In the United States, the term “Average Joe” refers to an “average person.” In the case of veteran R&B singer Joe Thomas, however, the word “average” simply doesn’t apply. Over the last fifteen years, the Georgia-born artist has released six major albums, two of which received multi-platinum certifications, and has toured all throughout the world as a direct result.
After spending the last decade signed to Jive Records, the singer has parted ways with his former label home and is set to release three new projects in the next six months under the joint independence of Kedar Entertainment/563 Music. On September 23, he will unveil “Joe Thomas, New Man,” followed by a six-song special edition EP that includes guest work from the likes of Mario, Trey Songz, Busta Rhymes and Nas among others, and a second LP next February entitled “Joe’s Signature.”
In an exclusive interview with DJBooth’s DJ “Z,” Joe steps inside the booth to talk about his new found musical independence, R. Kelly’s alleged mischievous actions against him, why you never want to be caught inside the dreaded “friend zone,” and what you’d find if you made a trip to “Joe’s Crib.”
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy, ‘Z,’ doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is an R&B singer who will officially be a New Man on September the 23rd. Please welcome the very talented and newly independent Joe – how you doin’?
Joe Thomas: Z, what’s up, baby?
DJ Booth: Not too much. So, in becoming a new man, you’re officially going by your full name, Joe Thomas. What went into your decision to change it up at this point in your career?
Joe Thomas: It’s really one of those things where you’ve got my friends who have to explain me, identify me with my song, so it makes it a little easier when you’ve got a last name to identify with, as opposed to, you know, Fat Joe, and some people just call him “Joe” as well. It’s just to make it a little easier for people to really get the identity on which Joe they’re talking about.
DJ Booth: Well, when some Joe’s want to become a new man, they might go shopping. How did you artistically go about making this transformation?
Joe Thomas: Well, I started my own label. I partnered up with with Kedar Entertainment Group and my label is 563 Entertainment, and we gotta deal with Universal/Fontana. So that’s the first step in [becoming] a new man: just bein’ the CEO, and runnin’ my artistic side. So, beautiful, beautiful move to be independent, and I couldn’t stress that enough.
DJ Booth: I agree completely. One of your two new singles is titled “E.R.,” so is it safe to assume that the single choice could also be a metaphor, as in, your career is being revitalized by your departure from Jive Records?
Joe Thomas: Exactly. I went through a lot with Jive and the other label I was on, Mercury Records, back in the day. They taught me a lot as far as business side, and how to be patient in a lot of different situations, and I walked out of the situation with an extreme amount of knowledge and drive, which has got me to this point, to knock out 2 albums in 3 months.
DJ Booth: In another interview you did, you indicated that former labelmate R. Kelly personally tried to sabotage the promotions of a few projects that you dropped at the same time, while you were both signed to Jive. Did you get any indication that was going on while you were signed, or was it since you’ve left?
Joe Thomas: I’ve heard over the years that my career deserves so much more, and I don’t get enough airplay. That could be the result of all that, but who knows, man? It was an alleged statement that was made to me from a respectful PD, and, to me, I took it personal and I responded. To me, that’s neither here nor there now, ‘cause I’m movin’ forward, and my focus is movin’ so much faster than any artist that I’ve heard at this point. My grind level is tremendous, and I gotta credit my team. I’ve got a serious team of people, staff, we work with about 15 people, and we have about 5 different regionals across the US, so we’re lookin’ real good. We’re an independent company, but we’re runnin’ it as a major label.
DJ Booth: I know that you guys worked together on a few of your projects in the past. If you were to get the chance to talk and smooth out any differences, is there any future of possible collaboration?
Joe Thomas: Well, just through conversations with other people who know him way better than I do, who have had run-ins with him, I’m just not sure he would be the one who, if he did do it, would own up to saying that he did it. So I don’t know. I mean, I’m not the one to sort of go out and hold a grudge on anybody, ‘cause I’m not a disgruntled artist, by [any] means – I don’t need to be – but, [the way I look at it], if he wants to sit down and talk, let’s talk about something else, let’s move on from all that. I don’t want to hear a denial of something that could be a true fact.
DJ Booth: Moving forward ourselves, your other current single, for which you recently released a video, Why Just Be Friends, tackles a situation that I have found myself in so many times – we must have dated some of the same chicks, Joe. Reveal a story about getting caught in that “friend zone,” and what you did to escape the purgatory?
Joe Thomas: Yeah, that’s the fun of it, ‘cause most guys have been there. If they haven’t, they will been soon. There’s women that are just that incredible that we’ll wait long enough, just bein’ a friend, waitin’ for the opportunity – some girls are just that fine. Just havin’ a scenario with a record like that made it more fun. I know you’re feelin’ me too, I know we’re friends, but I see the eyes, I see the attraction, and I feel that we could take this further than just bein’ cool and whatnot – that’s why I invited you here to this party.
DJ Booth: Well, I have an idea: if I should ever find myself in that quote unquote “friend zone” again, would you mind if I just dialed you up and had you sing to the girl, and had you convince her that she should let me out [of the friend zone]?
Joe Thomas: See, I don’t know if that’d work in your favor or work against you. [laughs]
DJ Booth: ‘Cause once she hears your voice it’s over – is that what you’re tryin’ to say?
Joe Thomas: [laughs] You never know. She may be captured by some sort of charm in my tone – I don’t know. It may spark a moment that takes her back to another relationship. I don’t wanna do that to you.
