Joe Fletcher Strips Down His Sound for ‘You’ve Got the Wrong Man’
As an artist, Joe Fletcher is hard to pigeonhole -- and that's just fine with him.
"I like being hard to categorize," Fletcher tells The Boot.
Fletcher's latest album, 'You've Got the Wrong Man,' runs the gamut -- some songs are more roots-y while others are more blues-y, and you'll also hear early rock 'n' roll and honky-tonk influence -- yet the 12 tracks tie together neatly.
"Each song has its own reasons for existing, and it should never get confused with another one," Fletcher says. "It’s important that it doesn't sound like a hodge podge of things that don’t belong together ... but I like that sort of variety."
The common thread among the tunes on this record, released in October, is "a broad swath of American music," says Fletcher.
"I kinda know what the rules are in my mind ... and it's hard to describe," he adds. "I know it when I’m crossing the line out of something that should be in this project."
Fletcher tried an old-school way of recording as well: He used a cassette four-track and two microphones. There was no editing, no special effects and, with a few exceptions, no one but Fletcher and his guitar.
"I’m a big fan of a lot of early blues artists ... [Their recordings] were done with old machines on farms or in hotel rooms, and I just like that sound. I feel like the recording [process] itself is part of the mystique, in a way," Fletcher says. "I have never listed to a Leadbelly recording wishing it had better fidelity ... It’s part of the mystery.
"There’s nothing tricky in this day in age about making a perfect-sounding record," he adds. "I like records where they are mixing it on the fly ... the person who is taking the lead [is] getting closer to the microphone and backing away when the solo is over. To me, that’s where the magic lives."
'You've Got the Wrong Man' was recorded while Fletcher was out on the road playing solo shows, so the simplistic approach also made sense because "I could just do it when I could," Fletcher says. It's his first album without his band the Wrong Reasons.
"I've always admired artists that kind of change up their approach from record to record," he says. "[A lot of the] live playing I do is solo, so that’s the way most of the people around the country that have seen me have seen me, so it seemed like a good idea to make a record that reflected that side of what I do."
Two of the album's tracks are covers: 'Heart in a Mousetrap' comes from Toy Soldiers, a Philadelphia, Pa., group with whom Fletcher is good friends, and the disc's final song, 'Mable Gray,' is by husband-and-wife duo Brown Bird, of Rhode Island. (Sadly, the duo's Dave Lamb passed away in April 2014 after a battle with leukemia.)
Another tune, 'I Never (Reprise)' -- which you can hear below -- is a storytelling effort, inspired a Valentine's Day trip to New York City that Fletcher was supposed to take with a girlfriend ... and instead took alone.
"I had a really miserable time, and I left on the day I said I was going to leave, but I didn't really need to be back home on any particular day. I was halfway home, and it just kinda dawned on me, I should have just stayed in New York. Even though I wasn't having a good time there, I’m gonna be less happy back home where she is," Fletcher explains. "I should have just stayed there and tried to have a good time, so that’s when I came up with this chorus idea."
It wasn't a situation Fletcher wanted to write a song about directly, so instead, he channeled the idea into a different narrative.
"I just came up with a story to go along with the chorus, which is kind of how I do things pretty frequently. I’ll get my idea, and then I’ll come up with some sort of narrative to flesh out the story, say what I want to say, but in a different way than what actually happened to me," he says. "Who cares about a girl on Valentine's Day five years ago, you know?"
Listen to Joe Fletcher, 'I Never (Reprise)':