Interview With Sontalk- Parts One And Two
Some days everything just seems to work out right – from the moment your feet hit the floor in the morning until you lay your head on the pillow at night, good fortune comes from all directions. I had one of those days recently – the highlight was when I stumbled across a song called “Baby I’m Gone.” It was created by a singer-songwriter out of Nashville, Tennessee, who performs under the name Sontalk. His given name is Joseph Lemay, and I was fortunate to track him down at his home. Joseph was kind enough to speak with me as he prepared for his upcoming tour.
I asked him about the origin of the name, Sontalk.
“Sontalk conveys or hints at the kind of level of intimacy within the themes and lyrics in the songs. Talking with a son or daughter should be one of the more honest conversations and I think that’s why the name, whenever it was thrown up against the wall, like ‘what about this’ hit me as like ‘oh, it works’ for those reasons.”
Intimacy and honesty are the key words. While Sontalk is baring his own soul, he’s also baring yours. Listen to “Baby I’m Gone,’ and see if you and Sontalk haven’t walked the same path before. I asked him where a song like “Baby I’m Gone” comes from.
“The thing about Baby I’m Gone is, it’s one of the few songs that I’ve written in the midst of the feeling that I’m writing the song about, or from. A lot of times, I have to go through whatever it is that a song ultimately ends up coming from. Go through it, deal with it, process it, and then on the other side once I’ve, you know, maybe decompressed and that kind of thing, and can look at it from, you know, 30,000 foot perspective, then I can see more of what’s happening and that kind of thing. But with Baby I’m Gone, I, like I said, it’s one of the few times that, like I was just so mixed up at the time, and didn’t know what else to do but write a song.”
“ The first time I listened to the song, Joseph, I thought you might be singing about drugs in the way they sometimes are your friend and sometimes they’re your enemy. And the second time I listened to it, I thought maybe you were talking about a girlfriend in the same way. And then I thought perhaps you were talking about leaving your old shameful self behind and reinventing yourself. Were you singing about any of those things?”
“ Yeah, there are quite a few places in your, kind of, take away that really hit the nail on the head as far as what it what it means for me as the writer of the song. The reason I think that you can’t tell if I’m singing about drugs, or myself, or a girl is because I didn’t really know exactly what it was that I was so angry about at the time, and what I felt like was controlling me. I felt controlled by feelings that I didn’t have a handle on, and thoughts, and without meaning to, started just personified that anger and that feeling of control that I felt over me as a just a toxic person that manipulates and all these things.”
“You’re going to be performing at the Southern Cafe and Music Hall in Charlottesville on, I believe it’s Sunday, January 27?”
“Yep, sounds right.”
In part two of my interview I asked Sontalk about pain, about his uncommon connection with his audience, and about how a 28 year old such as himself appears to have gained so much wisdom at such a young age. For Allegheny Mountain Radio, this is Mickey Frank Thomas.
Yesterday I introduced you to Joseph Lemay, a singer-songwriter from Nashville, Tennessee who performs under the name Sontalk. In part one of the interview, I asked Joseph about his song “Baby I’m Gone”, its meaning, and his process for writing it. In today’s second part of the interview, I start by asking him where a 28 year old such as himself finds the wisdom expressed in his music.
“I thought myself wise in the period of time before all the hard things of life really started – before I really saw how hard it all is. You wake up one day and something’s happened that you just never thought of before, and suddenly all this supposed wisdom that you have just goes out the door and you write a song like Baby I’m Gone or whatever other song it is, that maybe there’s some wisdom in it. But I think, I think a lot of times, things that come across as wise are people expressing things that they don’t know or understand and exploring them.”
There’s a lot of humility in that answer. Sometimes wisdom is simply admitting one’s ignorance. I wondered how his audiences reacted to his music.
”When you’re performing live, and you get to see your audiences face to face, does your music get a positive reaction?
“You know, I do get it but it’s always really nice to get, especially with this new music of mine which is very much about things that I’ve felt, things that I’ve gone through, and to a large extent, I’ve dealt with. You know, playing songs that are difficult material night after night, it could feel a few different way – like you can either feel numb to it, or kind of like, you know, like I don’t need to sing the song anymore, I’ve dealt with this issue, or it can feel like self-indulgent, like gosh, who wants to hear me whine about how sad I was during this time or whatever. Then someone comes up and says, you know, that song got me through my Dad dying, and it’s like okay, this isn’t just a self-serving thing. People do really need music and there are certain people out there that are finding my music to be helpful so that – it’s super invigorating, and a much needed recharge.”
After our talk was over, I did a little research on Joseph Lemay. It turns out he has a manager, a publicist and a record label – Sony Music, in fact. That struck me as an awful lot of support for an emerging musical artist. But after listening to our conversation several times, it strikes me that the faith these supporters have in him is well placed. Further evidence is found in the fact that another of Sontalk’s recordings, “I Am A War Machine,” was streamed over a million times in the first few months after its release this past April. You can learn more about Sontalk by visiting the website www.sontalkmusic.com, or you can see him live in Charlottesville at the Southern Cafe and Music Hall on Sunday, or you can do both.
For Allegheny Mountain Radio, this is Mickey Frank Thomas.