It might only be just over two months since plucky Sydney busker Joe Moore walked away from this year’s series of ‘The Voice’ with the runners-up prize, but as anyone will tell you, two months in the music business is a hell of a long time; doubly so when there’s another TV talent show currently commanding the public’s attention.
But it doesn’t seem to have done Joe Moore too much damage, with his debut long player ‘A Thousand Lifetimes’ on track for a decent debut on this weekend’s ARIA charts.
To celebrate the album’s release, we chatted with the affable performer who seems to have made a habit of appearing on TV talent competitions.
“It just seems to keep happening!” Joe exclaims. “I mean, I’ve only done two, but one of the guys who was recording some of the instruments for the album just sort of said, ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if you said, ‘you know what? I’m not doing this album, I’m going to go and do ‘The X Factor’ and complete the trifecta’.”
Clearly Joe’s a man not troubled by the talent show tag, after appearing on the 2012 edition of ‘Australia’s Got Talent’ (on which he finished fourth) and this year’s edition of ‘The Voice’ (second). He tells us he decided to throw his hat in the ring for ‘The Voice’ because it seemed “like a more professional version of these sorts of shows”.
“‘X Factor’ is loosely based on everything. The winner of ‘The X Factor’ is almost never the best singer,” Joe tells us. “That’s not against what they do, because they’re not claiming to be finding the best singer – they’re claiming to find someone with ‘The X Factor’, which could be everything… it could be social media presence, it could be the look, it could be the singing or it could be a combination of all of them.
“Which is why… ‘The Voice’ gets slated for not always getting a number one album out of their winners… I don’t think they ever have in the history of it. And ‘X Factor’ almost always does, but that’s because they’re basing it on so many different things, not just the voice. So they put themselves in a better position.”
“A producer said she’d found me on Youtube and seen me busking and thought it would be a great idea for me to go on the show,” Joe reveals. “I’d been thinking about it. As a singer, it’s hard not to consider these things. I went in and had a chat with the producers and just decided that it was worth a crack – I had nothing to lose really.
“The same thing happened with AGT. I went in for a meeting with the producer and said, ‘this has never really been something I wanted to do – I’ve stuck with the busking thing and I’ve wanted to do it (in inverted commas) ‘the old fashioned way’. Sort of climb through the ranks’. But he just said, ‘look, I love your songs and I’d rather put you on – if you feel more comfortable – as a songwriter’. So I went on ‘Australia’s Got Talent’ as a songwriter, not as a singer. I just happened to be singing the songs too.
“Whereas ‘The Voice’ was a singing thing. I wasn’t singing my own songs… I was singing covers and I guess that was the only difference. I approached it with the same goal – and that was to come out with some publicity that money can’t buy – and that happened both times. You could not pay for that sort of publicity.”
We tell Joe that from an outsiders’ perspective, it appeared that he was ‘the chosen one’; the contestant producers had pegged to win the competition.
“I didn’t feel like a favourite by any means,” he reveals. “I’ve heard it a lot, but it definitely didn’t seem that way on the inside. It’s very flattering to me to think that people wanted me or thought I was going to win, but I think Ellie is a fantastic singer. And like we said before, ‘The Voice’ is very much based on vocal ability and she’s just very deserving of the position. And so young as well… she’s got such a long way to develop. I mean, she’s 16! I didn’t start busking ‘til I was 17, so I never really appreciated how young she is when I was on the show.”
That said, Joe sees a distinct advantage in being the runner up.
“Definitely. If I’d come first, I’d have released a covers album in the first week, which Ellie did. And this way… within two or three weeks of finishing on the show, the decision was made that we probably had an album’s worth of original material, we could do this… and then it just transpired that we weren’t going to do a covers album, we were going to do an originals album, which is the best news I’ve had this year by far.
“I think it’s an Australian first. But don’t quote me on that. It’s definitely a ‘Voice’ first.”
“I wrote it with a couple of friends of mine just after I’d started the live shows,” he reveals. “And I was thinking, ‘okay, there’s a small chance that I might get to sing this, let’s try and write something’. We definitely wrote it with the winner’s single in mind.
