Q&A with blues/roots musician Joe Flip - building custom oil can guitars, and teaching music for kids' programs

"I think any genre of music and art can impact those things. Sometimes you can express yourself in more subtle ways. Since I'm primarily a guitarist, I've always tried expressing myself through my guitar with those topics."

Joe Flip: Discover Real Music

Whether Joe Flip (Filipovich) is performing at popular venues around the mid-west, building custom oil can guitars, or teaching music for kids' programs, Joe’s dedication to music is without question. While performing 200+ shows per year, Joe offers a vast variety of live music. His custom oil can guitars, "Hayburners," have been sold all over the world and have been featured on FOX 9 News, Blues in Britain Magazine, CNET, and The Drive Magazine.

Not only content with performing, Joe also serves as a music teacher and promoter of Blues for Kids, a music education program he created at the 501c3 non-profit organization, "Discover Music". The program is known for organizing workshops at schools and festivals with the mission of teaching children of all ages about the Blues music genre with harmonica and guitar. “Tin Can Tunes” (2019) is the latest album by Joe Flip & Tony Cuchetti. Joe says: "On this CD, we have 6 originals and 3 covers. We both love many genres of music, but when we perform together, I feel like we are on the same page musically."

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues and Roots music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

We feel that any music that has "soul" is the best way to express yourself and connect with the listener. We naturally gravitate towards that music which is usually found in blues and roots music. When I was about 10 years old, I heard my first Jimi Hendrix CD and I was blown away. I immediately started listening to all the old blues records and dedicated my life to learning the craft.

What were the reasons that you started the custom oil can guitars and what are the secrets of "Hayburners"?

I noticed that some people made hand-made cigar box guitars and oil can guitars. I'm not a very good handy-man, but my neighbor, Mike Jenson was at my house when I was talking about it. I told him there was no way I could figure out the engineering challenge, but he was going to school for CNC metal work at the time and he was happy to give it a try. We spent weeks with trial and error trying to engineer the electric guitar into a gas can. After many failures, we made our first gas can guitar and it sounded amazing. They obviously look unique but the sound very unique because of all the metal, which reacts to the magnetic pickups in the guitar. I use perform on our Hayburner Guitars more than any of my other "normal" guitars.

"It's so fun to watch kids learn so fast and effortlessly. As adults, we get more negative and insecure about learning new things, but the kids just dive right in and have fun!"

How do you describe your songbook and sound? Where does your creative drive come from?

I love the style of Tony Cuchetti, from his singing, songwriting to his dynamics. I love all blues/roots music but I wanted our sound to be unique and not sound too cliche. I knew Tony would help us keep on that path. We both enjoy music that has soul and depth. I wrote a couple songs and had him sing those, and he sang some of his originals. On “Tin Can Tunes” CD, we have 6 originals and 3 covers. We both love many genres of music, but when we perform together, I feel like we are on the same page musically.

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Playing with more experienced musicians always make you a better musician. They give you feedback on phrasing, dynamics, and timing. Indiara Sfair is an amazing female harmonica player that is on our bonus track, Amazing Grace. As soon as she plays the first note, she has you. She told me that the dynamic range on the harmonica is so small relative to other instruments such as guitar, vocals, drums, etc. She told me she has to take advantage of the entire dynamic range on her instrument to make it sound better, versus just playing loud all the time. I love that advice.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

We just returned from Memphis, competing in the International Blues Competition. It was an amazing experience and met a ton of great people and great musicians. My favorite thing to do is just jam and improvise with other musicians, especially if we have never met or if we don't speak the same language. I feel like it's the most pure form to communicate and express yourself with one universal language. I ended up jamming with some great musicians down in Memphis and had a blast!

"I love the style of Tony Cuchetti, from his singing, songwriting to his dynamics. I love all blues/roots music but I wanted our sound to be unique and not sound too cliche. I knew Tony would help us keep on that path. We both enjoy music that has soul and depth."

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

All the guitar solos and soul! In current pop culture music, it seems like guitar isn't very popular anymore. I think guitar and the blues genre became popular because it was different. I think things tend to cycle back and fourth, so maybe the blues and guitar solo will come back. The nice thing is that the blues has evolved so much to rock and roll, funk, R&B, soul, etc. You can hear it's influences in some newer bands, even though they might not be the "blues genre" it's still a significant part of the evolution of music as it is today.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I wish more kids were exposed to more music genres and instruments.  Tony Cuchetti grew up in a musical family with 10 siblings and they all turned out to be amazing musicians. I was introduced to guitar and the blues around the age 10 and I fell in love with it, but I wasn't introduced to pro musicians and mentors until a couple years ago. My older cousin, Mark Morris, is a great guitar player that got me into the music and guitar. If I wasn't exposed to that music, my life would have been so boring and I wouldn't be able to live my life with this passion that I now have. Kids might not fall in love with guitar or blues, but if you expose them to enough arts, instruments, and music genres, they might find their true passion and will be able to live with expression and cope with stress more efficiently.

What touched (emotionally) you as a music teacher and promoter of Blues for Kids ("Discover Music")?

It's so fun to watch kids learn so fast and effortlessly. As adults, we get more negative and insecure about learning new things, but the kids just dive right in and have fun!

What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications? 

I think any genre of music and art can impact those things. Sometimes you can express yourself in more subtle ways. Since I'm primarily a guitarist, I've always tried expressing myself through my guitar with those topics.

"All the guitar solos and soul! In current pop culture music, it seems like guitar isn't very popular anymore. I think guitar and the blues genre became popular because it was different. I think things tend to cycle back and fourth, so maybe the blues and guitar solo will come back."

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Oh man, probably Woodstock in 1969. It seemed like a perfect storm of music, art, and expression. I think I was a hippie in a past life, or maybe this life...

Joe Flip Music - Home

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