Lucas Bezerra: Hello, welcome to state of the arts — a podcast by two idiots on NBN.
Gabriel Firmo: My name is Gabriel Firmo.
Lucas Bezerra: And I'm Lucas Bezerra. This is our second episode. For this episode, we're talking to Joe Nedder. He's a sophomore here. He's a dual degree student in Bienen and Weinberg, and he does a lot of music. He has solo projects, he's in acapella. He's got a band of his own, and I think it's gonna be a really good conversation.
Gabriel: Yeah, so our overlap is switching slightly. Last time we were in very theater and music. Now we're like in pure music; next time, we're gonna have to get someone who's like music and something else. Yeah, we'll just like, slowly rotate around the spectrum.
Lucas: I mean, I think there are tons of interesting people on campus. It'll be easy to find.
Gabriel: Yeah. And I'm really excited to speak with Joe. He seems like one of those people who does a million things, right? Who, somehow finds time to do everything that's cool. Like that sort of thing.
Lucas: Before we get to that, I think we should go to our question segment.
Gabriel: Right, so the question this time is kind of more because you are a specifically very theater, very music, writing kind of person. If you could not do any of those three things, what art would you do?
Lucas: I think the answer’s in the question, you know, I would do art like visual art. It's something...
Gabriel: That took me a second to see you turn that around on me. Sorry, continue.
Lucas: Yeah. It's something that I'm really interested by. I really like it. You know, I mean, in senior year of high school, I had a friend of mine who did IB arts. And she had a project in photography, and I was just constantly helping her with it, because it's something that I'm really interested in. It's something that I think I've got a lot of the creative bubbling in my mind for like, visual representations of things and just like visual art in itself, but I don't necessarily have the skills for it. And I can't paint I can't draw to save my life, but I think if it was something more towards photography and trying to use, like different mediums to capture...
Gabriel: Like maybe film, as well? I mean, that's sort of theatre.
Lucas: Yes, but I do love film. I mean, I would move from music and the sort of like more expression side of the arts to the more visual things that are also what I'm really interested in, I guess.
Gabriel: Yeah, that stuff always seems so difficult. Like totally, totally difficult.
Lucas: Yeah. I mean, I'd probably not be a very good artist, but you know, I would do it.
Gabriel: I mean, you gotta, you gotta.
Lucas: Do you think you have an answer to that question? Or?
Gabriel: I don't know. I already try to do a lot of stuff. So if I had to do something that I'm not currently doing, it's kind of difficult. I think it would be like composition, musical composition. Because I'm more of a — if I have any musical chops, it's in singing. I've never composed a thing in my life. You know, just lyrics. Never music music. So I guess I would move into that because I think music composition is fascinating, but it's kind of like that thing that you're talking about with like, with visual arts. For me, I've studied, I know how to read music. I will look at a staff and just blank. Like, I have no idea. No idea. But if I if I had to do nothing, I would do that. That would be really cool.
Lucas: That's pretty cool. And it's a good segue to Joe. So yeah, let's get to him.
Gabriel: Yeah, let's go.
Lucas: Alright, so for our guest this week, we've got Joe Nedder. Hey!
Joe: Thank you for having me.
Lucas: Okay, so tell us what you do on campus is related to the arts — music, I think is your thing?
Joe: Yes. Right. Yes, music is definitely my biggest thing, I guess. So, from like a club perspective, I'm part of Freshman 15 acapella, which is one of the all male groups on campus. Contrary to popular belief, we are all grades and there are more than 15 of us. But we have a lot of fun. So I've been doing that since last year. I'm also a member of a pop r&b hip hop fusion group called Morning Dew. It's mostly like kids from the jazz program. So we play and we write our own music. There's horns, there's a rhythm section, a bunch of us sing and rap and stuff like that, which is a lot of fun. And I also put out my own music. Yeah, that's most of it.
Gabriel: Yeah, that's a lot of stuff. That's awesome. So you do all this stuff off campus in general, you sing? And you said, you're part of a jazz group. I might have just missed it. But what do you play?
Joe: Yes. Well, so it's funny. My major in Bienen in is jazz trombone. So I'm in the Jazz Studies program. So I play trombone for that with like the jazz ensembles and Jazz Orchestra. But for the music that I do, like outside of Northwestern things, it's mostly vocal base. So like, I sing for acapella. And for Morning Dew, I play trombone and write and sing for them as well.
Gabriel: Yeah. And are you kind of just like a one man band for your regular stuff, or do you like borrow from people?
