It’s taken a long time to get to this moment, but the hard work has all paid off with the release of Joe McLeod’s debut full-length album Cloud Berries in Alaska. We first introduced you to the Keswick, Ontario singer-songwriter in the summer of 2020, with the debut of his “Everybody’s Got Somebody” music video, and now he’s set to take a step forward with his proper album debut, ten enticing songs combining the best of pop, indie-folk and Americana. It’s a significant step forward for McLeod, whose down-to-earth, storytelling approach to songwriting will resonate with fans of classic folk and country music.
Working in tandem with Canadian indie rockers The Elwins, who helped produce the record, McLeod reflects on hope, loss, and survival, inspired by his thoughts and feelings on his father, who sadly passed away shortly before McLeod began writing and recording the record. Cloud Berries In Alaska is an album that really hones in on the human experience with life and death, driven by rhythm and splendid harmony.
There’s so much to get to know and learn with a man who lives his life as freely and as authentically as Joe McLeod. We recently spoke with him about tattoos in which he describes his first and some of his most memorable, his favourite tattoo artist, and his most painful experience.
When, where and what was your first tattoo?
“I got my first tattoo during my first year of university where I was living in a dorm room near Eastbourne in the UK. Someone else in the residence was offering to do stick-and-poke tattoos for free which is for some reason, something I felt like I needed to jump on because… When does that opportunity come up… right? I was a bit hesitant of the commitment that comes along with a tattoo so I figured this was perfect, a tattoo that will likely fade over time if I don’t like it, plus I got it on my foot. Fast forward seven years and I have a half surviving tattoo on my foot that looks like a kindergarten doodle.”
Do any of your tattoos have a particularly special meaning behind them?
“My ‘1946’ tattoo is in honour of my late father who was born in that year. There is a song on my new record called ‘1946,’ which is based on a story my dad told me about growing up in rural New Brunswick and his reflection about growing old and seeing his siblings slowly fade away. It is me telling his story in a way to keep it alive.
I have a tattoo of Gord Downie’s hat and one of an arrow that spells ‘Introduce Yerself.’ These both mean a lot to me because Gord Downie is one of my favourite songwriters and poets. I feel greatly inspired when I listen to his music and on days when I am feeling really down in the dumps, usually, Gordy can pull me out.
I have a handful of tattoos that are thematically tied to nature and the environment. I feel really compelled and invigorated when I am camping, hiking, or in some remote cabin or natural place in this world. I have a mountain range, wildflowers, a swallow, a dragonfly, and the night sky from Long Beach in Tofino, British Columbia. I think this theme will continue to be the dominating direction of my tattoos. Nature makes me feel like everything is going to be ok.
I recently heard that a black and white feather represents leaving a time of misfortune and struggle, to enter into a period of prosperity. I decided I was going to get a tattoo of a feather like this, and no more than a month later I am walking through a park and find this sticking out of a bench:”
Do you have a specific shop or artist that you frequent (insert shameless plug time!)?
“Ever since that first late-night stick-and-poke, I have been going to the same artist named Inshaan Ali (@inshaanali). Over the years, Inshaan and I have become good pals and I am always itching to get back for another piece; I usually get two to three every time I go in now! Inshaan is one of the most talented artists out there and a damn cool dude; definitely go check out his Instagram.”
Do you have any new tattoos planned or underway? Give us the dirt, dude!
“I just got two new pieces at the end of December (Dragonfly and Tofino night sky) and will likely book some time in February/March or keep my eyes open for cancellations. I have a couple vague ideas in my head but I usually find that once I have an appointment booked is when I do my best thinking.”
Have you seen any fans with a band tattoo, anything crazy memorable?
“I have never seen anyone with a band tattoo and I don’t know if anyone ever would to be honest with you. I’ll tell you what, though, if I ever do see one, I will be so excited about it.”
We know you have one… tell us about that stoned/drunken joke-tattoo you once got…
“Remember my answer to question #1? There may have been some Jäger, some Red Bull, and some beers floating around that night. When my friend asked if I wanted a stick-and-poke tattoo, she also said to sketch out the idea of what I wanted. Me being all eager, I grabbed a pen and a sticky note and went to work. What I did not realize is that my sketch would be used as a reference for the tattoo and I am really not good at drawing.”
Do you have any tattoos that you now hate, want to replace, or have covered up, and why?
“Thankfully, I do not have any that I hate currently and I like to tell myself that I’ll never hate any of my tattoos. I think they are cool timestamps about experiences and memories during my life, they will always be special to some degree.”
Have any tattoos that were painful. Like made you cry, see white light, and regret being born?
“The most painful tattoos I think I ever got were my second (aka my first real tattoo) and my fifth tattoos. I like to think I have a pretty high pain tolerance (you can ask Inshaan), but these tattoos had a lot of solid black. For anyone who has sat through hours of shading, you know what I mean. By the end of each of these tattoos which were each roughly a four or five-hour session, my leg and my will to live were pretty beat up.”
If you HAD to get someone’s face tattooed on you, whose would it be and why?
“I’m glad you asked this question. If I had to get someone’s face tattooed on me, I think I would get a portrait of late ’60s early ’70s bearded Paul McCartney on my back because why the hell not! Bearded Paul is the best Paul and we all know it.”
When do you get work done? Is it something planned and more regimented, or whenever the mood strikes?
“When I got my first few tattoos, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to aim for. I would send reference photos and, thankfully, Inshaan always put his touch on it and make it look way cooler than anything I could describe. These days I usually just book time at the last minute, show up, and we have a quick chat about what I am thinking and Inshaan comes up with magic. I am a big fan of spontaneity so most of my tattoos have been jumping in on a cancellation!”
Tattoo artists are similar to bartenders in the sense that people confide in them. What’s the most personal story you’ve shared (or been told) while getting work done?
“I am pretty sure Inshaan knows my whole dating history, but other than that, what’s said in the tattoo shop stays in the tattoo shop; at least in my books.”