Joseph Vincent: More than just a YouTube artist
I’m lounging in a plush leather seat in the lobby of a moderately swanky apartment building turned hotel. As I wait for Joseph Vincent to arrive, I look over my notes for the interview. Don’t have much written; but as it turns out, I have plenty of time to write things down. The YouTube singer songwriter is running an hour late because he was in the hotel gym, working out.
From the bit of research I did prior to the interview — scouring YouTube videos and reading little interviews — Joseph is a charming young fellow, and it’s not hard to see why the ladies love him. He has that winning smile, and eyes that just sort of twinkle if you look for too long. Even from still photos you can tell he’s a genuinely nice guy, so despite the fact that he is making me and my team of photographers and videographers wait just because he is pumping that iron (it’s not like he was saving a three legged kitten from a tree) doesn’t faze me at all.
Finally, his manager Tom comes down to say that we can go up to his suite. The elevator ride up is fast and we barely have time to make chit chat. Tom knocks on the door to make sure Joseph is “decent” (reminding me that he had just gotten out of the post-gym shower). We enter, and Joseph saunters out of the bedroom with that familiar smile. I feel like I know him already from spending all morning glued to his videos.
We do quick introductions and share a bit of friendly banter before the actual interview begins. Joseph tells me that lately he’s been having a lot of weird dreams in which he goes back to high school. Tom complains of fatigue after enduring a rigorous flying schedule for his tour.
After minutes of pleasantry, I bring focus to the cacophony of voices in the room. “Shall we start?”
I open with a pretty obvious question. “Since you were just at the gym, can you tell us your workout routine?”
“Just run on the treadmill, lift some weights, do different muscle groups on different days, and just try and balance it cause I eat really bad. I work out so I can eat really bad,” he says.
Okay that was really awkward, I think to myself — why am I asking a Youtube star what his workout routine is? Luckily, Joseph goes on without any prompting. He’s turning out to be what I like to call a talker — in other words, a good interview subject.
The reason he eats so poorly is because he’s always on tour. “It’s terrible. I mean, it’s awesome ’cause me and Tom get to travel all around the world. And every time we get somewhere, people are like ‘oh, we got to take you to this pizza joint, this amazing food place’ and we can’t turn it down. I mean you never know if we’re gonna be there again so. That’s why I try to work out a lot.”
Good to know. On to more personal questions.
On Family and Faith
He was born Joseph Vincent Encarnacion, but goes by the name Joseph Vincent because it’s easier to pronounce. Joseph describes his parents as “typical Asian,” always demanding straight A’s.
My mom was “amazingly-strict,” he says with a chuckle. “My mom was the strict one, my dad was actually more supportive. He kind of babied me a bit. My mom was a hard ass. But she loved me, and she does support me now.” As for siblings, Joseph has a younger brother who just finished his third year at UCLA. “I love him. We’re really close,” he remarks affectionately.
He says he was a goofy kid growing up, never taking himself too seriously, and was more into sports than music. His mother would put him in little talent competitions here and there; being Filipino, his family had a love for karaoke. “We did have a karaoke machine. We had the whole setup. The DVDs all lined up filling the entire living room,” Joseph recalls.
But it wasn’t until he was gifted a guitar by his parents that he started to take music more seriously. Joseph saw the guitar as a challenge. He began to teach himself simple chords first, and slowly worked up to covering whole songs. “I’m still learning today. I’m not the best guitarist at all. But I like to pride myself in the songwriting, the melodies and the way you sing things. That’s what I’ve been really honing in on.”
From then on, music was a constant in his life. “I would jump around from sport to sport. I was kind of fickle-minded as a kid, but the way I felt about music never changed. And I was always listening to different types of genres, and I liked to pull what I liked from each song and each genre, and I liked to mesh it into my own. So I guess that’s the creative side in me that kind of came out.”
After high school, Joseph wanted to go straight into the music biz, but his mother had other ideas. “She made sure that I got my education. We made a deal.”
Joseph went to University of California Irvine. He majored in Public Health Policy, which he found a way to tie together with his love of music. Joseph began playing benefit concerts for several causes, and raised awareness for causes including hepatitis and heart disease.
As he gained experience, his father noticed he was getting really good and insisted he put his songs on Youtube. “My dad’s like, ‘You need to put your stuff on [YouTube].’ I don’t know why my dad’s so tech savvy. He finds out about websites before they’re cool. My dad’s the original hipster. He’ll be like, ‘I told you Ray Bans are cool, now you’re wearing them?’ He knows everything, I should really have listened to him earlier on,” Joseph says animatedly.
His love for his family is evident in the way he speaks and it is because of them that he stays so grounded. He is who he is because his parents raised him Catholic.