DJ Booth: Yeah, plus, once she hears your voice it’s probably over. She’s like, “Oh, you’re friends with Joe? Forget about it, I’m not interested in you anymore!” That was a bad idea.”
Joe Thomas: Believe it or not, man, it actually doesn’t work that way. Girls ask me to sing all the time. But if they’re attracted to you, they’re just attracted to you. You got some ugly guys who get way finer girls than a attractive superstar.
DJ Booth: Yeah, but it doesn’t hurt to have your set of pipes, my friend.
Joe Thomas: That helps out; that sort of shortens the stick up a little bit.
DJ Booth: Yeah, don’t be so humble. Joe, I read that most of this project was done at Joe’s Crib Studio. So, is this actually a studio at your home, or do you just call it your crib?
Joe Thomas: Yeah, it’s my place. I did a lot of recording here. I got the whole ProTools setup. I love working here because it’s so comfortable, and it’s quick. I work on my time, I don’t have to worry about, “All right, man, time is money,” even though it is. Man, it’s so comfortable. You got your engineer who can sleep over if he needs to, ‘cause you got extra rooms. It’s just a real cool environment, and it’s usually just me and the engineer.
DJ Booth: Compare and contrast the recording sessions from earlier in your career, when you weren’t working in your own home studio, to now, when you do have the freedom and the capability to work on your own time, without someone else looking at a clock and saying, “Let’s go.”
Joe Thomas: With most major labels you’ve got to send in a PO. [A PO is] a payment option that you send in before you get to the studio. It’s an agreement to say, “I’m gonna guarantee [a] certain amount of days or a certain amount of hours.” Sometimes that’ll take 3 to 4 days. Maybe you’re in a city where you wanna just get in real quick, and get in right now. That’s the advantage of havin’ your own spot and havin’ friends that you know with their own studio. You never have to worry about time, and the comfort level, you don’t have to worry about bein’ in a building where the label’s gonna pop down at any second, just to check on things.
DJ Booth: Besides, artists can’t be under pressure to create masterpieces.
Joe Thomas: [They] shouldn’t be. Why would you want someone to be under pressure? Some pressure’s good, but when you’re under unwanted pressure that takes your creativity away, then you’re creating a bad situation for the artist.
DJ Booth: It’s like telling a painter, “Okay, well, you have to do this masterpiece, but it has to be done in 5 hours.” It doesn’t work that way.
Joe Thomas: It can’t be done, especially if you want it done in a quality fashion.
DJ Booth: Exactly. I read a quote from your bio, that says, “The artists who are my heroes, be it Marvin, Prince, or Donnie, were never too proud to revel their true selves. It is impossible to be a true artist if you aren’t honest.” So, 7 albums deep into your career, Joe, has there ever been a point where you felt like you held back, or didn’t fully let down your guard?
Joe Thomas: Well, there’s a few albums where I held back on writing some personal things, that I couldn’t express at the time. But years later, you find that you’ve gotten over it, you’ve moved on, and now you’re comfortable to talk about it. So that’s like, with the album, one of the songs, “Heart Behind My Eyes,” that’s on New Man, the rest of the songs that talk about that [are] comin’ out in February. So you got a real personal album that’s comin’ in February, which is [Signature], which really talks about that deep, personal side. But with the September 23rd album, New Man, it’s one of those more fun albums. It still talks about relationships, and goin’ through things, and regretting certain things you did or didn’t do. It keeps you right in the zone of songs that people want to hear, that relate to their everyday life.
DJ Booth: After these two albums are released, there won’t be anyone who’s followed you throughout your musical career who won’t know what you’re all about and what you’ve been able to offer…
Joe Thomas: That’s been incredible, to follow my career to such an extent, to know all the songs that I’ve put out, and for me to know that they’re quality songs that I put time into. And that’s the thing that most people get from me, is my songwriting, my melodies, the way I look at it, the way I interpret it. In the beginning, I didn’t realize that was what I was doin’ – you know, [I] was just doin’ music – and eventually I developed a style which is really, really distinctive. There’s a few artists out there that have a similar sound, that [are] really carryin’ R&B as well. I try to just create my own style, and really perfect that and work on it. And even on the outside, remain a certain individual; you know, when people see me off-camera, I’m just [as much] a person to be respected as I am on-camera.
DJ Booth: Well, that’s why I got you on the phone today. Fifteen years in the industry, still doin’ it real big, two new projects on the horizon – Joe, give everybody a website or a MySpace page, so they can find out more, of course, about both of these projects, and anything else you have going on.
Joe Thomas: You can still find me on joescrib.com, myspace.com/joethomas. We got the tour happenin’ right now – 30 dates here in the states, at the end of September goin’ into October I’ll be in Europe, and I’m goin’ to Asia, and then I’ll be in Africa. And after that, maybe take a 2-week vacation, then I’ll come back to the States and get it poppin’ again.
DJ Booth: Only 2 weeks after all that? I personally would take a month, but I understand that you’re on the grind. Joe, I thank you so much for takin’ the time to join me inside the DJ Booth. Nothin’ but the best of luck from this point on throughout your career, my man.
Joe Thomas: Z, I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you, man. Once again, it’s been a pleasure. And I want to thank the fans for their time listening – I hope y’all pick that album up September 23rd, New Man.