“And then it was going to be something else. It was going to be a song – like usual – that’s pitched to the label and is then put to me as ‘this is going to be your winner’s single if you like it’. And I liked it.
“But we kept working on ‘Invincible’ more and more and I just said to Robert Rigby, the A&R guy, that I really really wanted to do this song. And I know I wrote it and I know it’s not usually done, but I’d love it. And it somehow just got across the line. It was crazy. That was literally four days out from the final.
“Everything was set for it to be a song called ‘Lucky Ones’, which is on the album. So you can still hear it. It’s a great song. I didn’t write it, but it’s a fantastic song. It’s just that I got so connected with ‘Invincible’ that it was very much a case of ‘I’d really, really like to do this one’. If you’re going to be able connect with it better and sing it better, it’s going to be better for you and for the show.”
But even though it’s seemingly an incredibly personal break-up song, Joe himself reveals he’s never been through one.
“There are a lot of love songs that I’ve written and a lot of break up songs and people have asked me who this person is that I’ve been on this emotional rollercoaster with. But it’s made up people usually. I just write about a story that’s been made up in my head. They’re usually people who don’t exist. I told a good friend of mine who’s in a band called Winterbourne, James Draper, and he said he does exactly the same thing.”
What’s probably impressed us most about Joe in the months after his TV show success is that he’s not rested on his laurels. He’s been back at work on the street, busking, playing to the crowds that have consistently shown him the love. And it’s his live audiences on the streets of Sydney that have helped shape the contents of his just-released debut album.
“Not only is playing in the street a good way to find out whether a song works or not, but it’s also a good way to develop it,” Joe reveals. “There might be a part of the verse that maybe isn’t finished or I wasn’t that happy with and literally it might just change one day. I’ll be singing it and another feeling will come out for the next line. So I’ll sing that line and think, ‘that’s better’.
“That used to happen a lot when I first started writing. Nowadays I tend to finish songs before I perform them. If people start walking away half way through, I’ll think, ‘okay, I’ll scratch that one’.
“Usually to build a crowd, you’ve got to play people covers. That’s just the way it is when you’re at my level. Sometimes there’ll be a song and I’ll think I’ve got 20 or 30 people there, I’ll play one of mine… Then by the end of it there’ll be a hundred people there, I think, ‘Okay, I’ll write that one down’.
“The ones that didn’t work, I don’t even remember. They’re gone. Just on someone’s iPhone who was filming me on the day, maybe.”
One of the songs that made the cut on the new LP is ‘Symphony’, the song Joe performed on the Grand Final of ‘Australia’s Got Talent’ back in 2012.
“I wrote that for AGT,” he admits. “That was the name of my first EP that I’ve been flogging in the street ever since. Four of the five songs from that EP have made it to the album, but they’ve been very reworked. Polished up, really.”
And, he says, some of the songs even precede ‘Symphony’.
“The earliest would probably have been about… 2011? So there are some old ones on there. As far as I’m concerned, they’re already classics in my head. I’ve still got a few left over that potentially, if a second record comes, I’d like to get them on there.”
Joe says he’s constantly writing and remains hopeful of securing the chance to release more than one album through his label Universal. And he’s already proving he’s more than willing to put in the hard yards to ensure success continues long after the studio lights have faded.
“Busking and honest performing has got me to where I am, so if you put it in a sport analogy, which I do with everything, if a team get to the top of the table, it’s so common for them to take their foot off the pedal and slip. They fall straight out of the playoffs, straight out and get relegated. It’s the same thing with everything.
“Now I’m signed, if I think, ‘right, I’ve done it’ and then I stop busking, stop playing and wait for everyone to do it for me, that’s taking my foot off the pedal. So I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing ‘til I can’t do it any more.”
More power to you, Mister Moore. More power to you.
Joe Moore’s single ‘Invincible’ is out now.
His album ‘A Thousand Lifetimes’ is available physically and digitally.
Catch Joe busking in Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall from 1pm tomorrow (Saturday November 14) and in Melbourne’s Bourke Street Mall from midday on Sunday (November 15). He’s also playing two upcoming headline shows;
December 04 : Melbourne (The Palms At Crown)
December 05 : Sydney (Revesby Workers Club)