I was in the middle of writing a Get Familiar post about Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers, a folk-rock group from Michigan that is making serious waves, when I got an email notification. It was none other than Joe himself. He had agreed to do an interview, but said it might take him a while to answer the questions. With no deadline breathing down my neck, I had no worries about Joe taking his time. Plus, it gave me the opportunity to write a piece about the band, introducing them to readers before the 10 Questions segment.
I sent him the questions Wednesday evening, fully expecting not to hear anything back for a few weeks or so. Then, just a few hours later, there they were. That’s just the kind of guy Joe Hertler is. He signs all of his emails/Facebook posts “all the love, joey.” Promotes hugging at his concerts. Passes out candy and homemade crafts to audience members. He’s genuine, a trait that I like to believe, maybe ignorantly, all musicians have at some point in their careers. Over time, some of them, whatever the reason may be, lose that trait. With Joe Hertler, you get the feeling that even if he becomes a mega rockstar, which he has the sound and disposition to do, he’ll never lose that personal touch. He’ll still sign his emails and Facebook posts “joey” instead of “Joe.” He’ll still flash his megawatt smile at the crowd and thank them for coming out, and they’ll believe he’s truly thankful. Because there’s no reason not to.
If you have yet to hear Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers, it’s time to get familiar. On Being is a relentless record that will leave you not only impressed, but wondering why you haven’t heard it yet. It’s that good. Give it a listen on the band’s bandcamp, as well as on Spotify.
I’m super excited to share this with you, one of my favorite 10 Questions so far. Learn how Joe met The Rainbow Seekers, details on a new record (!), and the people you should never lose touch with. Also, be sure to visit Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers’ website, Facebook, and follow them on Twitter and check out the tour dates below to see if Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers are headed to a city near you!
Jun 28| The Intersection| Grand Rapids, MI| Tickets
Jun 29| Subterranean| Chicago, IL| Tickets
Jun 30| Brauerhouse| Lombard, IL| Tickets
Jul 01| Gabe’s| Iowa City, IA| Tickets
Jul 13| Common Ground Music Festival| Lansing, MI| Tickets
Jul 14| HAM Stock| Shepherd, MI| Tickets
My Folking Heart: When did you first start writing/composing your own songs?
Joe Hertler: I’ve always been the type to be constantly making things – working on and pursuing various obsessive projects and hobbies… But I really started writing what I consider to be more complete and coherent songs sometime during my freshman year of college!
MFH: You have a wide range of musical influences, including a love for electronic music. Was the folk/folk rock sound a natural one for you to land on?
JH: I think it was the kinetic side of things that drew me to playing acoustic guitar. Having come from an analogue background with string instruments I’ve always appreciated working with my hands, where there’s a connection between the artist and the instrument. I’ve been obsessed with EDM (electronic dance music) since about 2008 and have dabbled considerably in production. As much as I believe in the genre/s, there was something missing when I was using a computer to solely compose music, like, I was having trouble placing soul into it. Things just felt natural and in some regards, more palpable, when I used the acoustic guitar and piano. The alt folk genre comes with the territory.
MFH: In the past you described your songs as being introspective with no real underlying message or theme. On Being was different in that it had larger themes, such as human existence and struggles with religion, running throughout. What brought about that change for you as a songwriter?
JH: My songs are still very introspective. On Being was a chronicling of my falling from my own faith and the coming to terms with what it means to be human. While I dove into much bigger themes, those that dwell on the more universal, existential questions, I was still basing these songs off of my own experiences. I use songwriting in many ways to help sort out and make sense of my own issues.
MFH: I’m always interested in how a songwriter operates. What’s your songwriting process like?
JH: Songwriting, for me, is incredibly random. I’m constantly bombarded by ideas, ideas that for the most part, I have no control over. They just pop up – and it’s my “job” to sort them out and articulate them through music. It’s very fast though, like, if a song isn’t finished in 30 minutes, it’s probably never even going to be demoed to my band. But the songs are frequent and I’ll go through huge spurts where I’ll write 20-30 songs a month. Most of them, however, are pretty bad. There’s a certain feeling – a connection of sorts – that you’re aware of when you’re working on something really special to you though. Those songs are always the best ones.
