Seasoned singer-songwriter Joey Sykes talks about his upcoming album, I Miss America, with his latest group, Honey River.
Born and raised in New York and currently living in Los Angeles, acclaimed singer, songwriter, and guitarist Joey Sykes also spends time in Nashville, where he collaborates with country artists, trading lyrics and musical styles and exploring his respect for the genre.
A seasoned rock ’n’ roller and the former lead guitarist for Meredith Brooks, Sykes worked with his latest group, Honey River, on the forthcoming album, I Miss America.
Recently, we chatted with Sykes about Honey River and the evolution of his music.
Cowboys & Indians: What do you hope audiences will take away from your upcoming album, I Miss America?
Joey Sykes: I just know, with all my heart and soul, that there are enough music fans who need music in their life (like I do) that will feel a sense of classic familiarity, but hear it with a fresh excitement. I hope the listeners will pay attention to the lyrics, as I take pride in crafting a smart, but identifiable, lyric. I mostly like to write lyrics that try to touch the average human heart. And, at the end of the day, I hope Honey River will have a fan for life, and want to come see us live, and help us spread the word.
C&I: What was the writing and recording process like?
Sykes: I had plenty of songs to choose from, so it was not so easy picking the final 11. We were fortunate enough to have the legendary Steve Ferrone play drums on a bunch of tracks. When one of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers digs it, it’s dug! For me, being in the same room with Steve and jamming on the songs when I would show them to him was sort of surreal. I recorded all the guitars, bass, mandolin, and vocals at my studio in Los Angeles. The record has a certain sparseness to it. The way I always see it is, when you start with a good song, then the challenge becomes fighting the temptation to overproduce and take away what originally made it a good song.
C&I: Any fun memories along the way from getting the album from concept to actual release?
Sykes: It’s all brand-new, but so far the most fun memory was hearing Steve Ferrone play “Peace, Love” on Tom Petty Radio (Sirius XM), right after a deep Tom Petty cut. And then when he was talking about the songs he just played, he said, “That song you just heard was from a friend of mine Joey Sykes’ new band Honey River.” Whoa!
C&I: You formed the band in 2017. How did all the band members meet and how did you develop your signature sound?
Sykes: I started the band with a pretty clear vision and went on a search for two other like-minded people. Jay Mags was playing with a friend of mine, and I inquired about his services. We got together and clicked immediately. Jay will also be singing some lead live. I saw a clip of Chris [Vincent] singing and dug his voice and guitar skills. I think we all like very similar music, with just enough oddball influences to deposit into the river.
C&I: How do you think you all have evolved as musicians since joining a band?
Sykes: I think that the learning never ends. Every musician you spend some time with typically ends up with all parties learning new things from each other.
C&I: What’s your writing process like? Do you start with the lyrics or the music first?
Sykes: It really does happen in many different ways. I have about a hundred pages on my MacBook with titles that either end up as a song title or a lyric somewhere. A good example is the title track, “I Miss America.” That title kept “yelling” at me every time I scrolled past it. Finally, I wrote a really cool song and named the album after it.
C&I: What are some artists that have inspired you?
Sykes: Many different artists inspire me in different ways. For example, the Eagles’ harmonies and lyrics are always a gold standard. Petty just has such an amazing mix of cool, quirkiness, simplicity, etcetera. Some of my favorites are Tom Petty, the Eagles, Jackson Browne, the Beatles, Little Big Town, and so many more. I especially love lyrics, harmonies, guitars, pedal steel, mandolin, and great simple drums.
C&I: What can we expect in terms of touring?
Sykes: If you book it, we will come. Live is key!
C&I: You split your time between Southern California and Nashville. What are some of your favorite places to visit when you go back to those places?
Sykes: We actually live in L.A. I spend time in Nashville, typically to go on writing trips. However, The Bluebird Café is always a must to check out while in Nashville, and if you are into vintage badass clothing, we always stop off at The Bowery Vault.
C&I: What’s something listeners may not know about you?
Sykes: I love playing Scrabble and have also won tournaments. Jay is a champion surfer. We bruise easily. And our listeners may not know our Social Security numbers — although these days, I wouldn’t bet on that.
For more information on Joey Sykes, Honey River, and the upcoming album, visit their website. Photography: Courtesy MSO PR.