Joey Landreth Ventures Out On His Own (Well, Sort of) With Release of Debut Solo Album Whiskey

Winnipeg native Joey Landreth recently released his first solo album, Whiskey, and has tour dates planned for a good part of the year. The Juno winner is also a member of the popular roots act The Bros. Landreth

Fans of the Canadian roots/rock group The Bros. Landreth may have been taken aback momentarily when they heard the news that the younger of the two brothers that comprise the focal point for the act – Joey Landreth – was releasing a solo album.

Was there friction? Were there fraternal squabbles that were tearing the band apart much as bands such as The Kinks, The Black Crowes and Oasis had been destroyed by brotherly battles?

Nope. Older brother David simply needed to take a little family time, and Joey decided the time was thus ripe to try his hand at a record and some touring on his own. The result is the critically acclaimed album Whiskey, released back in January on Cadence Music, and a tour that has thus far seen him criss-cross Canada and take a jaunt through the United Kingdom, with more dates both at home and abroad yet to come.

“It was less like this is what I want to do right now, and more like this is what we had to do at the time. There was a ton of time spent on the road for The Bros. Landreth and we were all away from our homes and families for a majority of the year in 2015 and it just got to the point where we needed to make sure that we could spend a little more time at home. So the solo thing was, at the risk of trivializing it too much, a way to keep me working and allow the rest of the band to spend a little more time at home,” said Landreth, who was born and raised in Winnipeg, but now lives in Toronto.

“It’s been fun watching people’s reactions to it. They’re asking me, ‘come on, give me the goods.’ I have people asking if there’s been a falling out. No, we’re just trying to be adults about it. We’re just trying to do what’s right and healthy for our families but something that’s going to keep us in the music realm and keeping our business alive.

“It’s still very much a family oriented project. My brother and I did a bunch of writing for Whiskey just like we did with The Bros. Landreth record Let It Lie. And David and {drummer] Ryan Voth both played on this new record which, again, was like Let It Lie. So we kept it very much under the same structure. Like I said, it wasn’t like I really wanted to do something that was completely different. If I had my druthers I would be just as happy putting out an album as The Bros. Landreth, but making sure my brother and the other guys [including guitarist Ariel Posen] had enough time at home. So we’re doing it under my name but still keeping the love and creativity in the family, so to speak.”

David and Joey are the sons of well-known Winnipeg roots/folk musician/songwriter Wally Landreth, and both were raised with the songs of artists such as John Hiatt, Donald Fagan, Little Feat and Lyle Lovett playing on the home stereo. Both brothers got into professional music at an early age. In fact, Joey was such a prodigiously and precociously talented young guitar player the he was a hired on to play weekend gigs as a sideman at the tender age of 15.

“My dad was a travelling musician and working musician around Winnipeg and still is, although he doesn’t do it full time now. So my brother and I came by our love for music pretty naturally. I was still in high school when I got my first sort of touring gig with a Gospel singer, going out on the road on weekends. The rule was if I got my homework done, it was okay. And actually Ryan Voth was involved in that as well,” Landreth said.

“I guess first and foremost, then, my first real inspiration was my dad. I think most kids grow up wanting to do what their parents do in some way, shape or form. I think it was just being around my dad and all his musician buddies that got me hooked. After that, especially from a guitar player and songwriter point of view, it would be Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robben Ford, Ry Cooder, David Linley, Lowell George from Little Feat, Stevie Wonder, Donnie Hathaway – those are all guys that I absolutely idolize.”

It took more than a decade of playing and becoming must-see players on the local music scene before the two brothers decided to collaborate. So, in 2013, when Landreth was 27, The Bros. Landreth formed, releasing Let It Lie in Canada in 2014, and a year later in the United States – to a great response from both fans and critics on both sides of the border. ‘

In fact, the scintillating debut album earned The Bros. Landreth a Juno Award for Best Roots & Traditional Album in 2015.

While Whiskey isn’t a departure from the signature Bros. Landreth sound, it is an evolution. The songs display a tightness in composition and deep authenticity and, dare we say it, a maturity that comes from a group of musicians and songwriters who have developed an excellent creative rapport.