MFH: You’ve mentioned that traveling, such as your recent trip to Mexico, inspires you. What are some other things that inspire you?
JH: My inspirations are everything that has ever come before me. My songs don’t exist by themselves. They’re the culmination of every person, place, and experience that has ever influenced my life. These “influences” all culminate to a specific time and place, where a unique feeling is cultivated. This “environment” of experiences and feelings produces a perfectly unique song that would be totally different if it were written 10 minutes later. I do not write my own songs, but rather, everything that has ever come before me. I contain multitudes!
MFH: How did you meet/join with the rest of the band, known as the Rainbow Seekers? And how did you guys come up with the Rainbow Seekers moniker?
JH: When I first signed to Bigger Brush, they had a few extra musicians laying around. They didn’t take themselves very seriously, they were way smarter and more educated than me, they were way better musicians than me, and, of course, I thought they were awesome people. We hit it off pretty quick. We have a very strange, but undoubtedly loving relationship. I do, however, hate my guitar player, Ryan Hoger. I don’t know what’s wrong with that guy.
The name was in homage to Joe Sample’s “Rainbow Seeker” a wonderful fusion-jazz record!
MFH: Your shows, as well as your presence on Facebook and Twitter, show a desire to connect with fans on a personal level. How important is that to you? Do you ever worry about losing that connection as you become more successful?
JH: If people really appreciate my music, I feel not only obligated, but honored to get to know them. And, quite frankly, I’ve always liked meeting and being around people. Life, for me, has thus far been centered around the connections I make with other humans. I find people not only interesting on the personal level and, for lack of better words, as a species living on planet earth. Music is as old as humans – and it’s been bringing us together for just as long. Music has always been a more social art form. People come to shows not just for the music, but for other people and I want to be part of that.
I do worry about losing connections, but more so with the people I really care about. Music can be so consuming sometimes that you can really lose yourself in it. I’ve seen it in other people and I even see it in myself… At some point it seems like you’re just getting hit up by tons of people, which is totally appreciated! But it’s just tough to maintain some connections with all the excess stimulation. However, I do want to be engaging with as many people as possible. I often post personal stuff, completely unrelated to music kind of stuff, to my facebook and twitter. This is my effort to be an engaging human being! I’m trying my best… haha
In the end, you should never forget to call your parents, grandparents, siblings, and close friends. There’s certain people who you should never let go of.
MFH: You’ve been writing a lot of material as of late. Have you begun formulating a plan for a new record? What can you tell us about it? Will we see it in 2012?
JH: Yes, my producer and I actually wrote out a first draft of the song order today (Wednesday). I write like a madman, so there’s so many songs to choose from. We’re close to having 4 new tracks fully recorded! And honestly, I couldn’t be any more excited for these new tracks. It’s a much more playful and upbeat record, but still holds much of the sentiment. I truly feel like I’m writing my best material at this stage in my life, or at least it’s stuff I’m really enjoying making and connecting with. I’ve been playing on the notions of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and no-self. It’s been a wonderful philosophical bank to work with.
At this rate, we’ll have a completed record by the end of fall – so maybe a release around Christmas, perhaps?
MFH: If music doesn’t work out you plan to be a teacher. Will you incorporate your music skills into the classroom ala Jack Black in School of Rock?
JH: I’ll certainly be singing to my kids! There’s an appropriate place and time for music in the classroom
MFH: What should we be on the lookout for from Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers for the rest of 2012?
JH:There’s so much stuff! I can’t really allude to too much yet, but we have very, very big plans for the next release. There’s a real creative energy that’s driving us right now. I’d also really like to pick up our stage production more – I want our shows to be as warm and inviting as they are exciting and memorable! I’m inspired by the divas of old… Elton, Prince, Diana Ross – I somehow wanna be like them… haha
Extra Questions for Fun:
MFH: Favorite song to dance to?
JH: “Music Sounds Better with You” by Stardust
MFH: You’ve said that Jeff Pianki, an MFH favorite, is the best songwriter in Michigan. Got a favorite Pianki song?
JH: “Pouring Rain” by Jeff Pinaki
MFH: Favorite summer jam?
JH: Being in education, I supposed the really hate this word, but oh well. It’s a grimy, groove centric two step track that I can’t get over…”The Full Retard” by EL-P