Man I wish more artists took the approach that Joonie does. Just from speaking with him in this interview, I’m left with the impression that he really cares for preserving the musicality and genuine aspects of music despite the fact it will never get him to the mainstream. You see, I feel that the love for music as a pure art form is sorely missing in many of today’s artists and it’s very refreshing to hear someone like Joonie speak on a desire to stay true to that quality. In this interview, we discuss his album “Acoustic Love,” his writing process, touring with Elliott Yamin, being a triple threat as an artist, what will make him last in r&b, and much more.
YKIGS: Early on in your life, how did you first get introduced to music and what influenced you to want to go into a career in music?
Joonie: I think I got into music through growing up in a family that was into that stuff and that’s pretty much where it all started. My mom sang, my dad played keyboards, and I was coming up around it a little bit. But as I got older, probably around the age of 9 or 10, I think that’s when I really decided that I wanted to do music. So I started playing keys and participating in church choirs and things like that, and it kinda took off from there.
YKIGS: You mentioned some of the instruments you played. Take me through each of the instruments you can play and how you took interest in learning those.
Joonie: First and foremost was the piano, that’s kinda my heart, I started off playing that. That was a thing where I was never trained or anything like that, I picked it up by myself just listening to cds and kinda hammered it out by myself. I also play percussion and drums. Growing up with a rhythmatic family it was kinda just a natural thing. Guitar was something I picked up probably in my high school years, probably during my junior year of high school. So I kinda just learn by ear, it’s all what you feel.
YKIGS: I know you also write a lot of your own music as well as music for other people. Talk to me about how you developed your talent in writing and the approach you take when putting a song together.
Joonie: Well you know it depends on the type of song that I’m writing. Some songs I write with other artists in mind, that being the producer in me as well, just doing it that way. But songs that are more personal or songs that I would do for myself, it depends on the style and the direction I’m going. If it’s something that’s acoustic or it’s something that’s more sentimental, I usually just pick up the guitar and kinda just let it flow off of what I feel. Sometimes it takes days, sometimes it takes months, sometimes it takes hours. The standard way that a lot of people follow would be just to get a track and come up with a rhythm and freestyle to see what comes out.
YKIGS: We talked about the fact that you play instruments, you write, and you can sing as well. Do you feel it’s an advantage for you to be a triple threat in that regard, having talents in each of these separate things rather than someone who can just sing?
Joonie: Yea I’m blessed and I think it is an advantage because I talk to a lot of different artists and a lot of times they have ideas and they can get one part of the idea out, but they need help getting the other part of it out. They have to have somebody else kinda be in touch with their feelings. So by me being able to do all three of those things it’s like I can start and have my hand in it from start to finish. It’s like painting a picture, when you paint a picture nobody really wants to give that picture to someone else so they can finish it because then it wouldn’t be 100% theirs. So it’s always good to see a finished product and know that you had your hand in all of it and it’s what you wanted.
YKIGS: Yea I definitely have respect for artists who not only can sing, but have that talent in instruments and writing as well.
Joonie: Thank you!
YKIGS: Eventually early on you got signed to your first record deal. What was that whole experience like?
Joonie: It was cool, actually that one was of the highlights of my life being able to get to that situation. I was doing my music out in Seattle, Washington and Warren G got a hold of the demo that I had made. The demo wasn’t made to get signed as an artist because I really wasn’t trying to sing at the time, I was just singing all of that stuff because I had enough to demo it. But a friend of mine wanted to toss it over to Warren G since he knew his manager. So I came to find out that after hearing my demo, he wanted to work with me, so we made something happen. I came down to L.A. and met with a bunch of labels and decided to go with Elektra Entertainment. I think it was a great experience even though we had our differences at the end but throughout it I got a lot of contacts, I got a lot of experience and I think it was a great opportunity for me.
YKIGS: I was reading that eventually you decided to step away from the spotlight and walk away from the label and the deal and just start writing for other artists. What made you go in that direction?
