Loading up your summer playlists? Hungry for some solid, new music? Fret no more! I have something just for you. Allow me to introduce you to Catholic acoustic artist, Joe Zambon.
I had the pleasure of meeting Joe several years ago at a concert he put on at Franciscan University of Steubenville. The first thing I noticed was that he had a very unique sound, from extremely technically strong guitar playing, to his smooth and laid back vocals. For much of his music, Joe wears his heart on his sleeve and takes the listener to a place of examining life through the eyes of faith. Joe just released a new cd, “Brothers,” on May 3rd. I had an opportunity to catch up with Joe to learn more about his latest project.
Q: Many might be wondering, so who is this dude? He’s got a pretty wild beard, eh? Where are you from and what do you do?
A: I was born and raised on a pig farm near Iroquois, Ontario, Canada. I then lived in Ottawa for 4 years studying Theology at Dominican College and now I work for the Archdiocese of Toronto as a Pastoral Assistant at York University. I self-taught guitar and play almost completely by ear. I enjoy cheeses and my beard is 100% organic-free-range-Canadian whiskers!
Q: What made you decide to make Catholic music?
A: Songwriting began to flow naturally from me as I started taking time to reflect on my life. As I began to tend to the garden of my heart I found God meeting me there; sowing, watering and pruning me. Music started to become a prayer for me and in time I found it was also a prayer for others. Seeing this effect in others encouraged me to record my music and share it.
About the cd
Q: Why did you title the cd, “Brothers”?
A: The title comes from a few places. First, my younger brother Nick was the sound engineer on this project and we recorded it together in the living room of my parent’s farmhouse. So the title and cover artwork highlights the connection to my family and home in the album. Also, there are a few songs on the album that deal with themes of identity. I’ve been challenging myself a lot lately to see the sinner, the poor, the imprisoned, and the “other” as my brother. These are some reasons why I thought “Brothers” would be a good name for the Album.
Q: After listening to “Brothers”, I felt like there wasn’t one specific mood or theme throughout it. The songs went from fun and exciting to self reflection and praying through tough times. It came across like the Christian walk. We have highs and lows at different times (Ecclesiastes 3:4). How would you describe this cd?
I do think that this Album is somewhat eclectic as it jumps from different musical styles, but I also find that the intentional song order weaves the different sounds into an intricately themed mosaic. Many of the songs were written and inspired at different times but as I started gathering songs for the Album I started to notice pairings. One pairing for example is “Seraphim” and “Quis Ut Deus.” The first one speaks about the need to have one’s heart directed towards those things that are of greatest importance (ie. Let your heart burn for love of God rather than burn with lust for something merely human.) This song then flows into a Latin chant song “Who is like unto God? Holy! Holy! Holy!”
Q: Where did the inspiration for the songs come from?
A: Inspiration for the songs on this Album have come from people like Fulton Sheen, Pope Francis, random people that have shared their stories with me at concerts, and from my own broken and busted heart where God has met me. Since the lyrics are intimately connected to me, I feel like he who listens to the songs peers into the rooms of my innermost home.
“You want to drink the water and throw out the glass
You want to define love without sacrifice
But in a world where the fig leaf becomes the mask
That ain’t love that’s just convenience” (from the song “Dead Man Rise”)
Q: These lines stuck out to me, since we live in a culture of relationships that focus on using people for pleasure and popularity and quickly disposing of them when they are no longer useful or amusing to you. What were your thoughts behind these lines?
A: These lines come from an audio recording I heard by Fulton J. Sheen. I think he hits the nail on the head when describing our culture’s attitude towards sex: you take what you want, call it “love”, and then when you are finished you discard the person. In a world of unashamed consumer sex, it doesn’t matter anymore who the person is so long as I can take from them what will satisfy my own selfish gratification (“the fig leaf becomes a mask”). In this song I tried to look at a few “dead” habits and attitudes we can cling to and then make an invitation to let them “rise” into the life, beauty and perspective of God’s plan. I’ve come to believe with all my heart that God’s plan for my body will bring the most fulfillment and joy.
While the song highlights the effects of sin, it also offers the hope of new life found in Christ to the one ensnared by sin. Meditating on the image of Lazarus being raised from the dead and made free, we can listen to this song and know that no matter what sins we have committed, we can be made into new creations in Christ!
“Let the dead man rise, let the dead man rise, unbind his feet open his eyes,
What once was lost can now be found, What once was dead now come to life”
Song Spotlight – “Remember the Poor”
This is a great song, and hits on one of the defining points of Pope Francis’ Papacy: having a heart for the poor. Joe explains the full story behind the inspiration for the song.
Q: For new listeners out there, what would you like them to walk away with after listening to ‘Brothers’?
A: There are many themes I’ve planted in this Album that I hope will bless, heal, inspire and nourish the listener. But one of the messages at end of the album I hope they will walk away with is that nothing is impossible for God. That means NOTHING! If God can raise the dead to new life, He can do the impossible in your own life. Whether it be to mend a relationship that have been at war for years, or bring liberation to a long gripping addiction, or forgiveness to those who are unforgivable: God can. I hope we take God up on His promise that “nothing is impossible!”
I promise that you will not regret buying this cd. It is one that will get stuck in your head. After 4 or 5 listens, you will realize that really good themes and thoughts have also sunk into your heart and mind as well. Your soul is hungrier for spiritual nourishment than hangry people are for Snickers. Feed it!
Link to buy the “Brothers” Album: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/brothers/id850058912
Link to Joe’s website: http://joezambonmusic.com/