Joseph Pagano indie artist“It is encouraging to see the resurgence in Vinyl records and some saying they are making more off Vinyl that from YouTube revenue”- @josephpaganojsp

Episode #275 : A.V.A Live Radio Behind The Music with Jacqueline Jax

Jacqueline Jax logo photoGETTING TO KNOW JOSEPH PAGANO
by Jacqueline Jax host of A.V.A Live Radio

Music business…
What I love about the modern music business is that the barrier of entry to the creation process has come down a hundred fold in the past 15 years just in terms of the cost of creating professionally sounding recordings. Any kid with an iPhone can now have a music studio at his or her disposal whereas when I was growing up we had to go raise money to even get into a studio to cut a demo.

I also love how the independent musician can now have music streamed across the world…
and anyone with an internet connection can enjoy music from any musician with an internet connection. This is unprecedented. I put some music on a streaming service the other day and had listeners in more than 40 countries. Musicians can also collaborate better and faster across the world. We used to send cassette tapes to each other over a couple week periods. Now we post ideas and they are instantly available and we can even record full tracks separately and bring them together later.

The challenges in the business are…
around I think how a musician can make a living. It is encouraging to see the resurgence in Vinyl records and some saying they are making more off Vinyl that from YouTube revenue however, we have all seen the great decline in CD sales as well as digital download sales. So revenue opportunity comes down to what you can make from publishing, licensing, or streaming music, what you can make from merchandise, and what you can make from live performances.

For those who want to make their primary income from music…
they really have to figure out that mix of revenue and what reality looks like for them. They have to have incredible patience and the ability to live with rejection. Just listen to that Billy Joel interview from the July 2012 podcast Here’s The Thing.

For me right now I have found a good balance…
between a non-music industry day job and being a recording artist. I write, record, and produce music because I love to do it and it is something that I just felt I was meant to do and family, friends, and fans seem to really enjoy it.

Social media…
makes the musician accessible to fans and fans accessible to the musician in ways not before possible. Up until the past few years we have not come close to this level of direct fan interaction. It was only in June of 2007 just over 8 years ago that the first iPhone was launched. We’ve gone from just over 700 million internet users in 2000 to more than 3.2 billion today so we are still in the early days of understanding how this new level of connectivity will impact the music business and not just the top acts as it has seemed to work very well there with top acts like Taylor Swift with 66 million Twitter followers.

There is huge potential here for independent artists to grow fan bases and really understand what songs resonate with what fans by demographic, genre, and by geography. The only real challenge I have is that there are so many popular social media sites for musicians that it is hard to cover them all and they aren’t all linked together so if you have a blog on one site it might sync with one other site but not the other 5.

Singles vs an album…
I like the idea of releasing singles because they are so consumable and people have been asking for years to be able to buy a single recording without having to buy a complete album and the Internet and iTunes and then other services made that possible.

While I think that releasing singles is good…
for both artists and fans I feel that singles to an extend are like chapters in a book. An EP or an album represents a whole book, a collection of related stories with a theme. The most loyal fans want and enjoy an EP or a full album with a theme. They really want to get inside the head of the artist. For that reason, I released two full EPs in 2015 but now that I have an expanding fan base I am more likely to release a couple of singles for the next album and do that in advance to capture new audiences as well as test material before it gets packaged into an album. Singles can also be a great platform for doing a one-off idea where you aren’t ready to deliver a full book. Doing that can be a good way to try out other genres as you are developing a style as a musician.
As a toddler my dad always had guitars around the house….
He would play bluegrass songs and jam to the Munsters theme song when it came on TV. Naturally I would sneak into his guitar case when he wasn’t home and play around with some nice guitars like a Chet Atkins Country Gentleman. One day my brother and I got into some kind of brawl and put a hole in a very nice Gibson acoustic with a screwdriver, I think a Hummingbird so it was a while before we were allowed to get near the equipment again. Eventually my dad showed me a few chords and away I went. My brother and I shared a bedroom growing up and we had just about every Beatles Vinyl record and we would play those until they wore out. I played Day Tripper on the guitar for hours on end until I almost got kicked out of the neighborhood. As a teenager I would play along to the Kinks album One for the Road, Judas Priest British Steel, AC/DC Back in Black, and various Van Halen records and I would crank the amp up to 11 after school and shut it off just before my mom got home from work. It was no wonder that headphone technology worked its way into the industry with kids like me disrupting quiet neighborhoods all over America!

