Joe Bachman kicks off the music on the Country Stage in Baker Park on July 4, taking the stage at 1:30 p.m.
With a tattoo of Bob Marley and Bono on his right arm and the face of John Lennon on his left leg, and a fan of KISS, Metallica and Michael Jackson, Bachman may not sound like a country artist … check that … he’s got tattoos and influenced by rock/pop artists … yep that’s today’s country artist.
Music, he said, is in his blood and his been a passion since he was a toddler, noting he remembers asking his mother for KISS dolls for Christmas when he was 3 years old. Somewhere along the way, he connected with songwriting and the storytelling of country music paired with the harmonies of pop, a la The Beatles and Eagles, fit him to a T, he said.
“In high school I started writing songs,” Bachman said in a recent phone interview on a rare day at home in St. Augustine, Fla. He said it was the first three days he’d been home since March 10, hitting 34 states in a six-month radio tour and playing gigs in between.
Around age 15, he remembers telling his mother that he didn’t like living in his native Philadelphia, that he thought the speed of life in the south was where he wanted to live. “It’s because you grew up military,” she told him.
Bachman’s dad retired from the military shortly before Joe was born, and as the oldest of three boys, Joe lived a regimented life making sure he and his brothers did their homework, cleaned the house and he fixed dinner to be on the table at 6 o’clock when his parents came home. And it was to bed by 8 p.m.
After high school, he landed a job at a mortgage company. “It was a high-paying job for someone without a college education,” Bachman said. “But I was in a cubicle everyday and miserable.”
For Mother’s Day, he wrote a song for his mother, who encouraged him to send it to a local radio station. Thinking, yeah, that will get some airplay, he was amazed when on the following Monday, at his cubicle, his song came on the radio.
“If that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is,” he said. Bachman went to his boss’s office, gave him a hug and said thanks and so long, music is what I’ve gotta do. “That was 15 years ago,” he said.
Next stop: Key West, Fla.
Yep, it made perfect sense to Joe, since that was where a longtime Songwriters Festival is held annually. It worked. He met Big Kenny Alphin, who invited him to visit him in Nashville, and the rest as they say is music history.
Actually, it’s been a lot of hard work and constant touring, up to 250 shows a year for the past 10 years, he said.
He fell in love with country music and Nashville, only thing missing is the ocean, says the avid ocean angler.
He’s also a big supporter of the military. “My dad taught me at a young age if you see a guy in uniform or a guy who served to be sure to thank him,” Bachman said. That gratitude led him to meet two Iraq/Afghanistan war veterans who would become good friends and be featured in one of his music videos.
A request from a longtime friend, Lt. Jason Duff, a U.S. Navy psychologist, asked Joe if he would consider writing a song about what it’s like for veterans with PTSD or TBI (traumatic brain injury). After talking to his dad and a lot of veterans, active military and their families, he collaborated with friend Mitch Rossell to write “A Soldier’s Memoir.”
After a concert a couple of years ago in Annapolis, he met a fan who said her husband had done four tours of duty in Afghanistan, he showed no emotion, was like a stone wall, but when he played “A Soldier’s Memoir” during the show, he broke down. Bachman talked to him and they became friends, U.S. Army David Crocket, and is featured in the music video.
The other veteran, Marine Tyler Southern, “I met him at a water hole in St. Augustine,” Bachman said. Southern was wearing a T-shirt printed with the words “battlefield tested, battlefield approved.” Remembering what his own dad taught him, he approached the young man to thank him, as he neared he saw Southern had lost his legs and half of one arm. “I got really emotional and talked to him for about two hours. He’s become one of my best friends,” Bachman said.
The song and the video are powerful, emotion-packed.
Bachman’s current single, “Lookatchu,” is more lighthearted and playful, and though he didn’t write it he fell in love with it the first time he heard it.
He’s working on his sophomore album, titled “It’s All Good,” which he expects to be released in early fall for Rock Ridge Music. He said of the 12 songs slated for the album he wrote eight or nine of them.
His first album was an independent project and co-produced by Arlis Albritton and New Voice Entertainment, aka members of Jason Aldean’s band. Called “One,” it features two Bachman fan favorites, “Small Town Rock Stars” and “I Sell ‘Em Out of Beer.”
Bachman said his two biggest influences for his live shows are Garth Brooks and Lee Brice. “They want to take people on a roller coaster, from the full band feels like a frat house to the band leaving the stage and Lee or Garth with just a guitar player taking you to a different place. That’s what I want to do.”
You can read more of my interview with Joe Bachman in the Thursday, July 3, edition of 72 Hours: The FNP Weekend Guide online or inside The Frederick News-Post.