my own music around 17 years of age when I heard my first local band record a song they had written. I thought, I can do that, I have to do that, I have a story to tell and this is my vehicle!
So, I found a guitar teacher that would teach a blind kid and he made a major difference in my life. Not only as a guitar teacher but a life coach, before we knew what that was. His name is Terry Cantwell and I love him like a brother. Terry is one of the best musicians, teachers and people I have had the privilege to know and changed my life in ways I can’t even begin to describe.
Well, after that, I went to school for music and marketing at Mercer University, I actually started Mercer at age 16 as I had graduated high school at age 14 and then took a year off. I am honored to say that I am now professor of music technology for Mercer University and it feels so good to be able to give back to the school that meant so much to me.
I have also continued my studies by studying with Stanley Jordan and I am slowly working my way towards a master’s degree from Berklee College of Music!
We definitely hear the blues influences! What are your favorite blues bands?
Man oh man, so many greats—Clapton, BB King, Blood Sweat and Tears, Joe Bonamassa, Jimmy Hall (who happens to be a friend of mine), Hendrix, Allman Brothers, Taj Mahal, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Tad Benoit, Jeff Healy, John Mayer, and so many more!
How would you describe the style of your stage show?
Full of energy! It is about 70% music and 30% comedy:-) I tell a lot of stories between songs. Basically, I just live my life on stage chatting and playing. It is like I have invited you in to my living room for a visit between old friends. So we rock hard and visit and learn and grow from each other.
In what ways has your newest music changed from when you first started?
As a full time producer, I have been working with a click track or metronome for 20 years. I like to be very precise in everything that I do, however, I temper that aspect of my personality with the desire to create something that has character, or what I call “sassitude”. So, I want a technically perfect performance, but will sacrifice that for a heartfelt performance! If you really listen to Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and many other artists, they have records that aren’t technically perfect, but they resonate with people.
The new record “In The Shadow Of The Sun” takes those ideas up a notch as we recorded the basic tracks live in studio in around 3 hours at the famous Sun Studio in Memphis TN, and then returned to my studio www.shadowsoundstudio.com to overdub, mix and master.
Sun Studio is a museum during the day and you can book 3-4 hours at night to record. They are still using much of the same gear and the very same room as they did in the 50’s and60’s and placing the mics in the same places. This is the studio where Elvis and many others did some of their most recognized work.
In Sun Studio, you have all the musicians in a very small space and just a handful of mics that capture the entire band. So if you mess up, you have to start over, no punching or editing!
I really enjoyed this way of recording as there wasn’t a safety net and you had to quickly decide if you had made an error and you wanted to start over with the song or if what you did had an unintended bit of “sassitude”.
This recording has so much heart and really captures the growth over the last 2 to 3 years of the Joey Stuckey Trio—I find it very compelling and people seem to agree and enjoy the record.
However, it is still very much a Joey Stuckey record in that I draw inspiration from many musical artists and styles and I don’t worry about anything except communicating my story and life through music.
What would be your dream venue in which to perform and favorite cities yet to play?
I would love to perform at Carnegie Hall, the Royal Albert Hall, Stonehenge:-) and Red Rock!
I have never made it to Scotland and would love to get to Scandinavia and Canada! I would also love to perform at the Space Needle in Seattle, WA! I could go on and on as I have a head full of dreams!
Which famous musicians have you learned from?
I assume you mean personally as there are a lot of famous artists that I have learned from that I haven’t met. However, ones I personally know and have made an impact, in no particular order are, Alan Parsons, Jimmy Hall, Al Chez, Mark Hornsby, Ross Hogarth, Randall Bramblett, Stanley Jordan, Alan Vizzutti, Ben Tucker, David Berger, and Derek St Holmes.
Where does the band like to unwind and chill together? Any favorite local hangs?
Well, we all love hanging at my studio.
We also love to go to concerts together both comedy and music. We as a group have been to see Star Wars The Force Awakens, Foo Fighters, Book of Mormon and Iliza Schlesinger together.
Recently while touring NYC, we hit the Empire State Building, Broadway and a bunch of restaurants, but one of our favorites was Cone Island at the original Nathan’s Famous.
Also, we love the Capital Grill, which is a chain restaurant, but such great food and service. Wherever we go we have a good time and this is because of 2 reasons. First, I make it clear that Joey Stuckey is a drama free zone, so if you can’t be happy and feel blessed to be making music, then this band and studio aren’t the place for you. Second, we all have very similar tastes in music, literature, pop culture and food:-) Wherever we go I just know that they think, oh my god those guys are so drunk, but 2 of the three of us don’t drink and the one that does is able to hold his liquor:-) But it is true, we are always laughing so hard it hurts—what a privilege to be with those kind of friends and make music!
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End of Interview