A California Dreamer: A Chat with Singer-Songwriter Jef Joslin

The biggest highlight is simply being in California, playing in venues I’ve always wanted to play in, and surfing and hanging with my family in the place I’ve always wanted to live.
— Jef Joslin

Emily Koopman: When did you first get the music bug?
Jef Joslin: I’m pretty sure I’ve always had it. I remember being young and listening to music while dissecting the different instruments in the arrangement. Art in general has always appealed to me. I loved to draw, write and sing when I was a kid. As far as when I dove into the thought of this as a career, that was late in high school. My girlfriend at the time was making records and writing songs and I was like, I can do that! So I got a 4 track digital recorder for Christmas and I’d lock myself in my room and make records, design them on the computer and print them up and sell them! I think the creative control thing really appealed to me. I don’t like being told what to do, haha...

Emily: What are some of the highlights of your career thus far?
Jef: The biggest highlight is simply being in California, playing in venues I’ve always wanted to play in, and surfing and hanging with my family in the place I’ve always wanted to live. Sometimes it blows my mind to think I’ve achieved at least this much, just pursuing a crazy dream. Besides that, I had a chance to open for some big acts at SXSW a few years back, and I’ve gotten to travel and play all over the country and the globe as well.

Emily: What anthems do you listen to when you need motivation?
Jef: I wouldn’t call them anthems. I am a pretty mellow guy and the music I dig most is usually there to chill me out. I’d say probably a good James Taylor album or lately even the Fleet Foxes is something that can really put me to ease. Also Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks”.

Emily: What should we expect from you and your music going forward?
Jef: Actually at the moment, my wife and I are expecting a daughter in the next few months, so my priorities are certainly shifting a bit, but I have a ton of content to release. Luckily, I was able to write my next album this past year, so the hard part is done. Once we get settled with the baby, I imagine I’ll get back in the studio and start to cut that album. In the meantime, I’ll be releasing an album in the next few months. I’ve released two singles so far from that album.

Emily: Do you have a definitive aim for your career?
Jef: I think I’ve come to realize that my aim for my music, is simply to be a vessel for love and joy. Whatever capacity or corner of the globe that takes me, I’m open. I just simply want to be able to enjoy and take care of my family, and have the ability to make music, which brings me a great amount of joy. I think if you put to much pressure on your art to provide for you, it can really strain it and suck the life out of it. It’s better to give it room to thrive and let it be what it will be.

Emily: How important is it for you to have creative control over your work?
Jef: Probably unhealthily important Haha! I’ve learned how to do every aspect of the creative musical process, from writing to mastering. It’s definitely saved me a lot of time and money, but it can also be overwhelming. Especially when it comes to the business side of things. It’s not a great business model when you prefer to give your music away just so people can hear it. So now I’m trying get a team around me to help with my weaknesses.

Emily: I read that you used to play football. What are some other things you love to do that isn’t music related?
Jef: I love to surf. I love to read. I also really love a great documentary.

Emily: What’s the most memorable live show you’ve played?
Jef: Probably a show I played with my brother back in 2004. I placed in this songwriting competition for the Tennessee Christian Teen Convention and we got to play in front of like 3,000 people at this conference. There was also this killer show recently at the Serenity Gathering Festival where my band and I played in the woods right next to an awesome creek. We had hammocks strewn between trees before and after the gig. The sound guy was awesome too. Always makes for a great show.

Emily: You often perform on Venice Beach -- you must see quite a few characters. Anyone in particular stand out?
Jef: Yeah there are some unique folks out there. I appreciate their individuality and their sense of freedom. One elderly guy came up and said, “Play me some blues...” He had a killer suit on and sharp dancing shoes too. So I played some blues and he started dancing like a champ! Lots of great moments out there for sure.

Emily: What are some of your favourite things to do in California?
Jef: I enjoy going surfing with my brother and friends. There’s tons of great hiking too, and no shortage of great scenery. The PCH is a killer drive up the coast anytime you feel like rolling the windows down. Mostly I just enjoy hanging with my family. My wife, brothers, dad and now my cousin all live out here, so it’s amazing having a community to be a part of.