In Conversation with Joe Reeves

WRITTEN BY Saibh Downes

March 28, 2022

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In Conversation with Joe Reeves

Saibh Downes

28 Mar, 2022

“The Power of Social Media” is a five-word phrase that has been used to death – ironically, mostly by those who are in fact naively ill-informed on the true potential of online virality. I would go so far as to officially declare the cliché deceased. In spite of my passionate disdain for the saying, its point is undeniably valid. Literally overnight, one can become “someone” via social media. London based Grammy nominated producer Joe Reeves is a testament to this.

In 2019, Joe Reeves signed a publishing deal with the Grammy award-winning producer Nineteen85 – a music industry maven responsible for tracks by the likes of Drake, Majid Jordan, Travis Scott and PartyNextDoor. In the last two years, Reeves has solidified his status as a respected producer. He has worked on numerous projects including lil durk’s 2022 album 7220, Dave’s We’re All Alone In This Together (the guitar melody on “Lazarus” – yeah that’s him) and the late Juice WRLD’s Legends Never Die.  

Before all this, Reeves was an amateur guitarist who played covers in his bedroom. In 2017, he posted a cover of Dave’s “No Words” on his Instagram and the rapper reposted it. As a longstanding and unapologetic fangirl of Dave, the video attracted my attention. So, I followed Joe on Instagram. Since then, I’ve observed Reeves’ rise to success via social media. However, I didn’t know any of the details. The ‘how’s’, ‘why’s’ and ‘when’s’. That’s why Joe and I had this conversation. I asked him the things I’ve always wanted to know.

Tell me the story. How were you discovered?

(Of course, I posed this question casually, but in fact I was clinging onto every single word.)

“One day I saw a video of Dave’s ‘No Words’ on Link Up TV and the melody stuck with me. I then went through all of his music. I thought, “oh my god this guy is sick”. Through this, I was introduced to a new world of UK rap artists.”

“I put up a cover of the song and tagged Dave. This was around the time Instagram had introduced the fifteen second video. Literally that night, my phone started going crazy. Dave liked it, commented on it, and we started chatting on DMs. This alone was enough for me to think “wow”. He posted the video the next day, and that’s how it all started.”

“Soon enough I realised that the fifteen second video was a formula that worked. I started doing more covers, but this time tagging producers too. Then they started to reach out. All the producers that Dave works with started to engage with my videos. So did Drake’s producers – and that’s how I got my publishing deal.” 

How did you first get into music?

“When I was a kid (for some reason), my parents bought me a charity shop guitar – and I took to it. I would listen to songs that I liked and try to work them out. I’d pick apart the melodies. While everyone was playing Call of Duty, I was playing my guitar.” – BTW, this ability to dissect and arrange melodies so meticulously by ear (without any formal musical training) is insane.

“The music theory has never stuck. I can’t read music now. I like to do things by ear. I had an unconventional route into music – but it’s paid off.” 

“The music I work on now, I was never into growing up. It wasn’t that I was against it, but I wasn’t around it. I was into alternative rock. Grungy, distorted, guitar heavy, punk and emo sounds. On the surface, it sounds very different to what I do now but in reality, so much of it transfers over.”

The role of a producer is unfamiliar to many people. What exactly does your job entail?

“I’m a sample producer. I use my guitar to create melodies and harmonies.” 

“Producing is such a broad term that is changing so much. In my opinion, if you have contributed an original sound that makes up a significant portion of the song that if you took it away, it wouldn’t be the same song, that is production.” 

“When I was starting, I had two choices; the session musician route – where I play what other people tell me to play; or writing my own stuff for artists. Initially, I was going to sessions, and being around session musicians and players and feeling terrible. I’m not a virtuoso guitarist. I hold my pic wrong, I can’t play fast. It’s a horrible feeling, being the worst in the room, especially when time is money. If you’re not getting it in the first few takes, there is someone out there who will. It wasn’t for me, So I thought, let me come up with something original that’s going to be the basis for a song. That’s how I found my niche.”

Why music?

“It’s all I do. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. I will literally make music all day. Creating something is crazy. Listening back to something I’ve made and thinking wow, an hour ago this was just a shell of something is an amazing feeling. It’s like a puzzle, it keeps me constantly guessing. You could wake up one morning and make a song that goes to number one for ten weeks in a row or you could wake up and make nothing for a month. That in itself is difficult, because that makes you want to constantly work or you’ll miss an idea.”

“The stuff that I think isn’t good, nine times out of ten my producer says, “This is the most special thing that you’ve sent me today”. Sometimes the thing that takes me five minutes that I think is nothing, becomes the song. Just because something took five minutes, doesn’t mean it’s not good. Psychologically trying to get over those barriers is the hardest thing. Knowing when to walk away. You change so much as a person day to day. What you made yesterday could’ve been the best thing your yesterday self could’ve done but today you are a different person. As soon as you accept that, it can be quite freeing.” 

What are you most proud of?

“Juice WRLD’s ‘Man of the Year’ has been my favourite thing to work on so far. We’d have these crazy sessions that would go on for days on end – literally one hours sleep in the studio. If you sleep, you might miss out on making that one song that changes your life or changes the world. You want the odds to be in your favour. You want to be constantly ready.” 

“We were doing one of these marathon sessions. I’d gone home. Juice had just finished performing at one of the festivals in London. I drove to Shepherds Bush – I got there about midnight. We had a big discussion about American pop-punk, early college sounds. It was so natural; we got the song down. Everything was just flowing. We were doing stomps and clamps around the microphone at two in the morning. It was the most surreal experience.” 

“Juice comes in, hears the song, and just goes – in one take. It’s the final piece of the puzzle. Something is happening. Everyone starts bumping their heads, the energy is electric.”

 

Joe Reeves’ Insta: @joe.reeves

 

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