On the Rise: Joey Mack

What’s it like to hear your song featured on FOX’s hit series Empire? Just ask Cincinnati bred independent hip-hop artist Joey Mack who landed a sync placement for his raw single “Do It” via an exclusive ReverbNation opportunity. We caught up with Joey to get the lowdown on landing his first sync placement, being featured on This is 50 (50 Cent’s blog), his recent diagnosis of Schizophrenia and how music has served as a creative outlet.

Congratulations on landing a sync placement on FOX’s hit series Empire! How did this come about?

The beginning of 2016 I was invited by ReverbNation to be an artist under a development program called CONNECT. CONNECT gave me an incredible outlet which as a purely independent artist under zero management I was excited about and craved. I jumped at the idea to actually have people who believed in my craft and working in the background to help further my career. Daren Searcy, a CONNECT manager, worked his magic and landed me a sync placement with Hitcher. I was amazed and honored to be under the same roster as Run The Jewels and Killer Mike. Anyways, one day I remember specifically I had gotten fired from my current job with AT&T because I took a risk and left for Atlanta to meet with a highly accomplished songwriter, Sky Keeton. They didn’t like that I left to chase an opportunity so I happily accepted their reason to fire me. On the way home I checked my e-mail and saw a message from Daren about Hitcher interested in one of my songs. It was a song I originally released two years ago titled “Do It” and at that moment I just knew it would work out somehow. Fast forward to a few months later and Daren informs that we may have a bite through Empire. I took a few moments to actually realize what was happening, a song I wrote two years ago is going to now be on a hit TV series using my lyrics and broadcast to millions of people. I really just can’t explain in words how good it feels to land such a massive placement as my first one. I hope this can project my career as not only a recording and performing artist but now an established songwriter. Maybe one day I’ll write songs as a staff writer for a publishing company. All I know is November 30th of 2016 will be a day that I’ll never forget. My city is so underrated as a music hub even though we have had great people emerge from this city but no one in hip hop has really made an impact outside of Hi Tek and Mood & Lantana who signed to RCA and made it to BET. I just feel blessed and I pray it opens more doors for my career. I’m wanting to be that artist that can say I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio and we have so much talent here. I want my city to shine just like NY, ATL, CHI, CAL.

Tell us about your music video “Amerikkka ft Sleep The Fraternity.”  What was the underlying message?

This record is one of my personal favorites I’ve ever done. Firstly, Sleep is a phenomenal storytelling concept writer and has perfected his craft – a true wordsmith. He has done some pretty amazing things. If you search his catalog on YouTube you’ll see a bunch of hits on all of his music videos and he actually got me my own Vevo channel. I can’t thank him enough because that is such an awesome platform to have. I actually recorded the song about eight months ago and I was going to originally keep it to myself but then I got to thinking and I’ve known Sleep for a number of years, so I reached out to him and I sent him the record and he was feeling it. The track is so powerful because it has a real message and substance which is something that is not in a lot of hip-hop anymore or on the radio.  The song is controversial yet relatable to so many. Our nation is currently in a police state. You can’t turn on one single news station and not see a protest, a riot, another police shooting, another killing and it’s just perpetual and it’s really sad because we as the people truly have the power to change that. I wanted to give a voice to people who had no voice and the only way that I could express that and connect other people was through music. This record was very special to me because it meant something much larger than myself and that in itself is what propelled me to release such a controversial track. It has done fairly well as far as listens. We’re up to 20K hits on my music fan page and I have plans for promoting the video on Vevo.

Who are some of your main influences?

Musically, my influences vary from a wide range of artists and genres. I consider myself a learner at all times because I’m always listening and always wondering how these artists reach new levels. My favorite singer and big influence is Mali Music. He is absolutely phenomenal. If you want music that stirs your soul, give him a listen. J Cole hands down is someone I idolize. It would take J Cole saying “come to Dreamville” for me to sign with anyone unless I was granted full creative process. I just feel that he would be cool with me doing whatever I felt. Growing up I loved the Rolling Stones, Jeff Beck, The Temptations, Aretha Franklin, and many more. I think I got my edge from my dad’s taste and my soul from my mother’s. I find influence in almost everything I can connect to. Outside of music my family inspires me, especially my father. In 2014 we experienced a house fire and lost everything and at that point it was a stopping moment for me to really realize that what matters the most is family. I love my brother, he inspires me with writing. Lastly, the real fans and supporters who give me the edge to keep going.