Joe: Yes. So when I put out music myself, it's usually just all me. And so that's either like I'm layering myself playing trombone and singing and playing instruments or like, I'll just produce the tracks for myself.
Lucas: That's awesome. I mean, you said that you compose the songs, right? For Morning Dew?
Joe: Some of them. Yeah.
Lucas: What's your process like for writing? I mean, do you--do you like, sit down when you feel like writing or do you sit down to write?
Joe: That's a great question. I feel like I've done both in my life. There are moments I feel like I've used songwriting a lot of the times is like a therapeutic process. So if something's happening, I always like to write music. There have been a few times where like, I'll sit down and be like, "I want to write today," but usually it comes out not great. But usually my process is that I always try to get a chord progression first, because I feel like I can convey a lot more emotion through like the chords that I'm putting in in the melody that I have than just from the lyrics itself. So once I have that, I just sort of like find lyrics that fit with the vibe of the chords that I wrote or the melody that I wrote and it all just kind of goes from there. It's often like a very--not like a short process, but I never like to leave anything like too unfinished. If I start it, I kind of just like to get it done and at least have a draft of it before I go back and redo it.
Gabriel: Yeah, I mean, that's really interesting. We were talking about composition before you came in, this just came up. And the idea of like you said, chord progression first, then you put lyrics to it. He said he was working with someone — so Lucas, where they would bring the lyrics and you would put music to it. Yeah, I just wanted to ask, like, why? You did explain it a little bit, but like, have you tried doing it the other way and it just didn't work? Like how did you arrive on this process?
Joe: I think the biggest reason is that I've always just felt like I'm a stronger music writer than I am a lyric writer. And so a lot of times lyrics for me, it's not about the poetry for me, if that makes sense. Like I know people who are just writing poetry all the time, and like, they have all these lyrics and stuff like that. But for me, it's just like, I always feel I connect more to any song that I listen to or write just like to the chord progression and to the melody, and things like that, so I just gravitate towards that. And another reason I do this is because my oldest sister went to NYU. And Pharrell was giving a masterclass to the recording music program there. And my sister went because she knew that I was into recording stuff. And he said something about how, when he goes to write a song, he always plays the chords first and gets the chords first, because of the reason that I said, I kind of got this from him. But he said that it always conveys a lot more for him to have the harmony and the melody down, and then put lyrics that fit that, just because that's the way he feels like the music flows. And that's the way I think the music flows, at least when I listened to it too. So...
Gabriel: Yeah, I mean, that makes a lot of sense. Like, I am a writer more than a musician, in every way. But a friend of mine in Benin asked me to write some lyrics for him. So he would give me music, and then I would put poetry to it. But actually, me and Lucas are both from Brazil. And there's a long tradition in Brazil of poets selling their poems to musicians to later put music to — like some of our most famous musicians did work like that. So I just I find that kind of duality really interesting. Because I don't think there's, I don't think it's solved. I don't think there's a right answer to that.
Joe: I definitely don't think there's a right way. And I think it just depends on what you connect to. Because like, you know, if you're a writer, like you said and, like, that's what you pour your heart into, then that's going to come across, and that's going to make the music better.
Lucas: I never really wrote before coming here, like music or lyrics in general. And then when I got here, this friend of ours, he turned to me and he was just like, "Hey, I've got a bunch of lyrics, like, do you want to do something with that?" And I just said, sure, you know, it's sort of like the opportunity presented itself rather than I sort of consciously made a choice to, to, you know, start with lyrics. It has to be an organic process, I think.
Lucas: For for writing music, at least.
Gabriel: I mean, one thing — so this is a little bit of a tangent, but like, one thing I'm really curious about because you said you're a composer, and you put some things out as a solo musician. How do you go from the position of like, "I'm making this for me, this is cool, I'm having fun with this," to having the confidence to be like, "I'm putting this out. I'm looking for an audience. I want people to hear this and enjoy it."
Joe: Right. That's a great question. It's a really weird process. It's something that I've talked a lot about with people. I think the biggest thing for me is that a lot of times when I write music, it is a lot of personal stuff and like stuff that I'm dealing with at the time. I've always found it funny. Like I can be a lot more vulnerable with an audience of strangers that I don't know as opposed to like, my friends or my parents.
Lucas: Yeah, yeah, I feel that.
Joe: I write music that's like talking about this stuff and like, it's funny because like, I'm not worried about putting that out there, and somebody in the Greater Chicago area who I don't know will hear it and know about my life, like, I don't really care about that. But it is weird when I first played the album for my friends or my family to get their opinions on it. I feel like that's a much more scary process than actually putting it out. You know, like, if you're not putting out your music and if you want to be a musician, then it's like, what are you doing?
