Singer/songwriter and producer Joseph Lemay began building a buzz around his electronic indie folk music last year.
His EP, “Act I,” charmed listeners throughout the country creating viral moments with each of its three songs. Lemay performs as SONTALK, often alone but lately with a four piece band. The talented poet and singer will release a full length album on the Sony Masterworks label March 15, and open up the Savannah Stopover Festival this March 7.
Lemay is a traveling and performing veteran. The triumph that was “Act I” has allowed for a more comfortable, expansive touring life for the Nashville-based musician, but 10 years ago, it was much lonelier scene.
“I started touring in college in 2009,” Lemay says. “It looked a lot different back then. I would usually just drive around in my Camry with my guitar by myself. I would do these ridiculously long solo tours and drives that were not safe to do through the night.”
The cliche of the starving artist paying dues holds true in this case and the fruits of the labor are deep, intricate songs that stick with you. Lemay says the success of the EP makes the touring life more enjoyable.
“Things haven’t totally changed,” he says, “but some things are just a little bit more fun. The tours are a bit more fun and the crowds are a bit bigger. I’m traveling with some of my best friends, which is better than listening to a podcast by myself for a week.”
The satisfying “I am a War Machine” from “Act I” is an example of Lemay’s ability to write stream-of-conscious lyrics that somehow form a laser-like directness in the minds of listeners.
He says “I am a War Machine” was written from a place of escalating self awareness. “It’s definitely about the tendency to self destruct.
“Maybe more than about the actual self-destructive tendency, it's a growing awareness that if I don’t get things together what it could turn into.”
Lemay says it is an ongoing effort for him to allow the art that so many people respond to flow naturally, while maintaining health and happiness.
The past has seen him go through manic writing episodes, staying up for days on end to create. The wild pace appeases the artist and his fans, but can take a toll on the man.
“It’s an ongoing practice of checks and balances, and a heavy batch of pharmaceuticals and supplements,” Lemay says. “I’m trying to stay healthy on all fronts.”
The opportunities for SONTALK are mounting as Lemay has found some sort of working balance. The constant and improving tours continue while the new album, “Stay Wild,” prepares to drop. The single “The One Who Breaks Your Heart” has just been released as a preview of the upcoming full length.
Focusing on mental illness and the people who love those who suffer, the song displays the kind of honest, infectious writing that has brought SONTALK from humble solo tours to headlining the opening event at this year’s Stopover Festival.