At what moment in your life did you decide music was something you wanted to pursue?

Ever since I was a kid I always did something music oriented. My dad would play music so loud in the house and my brother and I would just run wild over it. He never stopped us from expressing ourselves. I remember the day I fell in love with hip-hop, I watched Men In Black and was hooked by Will Smith’s song. I got his cd Big Willie Style and memorized most of the lyrics. As I got older I got into 2 Pac and Biggie, Big L, Big Daddy Kane, Public Enemy, and many more. I decided at 13 I wanted to write music so I wrote and wrote and wrote but never told anyone. In  2011 I had built my confidence up by a friend who at the time was actively recording, so I said to myself this is what I’m here to do. I’m addicted to music and it’s been my biggest escape from the world and the pain that comes with it. My first show had 15 people there and to go from that to opening for major acts in front of thousands in 6 months was amazing. When I hit the ground I hit it running and haven’t stopped since.

This is 50 (50 Cent’s blog) featured your music video “Die About It.” How have you remained true to your craft?

“Die About It” is without doubt a very commercial and left wing song for me. This song is very true to me.  I wanted to show people that I can make catchy singles to appeal to the masses. You think of Yo Gotti and you think trap music, you think of Kendrick and you think lyrical and I want people to look at Joey Mack and say, he literally can do it all. I think this will open doors for me to ghostwrite for other majors acts. I believe by meeting the industry standards I can surpass them and raise the expectations. 50 Cent has always been one of my favorites so to see his writing staff put me on there was a big deal. I’m in pretty well with that writer now and he supports my visions completely so expect to see more of me on there.

You recently announced to your fans you have been suffering from schizophrenia for close to two years, but just recently diagnosed. How has music helped as an outlet?

It has helped in many ways and allowed me to redirect and use that energy to create. The condition is something that has paralyzed me in many ways and also stolen from me. I’m in what I would call recovery now. My episodes are not nearly as extensive or extremely manic as before. It was like all my dreams were coming true and then I got hit by a ton of bricks. The music itself has been a way out from the noise in my head. I feel it’s made me deeply more creative. People hear the diagnosis and think crazy, scattered, talks to themselves, etc. I instead see it as clarity and try to turn it into a positive experience. I refuse to let it run my life and ruin me. I choose to take it in stride and enjoy this beautiful chaos we call life as much as I can. There are many people who share the same condition and it seems to strike a lot of creative minds like Tom Harrell. Against considerable odds, Harrell has successfully struggled with schizophrenia and become one of the most respected trumpeters and composers of the past 30 years. Meera Popkin was the star of Cats and Miss Saigon on Broadway and was diagnosed with schizophrenia during this time. Her life went from center stage and limousines to waiting tables at Wendy’s but she’s now back and is doing well. John Nash was an eccentric mathematical genius whose sudden youthful plunge into schizophrenia could have ended in obscurity or tragedy. Instead, his 30-year battle against crippling mental disease ended in triumph – and winning the 1994 Nobel Prize in economics, as recounted in the blockbuster 2001 film, A Beautiful Mind. Syd Barrett from Pink Floyd, the list can go on and on and on. One day I will make that list and hopefully be fully recovered. There is no genius without the madness and no madness without the genius.

Finally can you share some words of wisdom for aspiring hip-hop artists?

Be unique, don’t be another blend. Don’t change and follow your heart. Your dreams are not unattainable by any means. You have to work like you KNOW you have meaning. Give it your soul and give people YOUR story. Do it with love, the rest will come to you. Don’t be intimated. Use social media as much as you can, build a catalog of solid well produced and engineered music. The first thing people will run from is poor recording quality. Join a performance rights organization like BMI or ASCAP to protect your rights and collect  royalties. Read books on music. Do everything in your means and something will happen. You’ll gain confidence and if you’re truly talented people will follow you and love what you do just as much as you do. Most of all, NEVER give up. I’ve questioned time and time again if what I was doing would ever pay off then I realized, if I love it, if I present it with passion, if I inspire, I’ve already succeeded and the rest is just icing on the cake. Good luck and much love on your journey.

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DaveOn the Rise: Joey Mack

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  • Shawn Bagot - December 5, 2016 reply

    Dope!!!!

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