Don’t Let Chances Pass You By…
The song Chances is really about the idea that there are so many good things going on in the world around us, each and every day and we often miss them. There are so many chances to meet new and interesting people, to help others, to take the time to smell the roses as they say, to appreciate the small things, and to really enjoy what life has to offer while doing the right things even in the smallest of ways. It is a bit of a contrast to all the negative news and headlines that we are bombarded with every day. As I was writing the song I wondered do we really let life pass us by or do we take advantage of all of the opportunities or chances that we are given every day? Do we run so fast that not only the small things in life but the big things pass us by, without us even realizing it? We often make quick judgments about people without even getting to know them. If we could just try and listen a little bit harder the world would be a better place. So that was the idea of the song, to look beyond the headlines, beyond the surface, and you will find that people are generally good natured. Don’t let life pass you by. Even on a rainy day there is sun shining above them clouds right?!

What people don’t sometimes realize is that these songs are recorded in the middle of the night in my home studio. So you have to get in the zone and forget about what time it is when recording and it also helps avoid some house sounds from creeping onto the vocal tracks. So when I was recording this song and listening back to the vocal tracks solo I was hearing tropical sounds between the verses and realized my parakeets were digging the singing so I quickly learned how to crop out the between vocals parts. However, I didn’t realize this happened on the track Mamma Don’t Call Me home and you can hear birds on one part just after the vocal! On another track, Little Girls, my daughter walked into the middle of a recording and I ended up just leaving that into the track! I guess that is part of the journey and maybe the sound of modern independent musicians!

I was fortunate to be able to release two EP records this year, Graveyard of Dreams in February of 2015 and Time and Colors in July.

On these records are all songs written from the heart, songs that I wrote for myself that others seem to really relate to. They talk about life, innocence, hardships, and the perseverance of the human spirit. The songs span from the innocence of Little Girls to hardships overcome in Katrina and To The Rescue and the idea that life is about dreaming, and living to dream in Graveyard of Dreams which is a song about the history of Sunset Blvd in Hollywood from the perspective of the Palm Trees. If you end up in the Graveyard of Dreams you have lived to dream and that can be just as fulfilling as making it big. That’s why I said save me a place on that Sunset farm 🙂

These songs for me are like a timestamp, a place in time, in some sense a time machine. They bring me back to a point in time, the feeling, the observation, the story, the tension, the release within a particular story, which I am learning is what good songwriting is about.

These songs were written anywhere between a few months ago to more than a dozen years ago. I think my daughter Julia was 5 when I wrote Little Girls and she is now 18 and did the album art and photography for Graveyard of Dreams so I feel like I have come full circle on that one involving the family in the creative process, production, and post production 🙂 And her child voice even made the track as I previously mentioned.

I like that I don’t worry about fitting any particular genre…
These are sounds that I wasn’t hearing on the radio or elsewhere and was simply filling a void in what I like to listen to. To me these songs are timeless and remind me of how blessed I am in the world, and remind me to take the time to reflect on life, pay attention to the things that really matter, and not to sweat the small stuff.

I was inspired by the strong reception to the first record Graveyard of Dreams in recent months and by the opportunity to write new songs uninhibited by genre, and trying out some new studio equipment as part of the creative process which was great fun. So I decided to record and release a second EP in 2015 titled Time and Colors.

I am still amazed by all the tools that are available to songwriters today…
and I am trying to take advantage when an idea comes to capture it and build it out. You can’t always just turn on the creative process so you need to capture it when it comes and that is exactly what happened with the title song, Time and Colors, it was the first new song I was working on and I was able to capture it quickly. I knew when that song was done that it would be the title track. That first recording gave me some good momentum to carry on with the other works on the album.

In one sentence I would say that “life is an art-form” Jacqueline….
We are all born into this earth as artists with a blank canvas. We get to decide what we put on that canvas. All we need is time and colors to express who we are, what we see, what we feel, where we have been, where we want to go. When things don’t go our way we get to start over with a blank canvas. We all have choices and we know how artists are always making adjustments to their work and never quite feel done. So life is a form of art.

The song Life in a Bag takes this a step further that sometimes minimalism is the best form of art. Sometimes and maybe most of the time, simple is better than complex. What we see on the surface is not often what is underneath. The homeless man in the train station may be the smartest guy in the building. He was at ease and could fit his whole life in a bag. Most of us are anxiety ridden, rushed, full of unnecessary complexity and clutter. So again we have choices as artists in life around what and how much to put on our individual canvases and when to start with a new canvas.

So that is the spirit or theme that I think comes across in the album Time and Colors. There is also some humor worked in on the song 16 Other Ways and Mamma Don’t Call Me Home as what I love about artists is we don’t really take ourselves too seriously!

A few years ago I was in California taking a tour of Hearst Castle and the tour guide told us that many of the Hollywood greats would hang out there at the Castle and they never took themselves too seriously, strong sense of humor and there was sort of a humble quality that was described.

