Verskotzi: This album was totally a cleansing experience
Photo By Gretchen Burkhart
Joey Verskotzi moved to Minneapolis in 2010, and it didn't take the talented singer/songwriter long to amass a striking batch of new songs. He assembled a band around him called, fittingly enough, Verskotzi. Over the past year, Verskotzi has been hard at work crafting a new album, Lemon Heart, along with guitarist/producer Izaac Burkhart, bassist Ian Allison, and drummer Grady Kenevan, and the group is set to celebrate at Icehouse on Saturday night with a record release show. Verskotzi has just signed with Princess Records.
Ahead of their release show, Gimme Noise was able to ask Joey about the writing process for the new album, how recording these songs was a cleansing experience for him, how his collaboration with Zoo Animal's Holly Hansen came about, and how he draws inspiration from the Twin Cities music scene.
Gimme Noise: What was the writing and recording process like for Lemon Heart, and how long did it take for these songs to come together?
Joey Verskotzi: The writing process always varies for me. It's probably the most unpredictable part of the process when it comes to making a record. There are few times when I actually enjoy the writing aspect. It's such a challenge, but super rewarding. As soon as there was a solid set of songs, Izaac, my producer, and I started pre-production. As more songs were tracked I had a better vision of what the album was shaping up to be. I found new inspiration in that and wrote songs like "Luck", "Honey", "The Flying Piano", and "8th St. Train." It took a little over a year for the entire process.
You candidly touch on many deeply personal issues throughout these new songs. Was writing and recording the album a cathartic experience for you?
It was totally a cleansing experience to say the least. It's one thing for me to write down stories and lyrics on a sheet of paper to get it out of my head, but something about singing it is therapeutic. Throughout the process of writing about intensely emotional, personal topics I almost wanted to shift gears just so that I didn't have to think about those things. But now I'm glad I decided to hang on.
When did you first start playing music, and do you remember the moment that got you hooked on pursuing making music?
I started piano lessons at 6 or 7 years old. That definitely wasn't the "spark" moment though. I've played drums since I was 12 but it didn't make me want to write songs really. But I can remember my next door neighbor getting an electric guitar like it was yesterday. I thought there was nothing cooler. So as soon as I got my first guitar I started putting songs together and was pretty determined to make something come of it.
Holly Hansen from Zoo Animal plays on one of your new tracks, "Abandoned Love." How did that collaboration come about?
I met Holly pretty early on when I moved to Minneapolis in 2010. She's always been super kind to me, we've played shows together, and I just love her songwriting. The raw, organic aspect that she does so well is what made me want to have her on "Abandoned Love." Izaac and I set up pretty loose creative guidelines for how we wanted her to approach it and she just killed it in a few takes.
Do you have a live band assembled to help you bring these new songs to the stage?
Yeah totally. The tracking of bass and drums on the record was primarily done by Ian Allison (bass) and Grady Kenevan (drums). They've been my band along with Izaac (guitar/vocals) for 2 years now. Just had our last rehearsal last night and we're really excited to play these tunes at Icehouse.
How has the music scene in the Twin Cities influenced and inspired you as an artist?
The music scene here is so supportive of the music being made here. It's pretty much guaranteed that you could see live music every night if you wanted, and that's awesome. Just being in the same community as so many talented musicians is inspiring in itself. The constant flow of great music being put out here is amazing to me. It's a great place to call home.
How much did Izaac Burkhart's musical contributions and refined production help you fully realize your artistic vision on Lemon Heart?
Izaac and I have worked together for 5 years now and our approaches to making music really compliment each other. He's great at what he does because he'll help me focus on the bigger picture of the album, while I'm stuck in writing land obsessing over chord choices. He's also a great writer himself and helped with arranging some of my rougher ideas. It also helps that he is my best friend around here so we just spend a lot of time together. I think that creating something like a record takes serious personal investment from everyone involved. We both went down the rabbit hole and back together to see the album be what it needed to be.
What future plans do you have for taking these new songs beyond the Twin Cities to a wider audience?
I'm in the midst of booking a spring tour currently. Definitely getting the itch to hit the road again and promote the record. Radio and press campaigns and licensing will also be a part of the promo that Princess Records, our new label, will be helping out with. We're all stoked to release this finally and just see what happens next.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.