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Verskotzi merges musical roads in his new album

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The Twin Cities are a breeding ground for many new singer/songwriters looking to put their names on the map.  With his new solo project, Verskotzi, Joey Verskotzi has thrown his name into the mix, releasing a compilation of songs that are quietly haunting.

Behind Joey's charming smile lies a heart that has had its share of heartaches and struggles, allowing him to draw inspiration in songs like "Sell My Soul."  The forthrightness of his fragile songs struck a chord with supporters and detractors alike, echoing in the musical voice of Coldplay and Thrice.

In Verskotzi, Joey has said of being a solo artist and learning the business side of the music industry, "I'm trying to figure out a way of seeing the entire process as one big work of art now, and for the last 3 years, the merging of these roads has started to become more and more clear."

[jump] Gimme Noise: Verskotzi is a solo project; how does this music differ from what you were doing with Polis (Joey's former band)?  Why did you gravitate towards going solo, and what was your end goal for this new album?

Joey Verskotzi: The music I'm writing for Verskotzi is hard to describe. And to be honest, I've never really compared it to what I did with Polis. I don't think I've compared it because I never consciously tried to start writing anything "different". It was just personal growth coinciding with more and more musical experience that led to a combination of new music and new aspirations.

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The new music has more of an upbeat feel than things I've written before.This project is part of the same kind of goal or "vision" I've had all along since earlier bands. I am trying to make my mark in the world of music. I'd love to write records that live forever with the greatest of the greats. It just feels rewarding to work so hard on something like a song and then see what it does for people. The end goal is hard to see or imagine at this point, but the immediate priority is building my local following in the hopes that people dig what I've been working on.

What was the reasoning behind the album title Lesson Learned?

Lesson Learned is all about situations and experiences I've been through that I felt taught me some of the biggest lessons in my young life so far. I honestly didn't write the songs to fit into this concept, but the concept was really clear after all of the songs/lyrics were written.

The five songs, respectively, follow the themes of sleeplessness, heartbreak, hope during times of misdirection, desperation, and hesitation in new love. I like to think that I have learned quite a few valuable lessons from these times. The real challenge is just actually applying that gained knowledge to similar situations that confront me in the present.

What are the ups and downsides to doing stuff by yourself?

The ups outweigh the downs without a doubt. When it comes to handling the business side of being an independent musician/band/artist, I have always enjoyed being in charge. Whether it be the booking, promoting, financing, writing, networking, or recording, I prefer to grab the reigns and see that everything goes as it should.

I'll admit, this got me in some arguments with past band members and caused tension. However, this is why I consider the solo approach to be better for me.

The downsides have been interesting and I think I have yet to see more. The main one being not having a set-in-stone line-up of musicians that play with me every show. When I have a full band behind me, I pay all of them the night of for a performance and however many rehearsals. I wouldn't necessarily even call this a 'downside', as it's just the way it is. When you're a solo artist, it comes with the package.

What did you listen to growing up that has influenced you when writing?  What comes first, the lyrics or the music?

Growing up my musical taste evolved quite a bit. I have no doubt that all of the styling I've been exposed to has shaped the way I write music now. But when I think of the music I've been listening to recently that I can hear coming through in these new songs of mine, the list includes: Radiohead, Coldplay, The Killers, Brandon Flowers, MuteMath, Brooke Fraser, Thrice, Elbow, and Copeland. 

The writing process for this record was all over the board when it came to how the song formed. Sometimes a simple chord progression and melody will make me think of certain words, stories, or experiences that feel natural to write the song about. In those cases, the music creates the feel and vision of the lyrics. On songs like "Sell My Soul", the single, this was exactly the case. I started playing the opening chords, stomping my foot on my kitchen floor, and the first words out of my mouth were, "How long do you think it will take 'til I get through to you?" From that, one of my best songs was born. Music inspiring lyrics. A beautiful, raw inspiration.

What would you be doing if it weren't music?  Is this what you'd imagined what you'd be as a child?

Well, I should start this answer by saying I am a current student at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. I am studying Strategic Advertising through the school of Journalism.

I look at my time as a student and time as a musician as a hand in hand sort of thing. While I pursue this passion of music, I am enthusiastic about my degree in Advertising that is really helping me with the business end of this independent project. I don't like thinking of either of the two as 'back-up-plans' but rather two avenues that are happily intersecting and crossing perfectly.

Although you've just released your new album, what's next?  What are your plans with the new album?  And what's the ultimate direction of Verskotzi?

I want to take this project as seriously, as professionally, and as far as I can. My plans for the new album are multiple.

I have the CD release show on August 23rd at The Fine Line, and that will be great for promoting it. Shows will be good exposure for the name/sound of the project/album in general. I am going to try to keep things local for awhile until my Twin Cities following really catches on. I believe firmly that focusing on my Minneapolis presence before touring is essential to real success. I am looking into licensing, distribution, publishing, and radio promo. companies from the cities that I'll be doing placements through.  I'll be looking for as many press and publicity opportunities as possible. Online media and networking will be one of the most beneficial vehicles I will use to really get the music out there in the hands of the masses.

The digital age of music forces musicians to be creative and interesting to get an audience's attention (in 140 characters or less!) It's easy to get overlooked on the Newsfeed, in the Pitchfork blogs, on the Twitter Timeline, in Tumblr posts. But using your resources in ways that stand out is when you get that online hype and buzz to really kick in. These all being strategies I'll be using to get Verskotzi headed in the right direction.

What are you listening to locally?  Non-locally?

Locally, I've been listening to: We Are the Willows, Farewell Continental, The Farewell Circuit, Take Cover, Party House, Mod Sun, Rogue Valley, and Jamestown Story.

Non-locally, I've been listening to Brandon Flowers, Elbow, Bon Iver, Queen, Bob Dylan, Brooke Fraser, Noah Gundersen, Kevin Drew, MuteMath, Jon Foreman, Radiohead, Coldplay, and Spoon.

Finish this statement: "Never have I ever..."

...seen the movie Mulan.

Verskotzi will release Lesson Learned at the Fineline Music Cafe with The Farewell Circuit, Alex Masters, and Dan Mariska on Tuesday, 8/23.

21+, Free, 7 pm


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