SHADYSIDE — Gage Joseph started more than a school day at 6 a.m. in full football gear, ready for practice. And ended it by changing into denim, boots and his signature Stetson in a vehicle outside where he was playing country music that night.
Already four years into a music career at 18, he laughed at his preferences in stage clothes. “I like shiny stuff,” he admitted.
Winning a karaoke contest in his freshman year and miraculously picking up guitar skills, a Nashville-based booking agent and songwriting partner at age 16 can make this sort of thing occur.
There were days even earlier, he acknowledged in a recent interview, glancing quickly at mum Heather Joseph before laughing again.
“My mom knows I’m a horrible sleeper…I was writing at 2am on a school night recently. I was late for school.
Heather Joseph, a nurse when she’s not burning her phone screen to maintain her only child’s performance schedule, groaned.
But, graduation is approaching and Joseph’s path out of Shadyside High School seems no calmer than his tenure there. Freed from lessons and sports practices for the first time in his young life, it will soon be only concerts.
“If I play four or five shows a week, I sit pretty well,” Joseph said of where he already is. “It’s something you could live off of.”
For local concerts, he will perform with his band.
Yes, at 18 he already has one – all seasoned pros. It’s Jason Birch on drums, Luke Daller on bass, Wyatt Kidd on violin, Gregg Molnar on lead guitar and Adam Tarovisky on keyboards.
There’s the summer release of their debut EP – an extended set of four original songs produced with the band at Aardvark Productions of Ohio. And, in the fall, a small solo tour is being prepared, either on the East Coast or in the South.
“I didn’t really expect such a quick transition,” Joseph said. “It happened during my high school career.”
There is also the small village of supporters who will be where he is, in spirit if not in person.
Ever since Joseph, just looking for something to do, hit the stage at 14 — eventually winning an American Idol-style contest at the Pike 40 in St. Clairsville — they’ve snowballed.
For some, it’s a labor of love. Heather Joseph does everything from ironing shirts to filing taxes. Family friend Doug Boston travels with Joseph as stage manager.
For others, it’s the love of music.
These include guitar teacher Shannon Canterbury of Martins Ferry, who gave Joseph his second stage by allowing him to take 15-minute breaks at his own gigs.
Nashville songwriter Brett Taylor (who co-wrote Joseph’s debut single “Hammer Down” and one of the songs from the upcoming EP) and Wheeling songwriter Grant Coleman of the Mugshots cafe are also on hand. the part.
So does booking agent Jon Banco – who represents over 60 regional artists in addition to booking all Wheeling Park venues. It was Banco who gave Joseph his first solo scenes. It was also Banco who suggested and then assembled a qualified group for Joseph in 2021.
Joseph really is that good, Banco has said in previous interviews on the local music circuit, having that rare combination of musical talent, stage presence and drive that can lead to great careers.
“The dream is that I would like to play in every stadium in the country,” Joseph said of keeping Plan A on the front burner indefinitely. “I love music and I don’t want that to stop anytime soon.”
STEP BY STEP
Heather Joseph said her son, also an honorary student, showed musical talent early on. But, she didn’t expect him to turn pro. “He had a good tone and a good ear,” she said, noting that Joseph could sing the national anthem just at age 5.
From the moment he picked up his first acoustic — shortly after the Pike Idol competition — things started moving at lightning speed, he noted. On the one hand, Joseph wrote his first song – an unreleased single titled “Whisky Dreams” in the same year.
“It’s basically a breakup song,” he said, laughing at the incongruity of the subject and the title and the young teenager. “It was the best I could do at 15.”
Taylor, the Nashville songwriter, must have agreed. After Joseph traveled to town soon after — and performed some of his original music at the Commodore Grille — Taylor decided to help Joseph complete the single that became “Hammer Down.”
Joseph quickly developed enough material—mostly covers with his original music mixed in—to provide two to three hours of performance, at which point Banco stepped in.
“It started small,” Heather Joseph said. “As more and more people heard about it, these people were calling (for reservations) from as far away as Pittsburgh, Columbus, Marietta. We’re trying to shake things up a bit.”
The group’s closing at Oglebayfest 2021 was the biggest performance to date, she noted. This audience exceeded 500.
Things have reached a point that is both real and sobering, Joseph and his mother noted. He learns to entertain and navigate the financial side of the business – like realizing royalties on electronically shared songs are tiny, tiny.
The live performances, merchandise and recording contracts that come with production financing advances are where earning a living comes in, Joseph said, noting that he considered Cody Johnson, Chris Stapleton and Brad Paisley, launched by the Ohio Valley, as career models.
But, even as the gigs and revenue keep pouring in, the occasional trip to Nashville is a pain in the neck, noted Heather Joseph.
“What works today is not what will work next week,” she said of the industry’s digital revolution. “Previously, Nashville was the thing. But, after going to Nashville, it was very eye-opening. There are 25 kids like him on every corner trying to make it.
Or, maybe not quite like him, this village of friends/fans seems to say, she added.
“He does everything,” she said. “His hard work, his ability to get on stage and entertain the crowd.”
Joseph smiled at this, continuing to talk about his love for writing music and then performing it. Of his growing appreciation for the words of other musicians as he sings their covers night after night.
He hopes for bigger and better, but things are already going pretty well. “I really like seeing everyone having fun, they’re just trying to ditch the work week and hopefully I’m making it easier.”
Readers who would like to hear Joseph live will have a handful of opportunities in the coming weeks. He performs solo on March 4 in River City and with his band on March 11 at the McLure Hotel and March 19 at Generations Restaurant & Pub.