In terms of marketing, we positioned Graveyard of Dreams on college radio and it charted as a top 5 record on WGLS in NJ and top 20 in 3 US markets. We put it up on all the popular web streaming services as well as iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby and Others. Now with Time and Colors the tracks have been streamed around the world on Internet Radio and we have fans from that in more than 40 countries. Rhonda Brilliant from Rainmaker Media Group is my publicist and she has been just outstanding in putting together the marketing vision and I highly recommend her.

My daughter Julia who is now 18 is my creative director and she has a credit on the Graveyard of Dreams record for Album art and packaging design and did an amazing job on that.

I live in Northern NJ…
and there is an incredible music scene here in the tri-state area. Here you can find any genre of music and there is no shortage of talent and no shortage of things to write about! Large music hubs as we know in the US are NY, LA, and Nashville. I recently joined the Nashville Songwriter’s Association (NSAI) and they have an incredible songwriting community in NY where we get to critique songs across the group and play in a number of showcases as well as take workshops from some of the most successful songwriters in the business. I am also a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS) and there is a very active community in the tri-state area.

One fun thing that I like to do is to…
learn about the engineering side of the recording industry and to learn from other songwriters by going to workshops, reading their articles, and listening to podcasts. Over my time as a musician there really has been a technology revolution and I remember that only a few years ago there weren’t nearly as many tools for the songwriter nor the access we have today to hear and learn from industry legends. I was amazed the other day listening Alec Baldwin interview Billy Joel on the Hear’s the Thing podcast from July 2012. Billy was hysterical, I mean belly laugh funny talking about all the failures he has had in his career and explaining how he is not a good piano player and plays his left hand with only 2 fingers doing octaves and then overcompensating with his right hand playing. It is so refreshing to hear the stories of legends and the struggles they had along the way and how they don’t take themselves too seriously. It is incredibly inspiring so much that I went right to my keyboard and started practicing to get from one finger left hand playing to Billy Joel’s 2 finger level so there is hope for me too LOL!

I would love to have 5 minutes alone with…
Lady Gaga! She has a heart of gold, transcends generations and genres, is an incredibly hard worker, and always puts her fans first. I have seen her perform with Tony Bennett and during her Monster Ball tour and I am not sure what other artist in the world has that kind of talent cross genre. She also has CEO skills in my opinion based on being able to set a vision and then execute against that. At one point she was the creative director for Polaroid and I saw her interviewed live by Maria Bartiromo and boy Gaga was better than most CEOs ever interviewed by Maria!

Do you find that there is too much emphasis on being current and trendy..
I think there are a lot of musicians trying too hard to sound current or to sound like another act. Great music and art always borrows from the past so there is an element of sticking to your roots, to your foundation, to your DNA as an artist and then incorporating new elements into that.

I like experimenting with new sounds, genres, new drum rhythms, and new instruments all the time and I am not afraid to experiment and even release some of these experiments. Sounds of Life, a piano driven instrumental is one of these where I was at the beach in NJ and was inspired by the Seagulls to write a fresh melodic piece which I then was able to add some upbeat drums to. It didn’t feel like it needed any lyrics so I went ahead and released that as the last track on the Graveyard of Dreams record.

I did the same approach for the Time and Colors record, taking a rock song that I released in 2010 as a single, added to it and used that as the last track on the album. It turns out that that song Mamma Don’t Call Me Home is the highest rated song on the album! It borrows some hard rock power chords from the past and marries that with a modern indie sound and playful lyrics based on a true story of kids ding dong ditching around my neighborhood. So I feel that I have a good balance and musical curiosity is strong which is a good thing. I look forward to really mixing it up on the next record.

I am most afraid of…
Letting chances pass me by ☺ It is never too late to pursue your passions and I have seen so many people regret not doing things in their lives that they wish they had done. I am inspired by people who find time in their busy lives and schedules to prioritize what is important to them do what they love to do. There are so many great artists in the world that have never been heard. If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, did it make a sound? I think of that often with the idea if there is an independent musician in the world and they don’t get heard, does their music exist? If every child in the world that had artistic talent and ambition had a mentor to help develop that talent, would the world be a better place? I truly believe the answer is yes because music is the only universal language and the more that people communicate across cultures, geographies and nations, the better off the world will be.
I define success as…
doing what is in your control to achieve your full potential as a person and as an artist and not letting excuses get in the way. Launching my first EP in February 2015 was something I considered a personal success in that I was able to partner with my daughter Julia who was my creative director for the album art and packaging while delivering a package of music to the world that was long overdue.

