As album sales have seen sharp declines each year, the r&b genre has been hit especially hard. It’s no surprise that many r&b artists have spent the majority of their time touring and only releasing a new album every few years. Joe is an artist that has continued to consistently release albums, but it seems that even he is now considering slowing down. The legendary singer is set to release his twelfth album “#MyNameIsJoeThomas” this month, and is hinting this could be his final one. He’s already off to a great start with the release of this album though, with the lead single “So I Can Have You Back” already reaching top 5 at radio. The album pays tribute to Joe’s most successful album “My Name is Joe” and it’s poised to give us more of the traditional love songs we’ve grown accustomed to receiving from this timeless artist. YouKnowIGotSoul sat down with Joe once again for an interview and discussed the creation of the new album, if he’s really retiring, the vulnerability in his music, making r&b in the 90’s, and much more.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We’re approaching your twelfth album “#MyNameIsJoeThomas”. Talk about what inspired the creation of the album.
Joe: Just going back and taking it back to where people fell in love with me as an artist and they respected what that music was and what it felt and sounded like. It’s an homage to “My Name is Joe”, the album which is my biggest to date. A lot of times I just reflect on that particular era of music. Just in the 90’s period. We were very successful, people bought albums. Now that doesn’t exist. It’s hard transitioning from having a physical copy to the digital world. That digital word, including having iTunes and Amazon and all of these different networks that allow you to download an album. I’d like to have more of my fans that want physical copies..it’s something special about having the CD and see the pictures and read the credits. The times have changed. They do have that as well where you can also download the booklet so to speak that has the information and everything else on it. Moving forward with this album, I just wanted to create something that was like that experience. This new album is really just an homage to how good it felt when you listen to that music. I just wanted to write quality songs and have something that represented those in relationships or those trying to be successful in their relationship. I can’t wait to release the album. I’m excited for November 11th and the release of the album “#MyNameIsJoeThomas”.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We heard a lot of that vintage Joe sound on the first single “So I Can Have You Back”. Yet another top five single and soon to be yet another #1 single for you, congratulations on that. What strikes us is the vulnerability you continue to show in your music with many of your singles including this one. What allows you to be so open?
Joe: I think I committed early on to show that vulnerability and just speak on things and whatever topic, especially when it deals with relationships. I’ve been in a few, and unfortunately some didn’t work out like I’d like them to. It’s all a learning experience. It’s going to be rare to find someone that’s been with their high school sweetheart since day one. For those that are on the other side of the coin, like me, I’m still trying to find that one that’s for me. I think I write from that perspective. “So I Can Have You Back” for instance. I think a lot of people have felt that even though they didn’t realize until later that they had that perfect one. They were in the right situation but didn’t do the right things. But they still feel like that’s their one and no matter what it takes, they will wait it out. You still feel like, “I hope he or she does something so unforgivable to allow her to realize what I had wasn’t so bad after all.” That’s really what life is about, going through those certain times that make you a better person. Sometimes with me, and I know all men are not the same, which is a misconception, it’s a certain growth process that allows me to get to a certain point that I’ve lived that life and I’m so ready to be 100% committed and devoted to having a beautiful relationship with someone that I can enjoy the different experiences through the rest of my life. I think that’s what this album represents. Here I am now making another album about love and relationships and not being in that position to be able to share that with someone who I consider precious and special. It’s the 2.0 of “My Name is Joe”. It’s almost like the reintroduction. We’re starting all over again. It’s nice to meet you. Hi, my name is Joe Thomas. I want you to meet the real me.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We’re excited to hear the album when it releases next month. For now though, we’re a bit nervous and we know your fans are too, because on your song “Happy Hour” with Gucci Mane, in his rap he mentioned this was Joe’s last album. Will this be your final album?