Joonie: Well the thing was that it was kinda a mutual thing. What happened was we had the album done and it was ready to roll but then some things happened where the label was going through a merger. So it got to a point where there were new people and they started questioning the single and I found myself at a place where I was trying to do songs that were meant for the mainstream and I was kinda losing myself in the whole hustle and bustle. So after we decided to step away, I stepped back away from the scene for a minute to really kinda find myself again and I think that’s what people are going to here with this new album “Acoustic Love.” They are going to hear the genuineness, the pure musicianship that you probably wouldn’t have heard if I was to release an album at that time.
YKIGS: I also read eventually you went on tour with Elliott Yamin. What was it like being on tour with him and how did that opportunity come about?
Joonie: The opportunity came about through a friend of mine who played guitar for him a few years back and he asked me to go on the road with them because they needed a keyboard player and I said no. Actually originally I didn’t really have any interest in touring. Eventually they kinda convinced me to do it and then on the road after meeting Elliott, we just became really, really, really good friends. They were just a great group of guys to be around so I continued to tour with them for years now and it’s a great experience, a lot of fun, he’s a talented dude and performing with him is great. We’re actually going to be leaving this week to go to Japan to do another tour.
YKIGS: You mentioned the debut album “Acoustic Love.” After the tour, what made you decide to want to restart your solo career and get back into the process of making an album.
Joonie: Well I started making songs again just for my own listening pleasure, not really to try to get them out there. But being on the road with Elliot, and the response that we were getting, and just being on stage, and having the encouragement from them on any songs I would put together, just having that push kinda made me want to get back into it. I remember being on the road in my hotel room and setting up my MySpace page. I know this was a minute ago because I know everybody is on Facebook now, but I remember setting up a MySpace page and I was just going through their reaching out to old contacts and we just took it from there, and here I am now.
YKIGS: Talk to me about this album “Acoustic Love.” What can you tell me about the album in terms of sound and music you can find on there?
Joonie: Well “Acoustic Love,” I call it the blueprint of love. Every song on there has some element of love and you’re going to find out of all twelve tracks there is something you can relate to. It’s real music, it’s pure music, and that goes along with the musicianship and the lyrical content. It’s pure, genuine, true. It’s edgy, but it’s real soulful, it wasn’t intended for mainstream, but it wasn’t intended to sit in the closet. It’s just one of those albums that I know will go down as a classic album. It’s something that you can listen to for years to come.
YKIGS: I had a chance to hear the song “Sunshine” and I know many of your fans like that one. Give me some background on that song and how it came together.
Joonie: So “Sunshine” was actually a song that I wrote with a friend of mine. I actually started the track before I even wrote the lyrics, I just had the melody for the hook. From there I just put together something genuine, and again, that’s my thing. I concluded that there is a such thing as long term healthy relationships and I feel like nowadays we don’t have a lot of music that kinda speaks to that testament, or it’s out there but just not in the fore front. So I just make songs that are real. I remember we used to get a lot of that back in the day with the old records, Al Green and Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. I just feel like there’s a need for that kinda music again and I think “Sunshine” is a song that I recorded it so it would be like it took place in that genre.
YKIGS: One thing I’ve noticed about the song from reading online is it got a lot of support from listeners overseas and in the United Kingdom. Was that surprise for you considering you’re from the U.S. and how did that feel?
Joonie: It feels great honestly. Like I said I never really intended for the music to go out, it was just for my own, so for it to be getting international love is actually above more than what I even expected for the songs. So I’m just grateful.
YKIGS: Since “Acoustic Love” released last year, tell me about what other projects you’re working on, because I was reading that you do music for films as well.
Joonie: Well right now my focus has really been on pushing the “Acoustic Love” album. I have some duets that I’m working on and mixtapes and things like that. Right now that’s pretty much been my focus, just getting good music into the hands of the people.
YKIGS: A lot of upcoming r&b singers come and go, they make a little bit of an impact and then they’re gone. What is it about Joonie that you think will make you stay for the long haul in this music business?
Joonie: Well I think that the kind of music I make is going to help me with my longevity. I think that my love for pure music and the art itself will show through in what I do. I love singing, I love producing, I love writing, so in some way you’re always going to hear something by Joonie.
YKIGS: Is there anything you’d like to add?
Joonie: No man, I appreciate you interviewing me man, I really appreciate it.
YKIGS: Definitely man. How can fans reach you to check out the album?