Joe Mungovan is not your typical artist with a guitar in his hand. Starting off as a drummer, the Kiama native developed his own unique style of indie folk and pop on the guitar after spending four months in a wheelchair from a skateboarding accident. From there on, Mungovan knew music was his life and now continues to share his soothing vocals to the world.
We had a lot to chat about with Joe from his current tour, upcoming E.P (you can check out his latest single HERE) to his illustrious hair care routine.
Hi, Joe! So, you’re driving around in your van for this tour. How very Kerouac of you! I saw that you named your van Rodge. Why did you choose that name and not the ‘Mungo Van’?
That’s actually a really good question. Rodge sort of just came to me and maybe it’ll just be a little bit a few too many Mungos if we were travelling and we were both called Mungovan.
Did you have any interesting experiences on your tour so far?
Yeah, we took a jeep down from Melbourne to Rye. You know how on jeeps they don’t have glass windows? They’re all just plastic windows. Well, one of them broke and it was raining. So, we had to sticky tape the car back together because the zippers were broken. It’s sort of hard to describe. Luckily, it wasn’t heavily raining when it actually broke.
From reading articles about you, a lot of them say you’re from Kiama. What was it like growing up in Kiama and how is the music scene there?
I was very lucky to grow up here, I’m actually back in Kiama at the moment. Just super lucky to grow up like on the beach with heaps of my mates around. The music scene is… Well, we usually go up to Wollongong for that but there’s a heap of good music coming out of Kiama as well which is exciting to see.
When did you decide that music was the career for you and what were your musical influences at the time that led you to want to make your own music?
When I was in a wheelchair and started playing the guitar, I fell in love with songwriting and the craft of putting ideas together over music. When I got out of the wheelchair, I had to learn to walk again and then learn to play the drums again. Then I joined a band with nine close mates. We were playing reggae funk music with a horn section. So, it started out as more of that rootsy, funky, reggae and then folky sort of music.
I was just writing for that band and then just started writing my own stuff as well. Then just started doing gigs with just me and the guitar. I also play in a two piece now with my mate Jimmy. We’re called El Grande and we play bluesy rock sort of stuff. I guess originally, I was influenced by funk, reggae and big band. Then, it branched out from there.
I also listened to an album called, ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ by Bon Iver. I listened to that thinking, “I wanna make something that like that”. I don’t feel like I have the ability to make something that good, but to try to make someone feel the way that I felt when I first listened to that album and then I was like, “I’ve just got to. This is amazing. I need to try and play music for the rest of my life.”
What was it like to have an opportunity in your teens to be a part of the Talent Development Project Foundation? How did it feel to take the road less travelled as far as the high school trajectory usually goes?
Well, it was great! School was cool but I already knew what I was gonna do. For me to have the opportunities to still be classified as attending school but doing what I wanted to do was really good. There are a lot of things like Talent Development Project, Southern Stars, and School Spectacular. Those sort of performance opportunities that you wouldn’t really get if you just stayed at school. So that was cool. I made a lot of really good friends through that as well from all over the state, all over New South Wales, because we had all come together and I’m still really good friends with all those people now.
I know this is a very ridiculous and vain question to ask but you have such nice hair. What is your hair care routine and do you plan on continuing to grow out your hair?
My routine I guess is just try and wash it whenever I can find a shower. And do I plan on growing it? Well, every time I see my mum she says, “I’m gonna cut your hair.” I always say to her don’t take too much off and she doesn’t which is great. So, I guess I have my mom to thank for it. Which probably makes it seem way less cool now but it’s true.
I noticed your latest single, Stepping Outta Line has a different edge to it. It has a bit more of an electric sound than your previous work. What made you decide to step outta line (I had to) of your style and what is the song about?
I started taking a bit of a different direction with the way that I was songwriting. With previous stuff, it was just me and a guitar. Now a lot of my writings done still with a guitar but probably more on the computer. You have more digital sounds to play with when you’re working with software. So, naturally, I guess it just went that way. And I really started getting into a lot of hip-hop. I guess it [my music] led down that path. It’s still very guitar based music. Just basically writing on the guitar on the computer a lot more lends itself to more of that sound.
