Interview with Michigan-based bassist Joseph Veloz, delivers his signature bottom end grooves that you will feel from head to toes.
What do you learn about yourself from the blues people and what does the blues mean to you?
I have learned to Love what I do and to be proud of what I have accomplished. The Blues for me is an art form that allows myself and so many musicians to express our feelings and our emotions with our music.
How do you describe Joseph Veloz sound and songbook? What characterize your music philosophy?
My sound and songbook are a fusion of Blues, Rock, Funk & a little Jazz. My philosophy is pretty simple, make the audience Feel the music and play from the Heart not from the Head.
How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started making music? What has remained the same about your music-making process?
I have grown in my experiences and relationships. I am a much more mature giving and supportive player now than in my earlier years. I wanted to impress people with my talents and abilities when I was starting out, now I look to be more supportive to the material I am playing and to the artist I am working for/with. I am much more aware of melody, song structure and overall musical intent now. I still gravitate to groove, feel and Blues. If it ain’t got no funky, bluesy feeling something ain’t right…. I really try to just find a place in the music I’m playing where I can groove, support and communicate. I love being a bassist, playing in the pocket with a drummer. When I’m composing, creating the groove or feel is where I mainly start. Even when I come up with a harmonic idea, I usually make the idea groove.
How do you describe new album’s “Joseph & the Velozians” sound?
Joseph And The Velozians sound is a sum total of the compositions and the people playing them. The sound is the combination of Organic grooves, Bluesy feel and R&B song sensibility. I had a distinct sound in mind for each song. Singer, players, style and so forth. Combined with the availability of everyone losing so much work from not touring last year, this project helped keep me looking forward and I hoped that it would create that feeling in those that participated. I believe the overall feeling of hope and joy of seeing and working together while separated from the world is what made the “Velozian” sound.
Do you have any stories about the making of the new album?
The name Velozians was something a friend said to me one night about 15 years ago when we use to host a Jam at Corktown Tavern in Detroit. It was a kind of ongoing joke that any band I threw together were The Velozians. When the 2020 lockdown started to kick in, I watched my tour dates and festivals start to cancel one after the other. It was devastating for not just myself but for all of the musicians I had become so close to over the past couple of years. I really felt defeated at first. I knew I had to do something to keep myself from feeling down about this situation none of us had any of control over. I am starting finishing work on music I had started writing over the past few years since releasing my first CD Offerings in 2017. It made me feel hopeful again and I wanted my fellow musicians to share in the Joy I was feeling. I started to reach out with my ideas, and we all started to communicate virtually at first. When everyone had started to feel safe going out again, we scheduled studio time and it was like a celebration to create and be together again! It was almost surreal, but we all knew how special it was. The excitement and Joy in everyone was undeniable. The guitar player Carlton Washington said it was like a gift had been given to him. It was great to see so many smiles again and that vibe is present in the music every time you listen.
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?
I learned to stay true to my faith in God, in myself and in my family and friends. The Music Business is not always loving and caring, but I truly try to give as much grace to people as I can because many times I myself have needed it. There are so many opportunities to show love, truth and kindness to people and I didn’t always know how important that is. I have learned that the best way to deal with situations when they do come up is to be direct, professional, honest, and always kind.
What would you say characterizes Michigan blues scene in comparison to other local US scenes and circuits?
That infusion of pop, blues and R&B made Motown Hitsville USA, so most Detroit blues musicians also have a vocabulary of multiple music styles and backgrounds. Michigan musicians in general are all very hard working and dedicated to their craft. Here in Detroit and the surrounding Metropolitan area the Motown style still influences all of us. Detroit has had some tough times economically and if you’ve been around for a while, you see the spirit of survival and perseverance all around the city. Competition is fierce for the few gigs in the area. That really makes it imperative that you know how to appeal to a wide variety of audience and venue possibilities. And you better be funky!
How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
It has given me a broader view of myself and the world around me. No matter where I go in the World and play music people realize if you are truly giving from the heart, authentic not fake. I realized that people will always respect you if you are honest and humble to any and all people.
Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
My friendship with Andrew “Blaze” Thomas & Shawn Kellerman has always been a very important one. They push me and support me like a brother, but never let me forget who I am or how good I can become. The best advice I have received is to always give all you can so you will never look back at your life or decisions in regret.
Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
I was given the opportunity to play in Moscow with Lucky Peterson. I was unsure of how we/I would be received and how we would be treated there. Once we started to play they could have cared less about where we were from or what color we were, they just wanted to hear the Blues and they were so glad we came there!!!
What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
There were many more Blues venues in the past here in the US. People seem to have moved away from live roots/blues music for some reason. My hope is that Blues will continue to grow as an art form and capture the younger generations, My fear is that Blues will become more of a historical art form rather than an ever changing and growing art form.
If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
That music could be available to everyone around the globe, both young and old. To sit and sing the simplest songs with other people, whatever the style always makes for a good time together and the starting point of breaking down barriers that separate mankind from each other.
What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the local music circuits?
My Grandkids trying to play my Bass was quite funny, they just smack it and strum it with no concern or care, they just want to try to play and have fun. I think the most emotional thing that continues to touch me is when a Musician passes and we get together to Jam or sing praises about them, we use music/the Blues to connect and pay tribute.
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?
Anywhere in Europe! Every time I get the opportunity to travel there it is always a pleasure to walk down streets or go into buildings centuries old. It’s living history, I dig that stuff!
What is the impact of Blues/Rock and Jazz on the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?
I see both sides. 1: no one knows or cares what color of your skin or where you are from if you are groovin’ on a good song! 2: unfortunately, people limit themselves from certain styles or genres because of race or creed. Music can touch all of us no matter were you are from or what color/creed you are if you only make yourself available to be open and accepting. I think that is the main issue we seem to always fall short of, to make yourself open and available to people and have empathy for whomever you cross paths with, we are all Humans!
Interview by Michael Limnios / Photos by Zaneta Alvarez