Whiskey sounds a lot more like a band that has spent most of the previous four years on the road together. It’s still the same rhythm section of Dave and Ryan and me playing guitar. But we decided to actually make the record a little differently. Let It Lie was pieced together because I was still really busy on the road as a sideman. We did all the main bed tracks in one chunk and then I went on the road for a month and a half and came back to sing all the vocals. There was another break when I came back to do my guitar solos,” he said.

“With this record, we wanted to make sure that we did it all at once. If someone was being added like an overdub after the fact it was still being added that week so everything was still fresh. We wanted to make sure that the sound was a little more cohesive. We really were trying to go for a real, tight band sound.

“As for the themes and overall vibe of the music, I didn’t really want to change anything. I just wanted to progress. My mantra has always been to keep things as authentic to myself, and as honest as I can. That means not trying to force things that don’t come naturally – not trying to sound like something I am not. I just tried very much to go with my gut and be instinctive. And I think we explore a lot of pretty common topics found in the kind of music that we make. We’re roots music, but we do lean a little bit to the blues and country side, so there’s a lot of heartbreak in our lyrics. It’s an easy topic to write about as it seems to be the thing that people connect with the most, because everybody’s had a broken heart.”

As for how he writes, Landreth said he has learned to add a little structure to his process, instead of waiting for the muse to strike.

“It’s kind of different for every song. There are definitely a lot of moments when the inspiration hits you and you rush to get an idea down. But I also spend a fair amount of time making sure that I am setting aside time to write and be creative and I am going out of my way to keep that going. I think you get to a point as a writer and creator where you realize that waiting for the muse to strike exclusively could mean you’re waiting for a long time. So you have to treat it as a bit of a vocation,” he said.

Landreth has toured the U.K. three times, twice with The Bros. Landreth and once on his own – always to packed houses and raucous applause. The key for making inroads in that market was getting his music into the hands of a truly influential individual – someone whose reputation was so stellar and revered that their opinion could literally make or break a band. In the U.K. there are few ‘tastemakers’ who are more respected than legendary BBC radio and television presenter Bob Harris.

“There are a lot of people over there who believe in what we do and are willing to invest in it. The very first time we went over there we played a sold out show in London, and we’d never even set foot on the ground in England let alone played a show. Bob Harris is a beloved DJ over there and is definitely a legend in both the radio and TV business. And he got a hold of our record and loved it and became sort of a champion for us over there,” Landreth explained.

“We were in Nashville for the Americana Showcase Festival when Let It Lie first came out and our American publicist saw Bob walking down the street and said, ‘we’ve got to make sure Bob has a copy of your record. He’s a monster in the industry.’ So she told him she was working with us and gave him a copy. I was talking to him one day not long ago and he said, ‘the funny things is, you caught me at just the right time. Because I was walking back to my rental car and I had a 15-minute drive ahead of me and I might as well throw this CD in.’ And he really liked it, so he started spinning our record when he got back home and has kept spinning tracks from it. And with a guy like Bob Harris, there are a lot of people listening to his radio show.”

The moral of the story is, being in the right place at the right time is good. Being in the right place at the right time with an excellent product is better – much better.

“You can’t leave it all up to chance. Yes, there was luck involved but we were ready when the opportunity arose. There is a certain amount of intelligent design involved. You put your heart and soul into a project and you keep plugging away until something good happens. There is definitely a right place and a right time but we have also been building our entire careers around making the best of those moments. It’s about getting it into the right hands too,” he said.

“Getting a roots record to a guy who likes roots music; that heightens your chances. If you put your heart and soul into it, and you play and sing as well as you can, then hopefully all those factors will add up to something good. With all that said, I still consider running into Bob a very, very lucky thing. It’s not every day you get to meet someone like Bob Harris, let along be able to personally give him a physical copy of your music.”

For more information on Landreth’s tour dates or to order copies of Whiskey, visit, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Jim Barber is a veteran award-winning journalist and author based in Napanee, ON, who has been writing about music and musicians for a quarter of a century. Besides his journalistic endeavours, he now works as a communications and marketing specialist. Contact him at


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