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BWW Blog: Interviewing NYC Singer/Songwriter Joey Contreras

The “Love Me, Love Me Not” and “Break from the Line” composer’s inspirations, songwriting process, and works in progress!

BWW Blog: Interviewing NYC Singer/Songwriter Joey Contreras

I've been a huge fan of Mr. Contreras since I was in 8th grade, jamming out to Natalie Weiss' beautiful rendition of "Love Me, Love Me Not," Joey's incredibly fun and bubbly "Ohio," and Ben Fankhauser and Blake Daniel's version of Joey's "Great, Cool." Recently, I've seen him and his husband, actor and singer Brian Russell Carey, on TikTok, racking up thousands of views and posting videos of them singing new music, karaoke-style videos open for duetting, and old performances from their personal vaults of footage. I reached out to him as a shot in the dark, certain he would never see my message, and he responded so kindly and graciously that he would be willing to answer my questions! Below is our interview, giving you an inside look at the mind and life of a fantastic musical theatre-style songwriter.

How did you get started creating your own music?

My parents were musicians, so when I started showing interest in music, I was very encouraged and had access to a bunch of instruments and studio equipment to explore and create. By high school, I was a huge Britney Spears fan, and wanted that pop star route for me, so I would spend hours writing and producing dance songs and emotional piano ballads about a lot of angsty love. Songwriting really became my emotional outlet, but I also was a theatre kid, so over time, my songs started to meld more into the contemporary musical theatre world.

What's your favorite song that you've written?

I like a lot of my songs and I'm proud of them for various reasons. My favorites sort of change from time to time, depending on what I'm working on or if I've revisited any older stuff. I do have a new one that I love called "Singin' the Same Line", which imagines that you're sitting at a support group meeting and everyone is trying to detox from the same person. Also, when I write shows with collaborators, that challenges me to go a little more outside my musical box, so another favorite is a song called "Underwater" (co-written with Kate Thomas) from our show "Forget Me Not."

Who/what inspires you musically and lyrically?

Lyrically... it's usually boys. Many of my songs truly stem from my life and relationships. But I'm also a pretty introspective person, so I'll tend to use songwriting to help therapize myself. Musically, I listen to a lot of mainstream pop. Max Martin is an icon. But I also love folk, country and r&b. Taylor Swift and Sara Bareilles are staples, but more recently, I've been inspired by Alec Benjamin and Jeremy Zucker.

I've seen you and your husband tearing up the TikTok game! What are your thoughts on the platform in terms of being a venue for musical theatre?

Thank you! I'm trying! For me, I like the idea of putting up bits and pieces of songs in progress as I write here and there, instead of always waiting to release some super polished product. I'm very impressed by the level of creativity and talent and sense of humor there is on TikTok. And at the speed at which people churn content out! It's so inspiring and fun and an amazing tool for people to connect and collaborate. I think it's gonna have a unique impact on musical theatre going forward.

I also saw a TikTok cover that you and your husband made of Ariana Grande's "Into You" if it were a musical theatre song! Can we potentially look forward to an Ariana Grande jukebox musical?

If that's what the children want, Brian and I are here to deliver! We stan Ari in our household and we may or may not already have some other musical theatre arrangements up our sleeves.

How have you been keeping yourself sane since Covid-19 hit and shut down live theatre for the moment?

It started with baking a lot of chocolate banana bread, but eventually I had to curb some of that. Work wise, I've actually been very busy! My song cycle "IN PIECES" was just made available for world wide licensing so I've been involved with a few virtual productions that are in the works. We also have some other exciting surprises planned for "IN PIECES" in 2021, so I'm in preparation stages for that. Clearly, this year has been absolutely wild and an emotional roller coaster. I think we are all navigating it as best as we can, and I think it's important to be kind to yourself through it all.

What's your songwriting process? What are your top 3 favorite musicals?

I'm constantly writing thoughts and lyrics in my phone and humming melodies in my voice memos. I like to initially write away from the piano, because it frees me up. I'm self-taught, so since I can't always rely on theory to help me build a foundation, I feel it out, gibberish a lot of vowel sounds or rhythms and then go from there.

My top three favorite musicals are: Sunday in the Park with George, Company and The Last 5 Years.

Do you have any advice for people who want to start composing and writing lyrics themselves?

Write a whole song. And then write another. And another. It's easy to start writing and then stop midway to judge it and then never finish. The song doesn't have to be "good" ultimately, but we all need to write "bad" songs to get to the ones we like.

Where can people find you on the internet?!

Find me on Insta, Twitter and TikTok: @joeycontreras

And all my sheet music and more is available on www.joeycontreras.com.

Thanks for the interview!

Check out Natalie Weiss and Ben Fankhauser singing Joey's song 'Love Me, Love Me Not' below!



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