Songwriter Jerry Joseph is a funny fellow. Over the last quarter century, he’s released more than 20 albums with a variety of bands, including Little Women, the Jackmormons, and, most recently, Stockholm Syndrome, which he formed in 2003 with Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools.
Never one to shy away from controversy, Joseph started a band a few years ago called the Denmark Veseys, named after the slave who attempted to foment an uprising in Charleston.
“I’m surprised I walked out of Charleston last time,” Joseph says from his Portland, Ore., home, recalling an interview that mentioned the band during his last visit. “The article came out and suddenly I’m getting all these angry texts. And these are from people I like, much less the usual death threats from fucking frat guys.”
This time around, he’s here with Stockholm Syndrome, who released their second album, Apollo, in February. They’re led by Joseph’s rootsy baritone with a gruff R&B-inflected heartland rock vocal vibe reminiscent of John Hiatt and Warren Zevon. The band explores loose-limbed, bluesy rock that, while not as jammy as Widespread, draws on similar American roots antecedents.
“It’s a bunch of guys who are really good at their instruments and want to show you,” cracks Joseph with a laugh.
Apollo comes seven years after their debut, Holy Happy Hour, due in part to the band members’ busy schedules, Schools in particular. “Though why it took two years after we made it to come out, I have no idea,” offers Joseph.
The two had already built a long working relationship, with Schools producing several of Joseph’s albums. Widespread Panic even covered a number of Joseph’s songs over the years.
“We trust each other musically, and I think there is a lot of lifestyle stuff we had in common too,” Joseph says of Schools. “We have really large record collections and a lot of stuff we see eye-to-eye on musically. Because we’re older, I don’t think we have to focus on a specific sound. We’re a little more able to do everything we want to do.”
Schools has joked that the project offers Joseph a chance to “be known as more than just the singer/songwriter with the heroin-death-Jesus complex.” Joseph laughs and suggests that’s an accurate assessment, noting that being a lead singer almost necessitates a certain level of dysfunction. But he believes it’s the flaws that make the music interesting and relatable.
“Half the reason the Grateful Dead were big was because they were unattractive guys who couldn’t dance. People could stand in the crowd and say, ‘This is me,'” he says. “I would love 500,000 more of those kind of fans, but if I’m only gonna be the spokesman for short, bald, angry guys, I’ll take it.”