Lucas: For you is like being a musician more about the writing music, the composing part of it, or is it performance? Which part do you enjoy more?
Joe: That's a great question. I think it's it's a difficult question because I have a lot of fun just performing. Like, some of the most fun experiences that I've had in my life have been performing with Morning Dew. You know, the feeling that I get when I go to see live music and you're just in this euphoric state for like, an hour, you're like, "What just happened?" Like, that's such a crazy feeling and to be able to do that to someone is mind blowing to me to be able to, like, have that power one day would be crazy. But at the same time, like, composing music is very important for a much more personal reason. In that it allows me to articulate things. I think if I had to pick one, it would probably be performing as a musician just because it's like, just such a blast. But, you know, I never want to stop writing music, but if I perform someone else's music for my career, I will still be happy. And if I can make a living that way, then I'm not going to complain.
Lucas: You know, I think it's an interesting question because I'm from the world of performance. You know, I did theater my entire life.
Joe: Yeah, yeah.
Lucas: You're in a much more, I guess like, introspective sort of creative world. I mean, he does voice acting.
Joe: Oh, wow?
Lucas: You don't see the audience. You know, you don't, you don't have that sort of interaction that I think is really what people that are in performance like that really thrive off of. So yeah, I mean, I'm turning this question on Gabriel, but, how do you feel about it?
Gabriel: It's… audience is funny for me because I did do music for a long time. I studied saxophone for five years and trumpet for two years before that, and I was in bands. I was terrible. Not good. But that experience of performing for an audience is really what you're saying — like the one time you nail it, and I didn't nail it very often, but I was like, given a solo in a Michael Jackson song. I don't remember. And I just like killed it this one night and seeing people, like, be there, like they got into it. Even though it was like some dumb high schooler with a saxophone. That is crazy satisfying.
Joe: I mean something that's also interesting too is like, you get a lot of good performances, like you said, but you also get a lot of bad ones. I mean it's difficult but when you, like you said like when you're in it that one time, and like anybody's there it's like, that's all you need.
Gabriel: I'm actually really curious because this is one space that I find really fascinating. As like amateur musician, amateur, semi amateur, at this level, starting to make your own stuff. How many opportunities do you get to perform your own stuff? Because I know that the stereotype is like, going to open mics and that stuff, like where do you find the space for performance?
Joe: So historically, for my own music, like without Morning Dew or anything, it's just really been that. Like coffee houses at different places or like going to open mics at restaurants and things like that. But with like Morning Dew and playing with a band, the opportunities we've had have been a little more streamlined. Like, we play shows because like, you know, we have seven people in the band, so we can't really do open mics. So we've been lucky enough to do events at fraternities or like, someone's house party and we actually have a show coming up in December that's in Chicago at this club that one of our members had connections with.
Gabriel: That's really cool.
Joe: Yeah, that's been much more of an established like we're doing a concert for people who want to see us play music, which is a lot more fun.
Gabriel: We like for people on the show to pay it forward, because everyone has stuff they're — even if you're making stuff, there's stuff that other people are making that you're excited about. So, what on campus is exciting you in the arts? Like what are you kind of jazzed to see?
Joe: Yes. Something I'm very excited to see, which I believe will be at the beginning of winter quarter is TBD's winter show. TBD is an experience. TBD is an experience — for people that are unfamiliar with what TBD is, it is a neo-futurist theatre group on campus. Based on the neo-futurists in Chicago. So, basically their whole thing is like a string of 25 short plays, but in the plays there are no characters, everybody's acting as themselves. And it's ultra realism in the sense that it's like they're not putting on a show in so much as they're like, telling stories. And it's just like, the most wackiest stuff you've ever seen to, like, the most heartfelt and sad and gut wrenching stuff you've ever seen. It's just like one of the most fun show experiences I've ever seen. I go see them every quarter.
Gabriel: That's awesome. I'm I'm going to see that for sure. That sounds really cool.
Lucas: That's a that's a great plug. Yes.
Joe: That'll be good.
Gabriel: Thanks so much for coming in.
Joe: Thank you for having me. This was a lot of fun.
Gabriel: Yeah, it was a fun interview, fun conversation.
Gabriel: Alright so, thanks for listening to State of the Arts on NBN. We will be back hopefully in the start of winter quarter and, in the meantime, have a great vacation and good luck on finals. So, yeah! We'll see you next time!