There were so many people wanting me to launch that first EP for a number of years and I would just keep making up excuses. So this past December I asked my daughter if she wanted to be creative director if I released a record half-jokingly and when she said “yes dad” it was a real moment of truth. We set a schedule and suddenly I was working every night writing and recording the final songs and doing the engineering work to mix and master the record. It came together in a matter of days and weeks after sitting there as an “opportunity” for a few years. I realized this was a chance in life that I didn’t want to pass me by. I had written a song about that (Don’t Let Chances Pass You By) and it was then time to live by my own words. It has been incredibly rewarding to have done that record and to have had the chance to work with my daughter on it. Then a few months later I was able to launch a second EP so success leads to success! The first album hit #5 on the college charts on WGLS in NJ and top 20 in 3 markets. I feel the best is yet to come!

My overall goal for my life & career is…

Reach my full potential as a person and an artist while inspiring others by sharing my experiences and knowledge in a way that helps them achieve their full potential.

3 Ways that I challenge myself and how each one moves me forward towards my goal…
1) Practicing Discipline: making sure each week I spend time developing skills across the areas of songwriting, live performance, instrument playing skills, critical listening to music, and contributing to marketing efforts for current projects

2) Intellectual Curiosity: trying new things and sometimes failing at them, then learning from the experience; it is important to not be afraid to fail and learn from that, especially in a safe environment in the studio or in a songwriter group where you have lots of support and can trial things

3) Production Knowledge: I try to learn as much as I can about the engineering, mixing, and production side so that I can become more efficient in the studio and take advantage of new technology; I believe that this knowledge improves musicianship, productivity, and helps you make more music than you otherwise would be able to


Joseph is a singer-songwriter from NJ whose second EP Time and Colors hit the shelves worldwide in August 2015. The album is a follow up to his first EP Graveyard of Dreams, released in February 2015 that charted in the top 5 radio play on WGLS-FM NJ and top 20 in 2 other markets.

The EP Time and Colors has a progressive American Roots foundation with creative hooks and backbeats suited for radio that span flavors of Alternative Country and Indie Alternative Rock.
Time and Colors was inspired by the idea that we are all artists born into the world with a blank canvas. In one sentence Pagano would say that “life is an art-form”. We are all born into this earth as artists with a blank canvas. We get to decide what we put on that canvas. All we need is time and colors to express who we are, what we see, what we feel, where we have been, where we want to go.

The song Life in a Bag was inspired by a homeless man in Penn Station who seemed to be more sure of himself than the anxiety ridden commuters, and who seemed to be traveling with his whole life in a bag. The song has a strong backbeat and bluesy riffs, and calls out in a clever way the virtues of the simple, uncluttered life.

The closing track Mamma Don’t Call Me Home has a hard rock indie edge to it with a lyric that tells the tale of neighborhood kids ding dong ditching hoping their mothers don’t track them down. The melodic heavy metal like guitar riffs show Pagano’s breadth of coverage on this EP.
The Time and Colors record is a collection of original songs that Pagano wrote, arranged, recorded, produced and mastered himself in his studio in NJ. On the record Pagano performed guitar, bass, keyboards, synthesizers, drum machines, and vocals.

Joseph Pagano released his first EP record in February 2015 titled Graveyard of Dreams via CD Baby. The record is a collection of original songs based on Joseph’s observations and life experiences in traveling the world over the past decade with a mix of grass roots Americana, Rock, and electronic instrumental inspirations. The title track Graveyard of Dreams was inspired by a trip to the Grammy Awards in 2014 spending time on the historic Sunset Boulevard in LA.
As a teenager, Joseph played the guitar solo on the dance song single Cecelia, released in 1985 on Debbie Records Silk City Sound with the band N-Kuntrol founded by Jeffrey T. Crooms. Joseph played guitar, bass, and arranged the B-side, If I Said I Love you on the same release, the rare vinyl single which is selling for as much as $80 today on Discogs! Joseph played rhythm and lead guitar in several bands touring the NY / NJ area including Profile, Junior’s Farm, and Straight Shoot’r. He played guitar and sang for 11,000 people at a private function at the TD Waterhouse arena in Orlando, FL and continues to write and produce original rock and dance music.
On the Graveyard of Dreams track Little Girls, Joseph was in mid-song recording the demo track in his home studio when his young daughter walked in during the recording with her friend, oblivious to the fact he was recording, asked him to order dinner or watch her baby sister. The live interruption made the final track which you can hear midway through the song Little Girls! Now 18 Julia Pagano, Joseph’s daughter has a credit on the record for photography and album art.

On the Graveyard of Dreams record Joseph wrote, recorded and produced all of the parts on the 7 tracks including vocals, guitar, ukulele, drums, harmonica, keyboards, bass, percussion, midi programming and drum loop integration.