My name is Joseph Robert Stamm—I go by Joe. I’ve tried to put myself into the pages and songs that follow—my stories, disappointments, triumphs, and thoughts. Singer/songwriter Bobby Pinson writes,
"My music is passionate and honest and is carved from pieces of my life. Not that everything is literally true, but the feelings are true, and the emotions and experiences are real, even if they're not mine. I put myself into the character of that small town guy who's made it out, or the one who hasn't."
I read this quote before I ever started writing songs and its ethos has guided me in my own writing. My songs try to capture the emotions many of us feel throughout life, but in order to weigh their authenticity I try to stay within the boundaries of my own experience.
I was born into a small, rural football town outside Peoria, IL, called Metamora (pop. 2,700). Football took me to newspapers, television, and a free education—all this rested, however, on a troubled right shoulder that, along with 4 shoulder surgeries, ended my quarterbacking career at Northern Illinois University.
I subsequently threw myself into academics, eventually transferring to a small, private university in Upland, IN, called Taylor. I finished with honors, earning a B.A. in Biblical literature in 2006 and further confusing my sense of identity—to both those around me and myself.
The spring before I graduated, I began playing guitar and writing songs. Please do not anticipate me to claim that music tied everything neatly together for me—it hasn’t. It simply became a way to digest and articulate my life experiences, emotions and perspectives. It helps me to understand my identity without ever having to define it. In other words, my identity and all that goes with it—my belief system, my past, my dreams, etc.—are too fluid to pin down. I am not a football player. I am not an academic. I am not a musician. I am, in fact, all these and something else. Each day builds upon the next and perpetually redefines me. Music, whether written 40 years ago (“The Pilgrim – Chapter 33”, Kristofferson) or last month (“Five Feet Down”, Stamm), moves and evolves with our identity, allowing for creative interpretation and application that gradually carves out self-understanding.
In an interview from 1989, Kris Kristofferson described Johnny Cash as “self-destructive, as [he] thought all artists should be.” Cash’s self-destruction (as well as Kristofferson’s) was, I think, manifested inner conflict and confused self-understanding—the conflict between faith and desire, guilt and glory, sin and grace, damnation and salvation. These are the conflicts that play out in everyday life, and for Cash and Kristofferson (not to mention Hank Williams, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, and on and on) these conflicts created lasting musical legacies.
I do not liken myself to these men—their greatness mocks the thought of it. I simply imply that I play with the same spirit—the spirit that knows I will never figure it all out on this side of death, but nonetheless examines every emotion and experience in order to learn. Writing music freezes emotions and experiences in song so that we can return to them in order to do so.
That’s why I write, sing and play. I hope you enjoy it.