Joe: This music industry is very, very tough. I’ve done it for a very long time. I’ve had success in it and I’ve been very fortunate and I thank God for everything he’s blessed me with. Sometimes it becomes a point where you feel like maybe…and I don’t want to be too outside of thinking when it comes to it. I love the music 100%, but also I want everybody else to love the music as well. I guess it comes down to if you’re not as successful as sales and you look at the numbers, which can really be a huge, huge impact on whether you want to continue or not. It says to you that it doesn’t matter anymore what you do and bring out. No matter how much hard work you put into it, it’s almost like it doesn’t matter if you put out an album or not. We can deal with a song or two, but not sure about an album. I think that’s the hardest part. I’m a songwriter. I’m a producer. I’m a musician. When you put those energies and mix them together to try to create a project and it means so much to you and you’re so excited about the release, sometimes some people don’t get a chance to hear it. They don’t get a chance to pick it up. So it kinda leaves you in a place where you don’t know if you should continue. Should it be something I keep beating in the head? Of course I’d love to continue doing music if everyone wants to hear it. I don’t want to say definitely, but certainly the question has crossed my mind. I’m at a point now where I so want people if only they love it and feel it, to support it. I don’t want to force anyone. I’ll never forget when my man 50 Cent challenged Kanye West to that particular album they released in the same week. It became one of those “If he wins, I’m out.” I’ve always wanted to win and be successful and make people happy. When they listen to the music, they find something that connects to their particular life. Hopefully, there’s a great success on this album, and I encourage everybody that wants to bring r&b back to a certain state where it used to be. I’m fighting for it. I want it to survive and be successful again. I want those of Ginuwine and Jodeci and so many of those dope artists considered to be dope by the masses. I don’t want this genre to get pushed to the side or be an unsung genre of music. Hip hop is the new pop. I can clearly say that right now. The influence that hip hop has, it’s the most popular music in any genre. They have reached and touched different cultures, everybody. I want r&b to be just like it was when it was Marvin Gaye and The Gap Band and New Edition. It was so many great performers and songwriters back then. I want to bring that particular love for what r&b is back into the fore front. If it’s at that point where nobody cares anymore, I don’t want to have to change who I am as far as going trap or switch up my lyrics to sell records. I don’t to sell records, I just want people to hear it and be open to appreciating it. We are at a point now where r&b is at a crossroads and somebody has to step out front and say they’re not going to let it go that route.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We love that philosophy. On a lighter note, being that this album is an homage to your “My Name is Joe” album, take us back to the 90’s. It’s almost hard to imagine what it was like to record an album in the 90’s, one of the golden eras of r&b. Take us back.
Joe: For me it’s quite like it is now. I still use the same approach to writing. The production has to be a little more of what’s happening now. I’ve always wanted to do an organic album with instruments and all of that. Also I know there is a new generation born everyday and we have to cater to them just as much as we cater to my core audience, but without compromise. So that’s why I started writing this album in the most organic way, just with a piano, no track included, or just a guitar. I just created lyrics and melody first, and then adding all of the other components later on. I felt it was important to do that to keep the essence of what r&b is but also understand that it’s moving. I don’t have a problem with that. I just want the words and the meaning and perception of who we are to still be that classic and romantic and elegant style of performance. I learned from the best when it comes to who I was inspired by. Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Smokey Robinson, Barry White, when it comes to male solo singers. I don’t think the generation now has that particular influence. Maybe because it’s not on a larger scale they can see. Of course not being of the generation now, it’s kinda hard to reach them, I think what they listen to first is the beat. When you’ve got that groove happening for them, maybe later on if it feels good, it will all soak in.
YouKnowIGotSoul: An interesting question we got from one of your fans. We saw Babyface and Toni Braxton had a lot of success with their duet album. If you were to do a duet album with a female vocalist, who would you choose?
Joe: Sade. I absolutely love her, I think she’s amazing. Her style is just so mellow and smooth. To add a little bit of edge to her when it comes to what I do. I can be smooth if need be. I try to perform for the record and give the record what it needs. I can imagine Sade on a groovy track, something that may be a little more edgy than her. She’s still going to be Sade on the record. She’s going to be as mellow and smooth as she is. I’d love to do a collab album with Sade.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We love to reflect back on your legendary career. If you were to look back, are there any album cuts you felt of yours that should have been singles?
Joe: Hmmm…one of the top of my head, I know “Magic” I loved from the “Double Back” album. I wish I would have released the song “Bridges” from that album, I thought that was a dope one as well. That’s hindsight. If I would have knew then. You sort of keep moving. I’ve always looked at it this way. Maybe that album wasn’t as successful. That means you go back in again. I know I got my core audience and I certainly appreciate my fans for supporting me with every album I ever put out. But at the same time, you look at the other artists, we all base our careers off of someone else’s career and look at their success. That inspires us. We strive to be just as great. I don’t think anybody wants to be the second best. I mean Kanye, he makes that argument every time he comes out and I applaud him for that. He always wants to be the top dog every time. For me, it goes the same. I always want to be on top, whether it’s R. Kelly, Trey Songz, Ne-Yo, Usher or anybody in r&b. You want to be at the top of the pendulum. The only want to get to the top is fans pushing you and making sure that you’re in that particular position. Your job as the artist is to make sure your music is just that good so it’s undeniable. This is where it needs to be. I get underrated all of the time. I mean really, I don’t know what that says to the industry, but what it says to me from fans point of view is that I deserve much more. I deserve to be further along than where I am.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Anything you’d like to add?
Joe: I’d just like to say, we’ve been doing interviews for quite a while now. You’ve always been very consistent and very fair and very honest. I applaud you for being just who you are and thank you so much over the years for your support in my career. Who knows if this is the last one, only God knows, but regardless, it has been absolutely amazing speaking to you and you creating an avenue and a vehicle for my fans to get to see and hear me and to bring questions. I’ve been so honored to have known you and have spoken to you.