|   |  3 min read

The Sweet Unknown

Based on the Kapiti Coast, singer-songwriter is an Elsewhere favourite for the power of songwriting and a voice we described as “lived in”. Other people agree: he has been three times nominated at the New Zealand Music Awards and he releases his third album, Pencarrow, on March 8 to coincide with a New Zealand tour and a couple of appearances in Sydney (see dates below).

 Joass has been a member of Hobnail, the Shot Band and Too Many Chiefs, he teaches guitar and does production work and his new album features another version – acoustic reworking – of his song Baggae which was a finalist in the Country category alongside his version of Paul Kelly's When I First Met Your Ma.

The album features his band Small Mercies who play the first couple of dates on the tour and later this year should see a Best Of compilation . .. and he's got some of the best.

Time for hm to answer a few songwriting questions . . .

The first song which made you think, 'Now that's a well crafted piece of work' was . . .

I hate to start with a vague answer, but I’m 57 now, so we’re going back a long time. Probably a Beatles song.

Complete this sentence: The first song I wrote was . . .

not very good. Next 50 or so weren’t up to much either…..

The one songwriter you will always listen to, even if they disappointed you previously, is?

Paul Kelly.

As songwriters: Lennon-McCartney or Jagger-Richards; kd lang or Katy Perry; Madonna or Michael Jackson; Johnny Cash or Kris Kristofferson, Beyonce or Janelle Monae?

While I know it’s not what you’re after, I’d have to say Lennon-McCartney, Jagger-Richards, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson.

The three songs (yours, or by others) you would love everyone to hear because they are well crafted are . . .

I’ll go 3 of mine, so Raising My Hands, Dead In The Water and Pencarrow.

Melody first? Words or phrase first? Simultaneous?

Any of the above.

The best book on music or musicians you have read is . . .

Written On My Soul. It’s old now (Elvis Costello and Bono were the young guns…) but it’s brilliant collection of interviews with most of the great songwriters, including all the ones I mentioned 3 questions ago. Great to know the greats experience exactly the same problems that we mortals do when writing a song.

If you could co-write with anyone it would be . . .

Keith Richards, but that’s probably more about meeting the guy. Jason Isbell would be great to work with. Although I’m not much of a co-writing type of person. I like to graft away in private.

The last CD or vinyl album you bought was . . . (And your most recent downloads include . . .)

I’ve been working on my own album for the last few months and tend not to buy new stuff when i’m doing that because it tends to mess with my head. but before that, The Golden Age by Great North, and a couple of John Moreland albums. John Moreland and Hayden Donnell are lyricists that simultaneously inspire me and make me feel not worthy.

One song, royalties for life, never have to work again. The song by anyone, yourself included, which wouldn't embarrass you would be . . .

Well, I would love it if anything I wrote got that kind of recognition and exposure. But I’d go back to the 3 from a few questions ago...

One line (or couplet) from a song -- yours or someone else's -- which you think is just a stone cold winner is . . .

Hard to beat Billy Bragg. Many favourites of his but this….

Between Marx and Marzipan in the dictionary, there was Mary.

Between the deep blue sea and the devil, there was me.

Screen_Shot_2019_02_25_at_5.18.21_PMSongwriting: what's the ratio of inspiration/perspiration?

I probably finish about 1 for every 20 that I start on average, and for that one, it’s about 90% perspiration.

Ever had a song come to you fully-formed like it dropped into your lap?

Nearly… I’ve always gone back and edited a bit. Not often, and not recently. These days I tend to be taking longer and longer on the lyrics.

And finally, finish this couplet in any way you like:

Standing at the airport with an empty suitcase at my feet . . .

No shoes or shirts just deja vu. Fly on, and then repeat.

The Pencarrow National Album Tour

Fri March 8 Kapiti – Raumati Social Club with The Small Mercies

Sun March 10 – Wellington - Third Eye Tuatara Bar with The Small Mercies and guest Kim Bonnington

For South Island shows Rob will be accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Hamish Graham:

Sat March 30 Greendale – House Concert

Sun March 31 Christchurch – Christchurch Folk Club

Mon 1 April Lincoln – The Laboratory Sat April 6 Greytown - House Concert performing solo

Australian dates

Fri 19 April Sydney – Bar Rio, Summer Hill

Sat 20 April Sydney – Riverview Hotel, Balmain


Sat 18 May Auckland – CafĂ© One2One Ponsonby - Double bill with singer/songwriter Mark Laurent

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   The Famous Elsewhere Questionnaire articles index



Adam Usmani – mainman for the band Madam Tsumani – works a day job and has two kids, but perhaps because of that his songwriting touches some very real places beyond the cliches of... > Read more



And now for someone who should need no introduction, Samuel Flynn Scott of Phoenix Foundation. They have frequently appeared at Elsewhere and Scott has appeared under his own name also. But this is... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

JOHN SINCLAIR: MOHAWK, CONSIDERED (2014): They gave him 10 for two . . .

JOHN SINCLAIR: MOHAWK, CONSIDERED (2014): They gave him 10 for two . . .

In popular and political culture John Sinclair is best known for a small handful of things in the Sixties and early Seventies. He founded the White Panther Party, managed Michigan's MC5 and... > Read more

ODD MODELS AND MAD MANNEQUINS, PART ONE (2023): They walk among us

ODD MODELS AND MAD MANNEQUINS, PART ONE (2023): They walk among us

If we believe what we see and read, in the very near future – if it hasn't happened already – we'll share the planet with human-like robots who will take our order, bring us our dinner... > Read more