I ask him how faith plays a role in his everyday life. “It’s just my relationship with God… He’s helped me through many difficult times,” says Joseph. “We always do a prayer before every show. We try to bring in everyone who wants to be, but it’s always me and Tom.”
More than that , Joseph finds purpose through his faith. ” [God] gave me this gift to share with other people; that’s my duty here. That’s what makes it real… I have the ability to affect thousands of people.” He says that he takes seriously the job he does. When he puts on a show or puts up a video, his goal is to make the audience leave happy. “I feel that I have the responsibility to make everyone more light-hearted, more positive thinking, ’cause that way they’ll just be more positive in their own communities. I think that’s how that works.”
On YouTube, Joseph quickly became a sensation, getting millions of views on his covers. This got the attention of TV personality Ellen Degeneres, who has made it her mission to feature emerging internet talents on her show.
It started with a message on Youtube from one of Ellen’s producers. “I didn’t believe it, ’cause she had this random user name and there was no picture on the icon. She was like ‘Oh, I’m a producer from the Ellen Degeneres show. And we would like to talk to you. Here is our number; give us a call.’ I didn’t believe it.”
He decided to give her a call, anyway. Only four days later, he was on the show. “I didn’t expect that to happen so early on, and people always ask me, ‘Do you think you made it? You were on national TV?’ I honestly think it’s the start,” Joseph says. “That’s what made me, that moment I realized that I could actually do this for a living. Before that, it was just a hobby that I did on the side while I was studying.”
Joseph describes the experience as surreal. “I went out and everything was just so colourful and clear, and I didn’t believe she was right in front of me — I hugged her and everything. It really blew my mind. You can actually see the first time I was on, I really didn’t say much; I was just staring in awe. I was just focusing on not messing up when I was playing the song.”
Not only did Joseph get to perform on the Ellen show; a little while after his first visit, he was asked to return again. After a soulful performance of Mike Posner’s “Cooler than Me,” Ellen surprised him with a $10,000 cheque.
YouTube and the artist
YouTube has no doubt changed the game for people with unique skill sets, but it has especially helped out aspiring musicians.
“Social media today is completely changing the industry as a whole. Back in the day, everyone wanted to get signed. Nowadays, you can cut out the middleman. I can go directly through YouTube, directly through iTunes, and go directly [to] my fans,” says Joseph. “That’s why the big corporations are kind of freaking out — they don’t know what the formula is. It’s just all going awry ’cause of technology. You can have the same quality of videos you see on MTV on YouTube. I think YouTube is the new MTV. People don’t go through channels to find new music, they go through the internet.”
Although YouTube as a platform has been a blessing for Joseph, he does note that it is becoming more and more saturated. “People are finding out the Justin Bieber story, Ellen’s bringing up all these YouTube people. It got more competitive.”
Despite all this, Joseph isn’t worried. In fact, stepping out from the masses of internet sensations is next on his to-do list. “I want to be taken more seriously, much more as an artist, as opposed to just a YouTube artist. Take the YouTube out of there,” he tells me.
Maybe not so S.A.D.
We have a little time to burn before his next engagement, so after the interview we head down to a coffee shop. We’re soon chatting up like old friends, and it turns out he’s game to answer a bunch of silly questions from the crew and I. We probe him on things we think his fans would like to know. We find out that no, he doesn’t have a girlfriend, but he does have a special girl who is “a really good friend”.
I ask him to describe his ideal girl. Ladies, the following is a direct quote from Joseph Vincent: “She has to be cute, she has to have a sense of humour, the same sense of humour, that’s the number one thing, and if you can’t have a conversation with them it really kills it.”
YouTube’s Prince Charming
I’m not able to attend Joseph’s Vancouver concert the following day, so I give promo tickets away to a few girl friends of mine, as well as to some younger female cousins.
When I log into Facebook Monday morning, I’m immediately greeted by the all-too-familiar red notification. My 16-year-old cousin has written on my wall, “Thanks for the tickets, Joseph Vincent was brilliant!”
I have to ask my 28-year-old girl friend if she actually made it to the show. I sincerely hope she has not wasted my tickets! “I did,” she tells me. “The crowd was young, I felt so out of place… There was one point where he burped on stage, then laughed about it.” Needless to say, she was a bit put off.
It’s clear Joseph’s personality resonates with a younger, mostly female demographic. To be honest, I hadn’t paid very much to his videos before this interview. Maybe because I was scared it would feel too much like watching a Mickey Mouse Club tribute show. But after spending a solid afternoon with Youtube’s darling, I feel that in fact, he does have something special. He is terribly charming. Frankly, I’m just as sold as the gaggles of sixteen- year-old fangirls out there.
Photos by Royce Sin and Ryan Wong for Converge magazine