Black Friday is a big day for new releases. For this Black Friday, one of the 315’s favorite balladeers Joe Altier (stage name Just Joe) has released his most personal effort to date, ‘Breakdown.’ You can find it on all the streaming platforms and copies of the physical CD can be found at his website.
The pandemic has hit the entertainment industry harder than most. Musicians have been left scrambling for ways to continue making a living and getting their music heard. Just Joe has used the gaming platform Twitch to do this and has seen great success doing so. Success that not only has him continuing regular gigs in the virtual world but also helping to create a community that has led to international friendships and collaborations, some of which are included on this new release.
315 Music spotlighted Altier back in July. You can read that piece here. For his new release, Altier and I sat down at Stout Beard Brewing Company in the Westcott neighborhood of Syracuse. Try the pickle ale.
Altier possesses a wealth of musical knowledge. He’s worked every side of the industry from fronting a national touring act to booking music at the Lost Horizon and everything in between. He is now at the forefront of a new paradigm in the era of COVID, becoming partnered on Twitch.
Our conversation included tour stories from the early ’00s with his band Brand New Sin. The band opened for such metal luminaries as Motorhead, Type O Negative, Pantera and Black Label Society and had a few dates with the Rob “Ripper” Owens era Judas Priest and a scrapped European tour with Danzig that could have changed the fortunes of the band.
We talked about the local music scene and great concerts at the Lost Horizon. But that was all secondary to what the get-together was really about. Altier wanted to talk about his new album, out today.
Altier isn’t shy about this album’s origins. He admits to mistakes he’s made over the years and kept bottled up. The free time given him by the pandemic allowed him to confront these thoughts and put them to paper. Songs such as the lead-off track, “Stray” set the tone for the rest of the album.
“My selfish ways have torn the world apart
I took the one I love and broke her precious heart.”
Strap in, this one is going to take you on an emotional journey.
The lyrics in “Don’t Mean That I’m OK” tell the story of loss. The listener has free reign to interpret what type of loss the song is about, but it tugs at the strings for sure. This is a song written by a friend in the UK Altier met through Twitch named James Abram. When Abram shared the song Altier felt the theme fit perfectly with the rest of the content of his album and asked if he could record it. This is just one of the several collaborations included on this album that wouldn’t have been possible if the pandemic hadn’t happened and Altier hadn’t moved his live performances to Twitch.
The piano work throughout the album is sparse but allows the beautiful lyrics to reveal themselves. Another collaboration as a result of Twitch is with Nashville songwriters Johnny Bulford and Heidi Raye on the song “This Time Around.” In our conversation, Altier gushed at being able to co-write a song with this husband and wife duo responsible for hits by Lee Brice and Chris Young.
Listeners may recognize the song “We Belong” made famous by Pat Benetar in the ’80s. Again, via Twitch, Altier was able to connect with the original writer of the song, Dan Navarro. Navarro happened to be in a Twitch chat one night and Altier proceeded to perform the song for him. Navarro sent Altier his original lyrics with his blessing to record the song.
The final collaboration on this project is with Altier’s partner in the business, Tom Chick, who wrote “Bring You Home.”
As previously mentioned, this is a heavy album. One that will take the listener on a ride through regret, redemption, and rejoicing. Altier’s most emotional output is among his best. Be sure to pick this one up.
Key Tracks: “Don’t Mean that I’m OK,” “Stray,” “Pieces of Me”