Stepping Out of Line is sort of just about accepting that people are gonna think what they want about you and you should sort of just do what you want to do without worrying too much about what anyone thinks of you.
How has your musical style and songwriting developed over the years?
I think from just listening to a lot more music and lot more different genres. Growing up and just becoming a human. Maturing a bit. I wouldn’t say I’ve matured but, you know, just growing up and learning different things about yourself. Just like anything, you do something heaps, and you get better at it. I guess it’s just really honing in on the art of songwriting and trying to figure out what it is you’re trying to say and finding the best way to say it.
Given that it’s Spring and I hear you know a thing or two about making a garden and veggie patch, what plants or veggies do you recommend growing? Any tips?
I’m just about to buy a whole lot more stuff [for the garden]. What would I say for this time of year? Zucchinis are always good and maybe some tomatoes as well. Chuck some of them in. Chillies are always good to grow as well.
Any tips? Not really. I guess it just depends on what your situation is with your garden. Just look after your garden! Give it lots of love.
So, I saw that you’re an unsigned artist meaning you don’t belong to any record labels. What is it like to remain completely independent and how important is it for you to not sell out or be a part of a label?
I’m not really focused on not signing to a label. I’m just more focused on just being honest with myself and trying to make something that I like. Just create art and make music that I want to put out. It’s not so much that I don’t want to steer clear of labels like if there was someone I am comfortable working with that’s great because I’m all for collaboration. It’s important for me to stay honest with myself and for me to be able to just release music, play shows and just wanna do what I want to do.
Although, I saw you’re selling your own shirts now?
Ha! So, it’s made by a really cool graphic designer. A mate of mine from Canberra. We’ve been meaning to do something together for ages and we weren’t sure exactly what we wanted to do. I really love all the stuff he does and a lot of the art he puts out is really cool and simplistic. It really drew my attention and I was like, “I wanna make something with you”. So, we thought, “we’ll do some t-shirts” and he just made this sort of this design of my face and now people are wearing shirts with my face on it.
Are there any unsigned or independent artists that you think deserve a shout out at the moment?
For sure. I’d like to shout out to The Vans. I just have a really close-knit of friends that are really talented. Maddy Jane. Jed Appleton. Brierley Pierce. TESHA. I could go on forever. I’m going with her on tour at the moment, Greta Stanley. And Harrison Storm. Boom! There you go.
Tell us about your current tour and what can we expect from it?
Well, I’m touring with Greta Stanley who is a singer-songwriter from Cairns. She’s awesome and we’re doing a co-headlining tour. We’ve got three dates left. This Friday in Thirroul, Sydney on the 5th of October, Brisbane on the 7th of October and I’m playing Surry Hills Festival this Saturday. It’s a co-headline tour between Greta and I but we’re playing with a lot of our good friends. We’re playing with Harrison Storm on Friday in Thirroul, Jack O’Reily is playing with us in Sydney and Hannah Rose is playing with us in Brizzy.
I suppose I can really only talk about myself but I’ll be playing a lot of new songs cause I’m about release a whole lot of new music. It’ll be an E.P, but it’ll be a long E.P so it’ll be good. Just playing a lot of new stuff and testing it out.
Definitely, check out Greta’s stuff. She’s an amazing songwriter!
Okay, that was all the questions. It was great to talk to you. Good luck on your tour!
Thank you so much!
Everybody, go watch Joe live in action. He’s one not to miss!
(click on the dates to get tickets/event info)
September 22nd – Anita’s Theatre, Thirroul, NSW
September 23rd – Surry Hills Festival, Surry Hills, NSW
October 5th – Oxford Circus, Sydney, NSW
October 7th – Bloodhound Bar, Fortitude Valley, QLD
AMNPLIFY – DB