It’s often difficult for those who have the gift to create music to say from whence their inspiration comes from, but often the events of their lives play a role in coloring the music they compose. The same holds true for the driving force behind the Echoing Green, Joey Belville. As a young child, Joey experienced a journey that has had a continued presence in his music.
In 1980, his mother finally succumbed after a yearlong struggle with cancer. For a young child, it was an event beyond understanding, and one that has forever left a shadow that influences the music Joey composes. During his teenage years, Joey once again experienced a difficult journey as he moved through several abusive situations until finally ending up in a private boys home in New Mexico in 1984.
Again, this journey down a dark, troublesome road has left its mark on Joey’s life and his music. This is not to say that Joey’s entire journey has been through dark, troubled waters. His journey as a Christian has also had a tremendous, more positive influence on the music he molds. The lyrics of the Echoing Green are very honest, often inspired by whatever is on Joey’s heart at the time.
Although there is a strong element of faith to be seen in the lyrics of the Echoing Green, they’re never preachy or come across as religious; indeed, it would be difficult to label the group as merely a Christian band. Joey strives to let the experiences of his life speak for themselves in his music, be they the darks times or the times of hope experienced in his spiritual walk, challenging the listener to dig for substance rather than bombard them with fluffy clichés.
Another important component of the music of the Echoing Green is the love Joey has for computers and electronics. Throughout the years, Joey has always had a fascination with technology that is only equaled by his love for music. He’s always on the look out for the next advancement in the world of electronics or the latest in computer technology, which often influences how he is able to compose his music.
Music, on the other hand, has always held a different fascination for Joey, providing a place to escape and an outlet to express. It was only natural that the love for these two seeming diverse interests would merge into what eventually became the signature sound for the Echoing Green; a sound that is as much electronic as it is heartfelt.
The Echoing Green has always tried to distance themselves from the techno-dance stereotype, and that’s especially true with the groups more recent records. While there may be some danceable elements in the songs of the Echoing Green, primarily they’re designed to just be songs. Whenever people hear the term “electronic music”, there is a whole range of instant images that pop into one’s mind, most of which don’t apply to the Echoing Green.
While electronic music may be closely associated with the dance club scene, Joey feels that his music is just like any other, only it happens to be electronic. The genre allows Joey to create a greater range of textures and atmospheres with his songs, and it creates an opportunity to juxtapose lush and beautiful sounds with those that are more gritty and dirty. The Echoing Green definitely doesn’t fit the narrow category of “techno”, as evidenced by their long and broad appeal.
The Echoing Green’s journey officially began with the release of the first album, Defend Your Joy, in 1994. As with most groups, the road since then has been full of triumphs and trials, perhaps the most difficult being trying to find a label that wouldn’t go under or get sold. Releasing about an album a year, the Echoing Green quickly built up a dedicated following.
In 1998 Chrissy Jeter, then known as Chrissy Franklin, joined the group and it became a pivotal moment in the Echoing Green’s history. While there had been female vocals previous to her joining, they were usually used in the background. Chrissy helped the sound of the Echoing Green evolve, and through her sense of melody and with her strong voice, she has since become an integral and inseparable part of the unique sound that is the Echoing Green.
To certain degree, Joey feels that his latest album, The Winter of Our Discontent, is the culmination of his ten-year plus journey as the Echoing Green. The album overall is more moody and reflective than previous efforts. Joey decided to take on some more intense issues this time around, and the music certainly reflects that. One of the tracks in particular Joey feels he has accomplished more with than he could have imagined: “Story [of Our Lives] is a song I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to top and I don’t think I’m going to try. It’s a song about where we’re at, where we come from, and where we’re going; about looking at both the good and bad, standing amazed at the grandeur of our lives.” In that sense, the song pretty well sums up the journey of Joey Belville and The Echoing Green.
As for the future, well as with most journeys, what’s to come is always uncertain but exciting. As a new father, Joey is experiencing a completely different journey than anything he’s previously known, and this too will undoubtedly have an effect on his music. The demands of a growing family, both for Joey and Chrissy, have kept them from the constant touring of the past, and perhaps for the better. It has given them a chance to recharge, re-imagine, and prepare for what will come next.
For now he is content to help others attain success in the music world by producing the efforts of groups such as Leiahdorus, Mortal and Sly’s Alter Ego. Joey is also working on a pet “side” project called Pristina, which will feature a wide variety of female vocalists. The journey for the Echoing Green is far from over, and in many ways may just be beginning. As Joey himself has said, “ I don’t see our habit of finding different ways to sing about hope getting old anytime soon.”