For Josef Prasil, music is the one constant in his life.
The German born singer-songwriter has definitely had an eclectic couple of years to say the least. Since 2010, Josef’s calenders have been filled with a trip round the vast expanses of Australia with his fraternal twin brother and best friend, a relocation back to Europe, a stint on the German version of The Voice (where he did quite well), a permanent relocation (thanks to a native parent) back to Australia and several months gigging around in Melbourne’s notoriously overstuffed music scene.
However even the frenetic pace and idiosyncratic nature of the last three years has not put a stop to Josef creating music, both in and out of the studio. Self taught on the guitar a matter of years ago, he inhabits the stage like an old professional, telling the tales of his journeys like an old fashioned troubadour.
Hailing from another land, Josef has truly carved out a niche in Melbourne. His deep, whiskey-smooth vocal and songwriting sincerity endear him to every patron he entertains during his hectic gigging schedule. Whether it be Cafes, Festivals or busking, as long as he is entertaining people and sharing his music, he doesn’t seem to mind.
As the old saying goes, its not where you have been, its where you are going. Josef seems determined to live by this maxim, and succeed in the Melbourne music scene. I caught up with Josef a short time before his spot at Scorcher Festival in Brunswick to discuss which is the more musical language, songwriting techniques and slightly less recommended tips to pass a Voice audition.
(For those interested in seeing Josef play, he has residency at the Shire Cafe, and plays intermittently at Stolberg Beer Garden in Preston, as well as many other venues. For more information, check his Facebook page).
Hype City: How long have you been playing music?
Josef Prasil: I started singing when I was about 10, and I started playing guitar about 3 years ago.
And you are self taught on the guitar?
Pretty much, yeh
And do you write any of your own songs?
Yeh I right my own stuff…In English.
So you don’t write any German songs?
No. I tried, like one or two songs, but it was just two hard.
Do you just prefer English to German?
I don’t get along with it (The German language), I can’t find the words as easy.
So is it the rhyming scheme that’s easier with English?
Yeh rhyming, and I just express myself better in English, I dunno. It’s weird, because I am German!
So the English language is more beautiful then?
(Laughs) Yeh it’s more beautiful. No I just find it easier.
What have you been doing lately, music wise?
Since I got back from Germany I have been in the studio, in fact yesterday. I recorded a new song that I wrote about three months ago. I also had an interview with SBS Radio about three weeks ago, but otherwise I have just had some gigs, playing at the cafe, and preparing for a festival I am playing in Brunswick.
And how was the time in the studio, was it productive?
Yeh it was cool, we finished a song in one day. We started early and finished late, and got the whole song together.
Are you looking to release single online?
Yeh hopefully we are going to release it through tunecore.com so the song can be released through iTunes, so I can have people buy it!
Now tell me about your experience with ‘The Voice’ reality TV show in Germany.
Yeh it was cool, it was my first TV show I was on, so it was really exiting. I didn’t really expect anything, I went to the casting drunk actually, I went out the night before in Munich until about 8am and the casting was at ten. I then went straight to the casting, still drunk, didn’t change my clothes, didn’t brush my hair, nothing. But they really liked it!
Which song did you sing?
You had to sing three different songs, you didn’t even sing in front of the judges, you had to sing in front of some ‘pre-judges’ or whatever you can call it. The best people from Munich went to Berlin, and then the best people from all of Germany went onto the Television show to audition for the judges. It was a long process. But it was really cool.
You got to meet all the judges, and they were really nice people. They are like, my childhood idols, so it was great to meet them and work with them. It was really close work with the judge who picked you, and you got to chat with them and he told you what to do differently with your song. But it was great to just chat with them about music and have some beers.
How far did you get during the shows run?
I made it all the way to the ‘sing-offs’, which was pretty good, and I met so many musicians who have been in the industry for decades.
What was your best moment on the show?
The audition I would say, when you sing for the first time, and the judges sit with the back of the chair facing you.
What did you sing?
Hey There Delilah. And it was sick when the first judge turned around and I was like, shit yeh! I made it, I’m on a team!
Just how popular did you get in Germany…did it have an effect on your day to day life?
It did actually. I mean I used to live in a small city, with only 80,000 people. And the night they showed it (my audition) I was out in my city and every single person turned around and was like ‘that’s him!’ and I was like ‘What the hell!?’. Throughout the show all over Germany people knew me. I went to Prague and people knew me. People were on holidays and they were like ‘Aren’t you on the Voice?’ It was crazy.
Tell me about the juxtaposition between having relative fame in Germany and coming to Australia and living in anonymity?
It sucked. It sucked because back home I wasn’t a star, but people knew me and knew me for my music, and knew what I was doing, and I come here (to Australia) and I have four friends! It’s pretty hard, because I have to start from nothing again, and of course with reality TV shows it goes so much faster.
What do you think of the popular reality television model of instant fame as opposed to the traditional music route of gigging for months and years, improving your craft and building a solid fan-base? Or do you just think they are two different things that can’t be compared.
I think they are just two different things. I mean if you work your way around for years, just gig around and start slowly, then that fan base is going to be much more lasting than one you would gain on The X-Factor or The Voice. Because on the shows you come from nothing in three months, and everyone knows you and then within three months you can be nothing again. They can ruin an artist.
But if you have talent, you can sustain that initial popularity…
If you have talent, but I think casting shows are not the best way to get into the industry. I mean its good to put yourself out there and then people know who you are, and you can make connections, and then you should do your own thing. But if you are too deep into the casting shows, with their contracts and stuff, you can’t do your own thing anymore. If you make it too far into those shows, it’s pretty hard to leave and build on the following and connections you gain and still do your own thing.
Is there any people in particular that provide inspiration to your songwriting?
Pretty much my brother Jan. Every song I write, is not about him, but about stuff we have done together, about good friends. All the songs I write are kind of storytelling, telling stories about the past, right now or problems you have with your life. As a musician I find I don’t write songs when i’m happy. When I am in a shit mood, or I feel I have a problem, I write about it. But I don’t sit down and write when I am happy.
What artists would you consider inspirations?
Do you know Passenger? He’s from England, and he is kind of doing the stuff I want to be. And otherwise, Gavin DeGraw…he’s my favourite artist. Otherwise, everything man…I’ll be sitting on a train and here people say a few lines, or here someone say something at work and want to tell their story.
You have been playing lately as a traditional singer songwriter, would you ever consider perhaps playing in a band or moving into other genres of music?
Yeh of course! With a band it is different because you don’t get all the fame for yourself! (Laughs). I’m kind of happy being a singer-songwriter right now but at some point, yeh I would like to be in a band.
So what’s next?
Record an album, and hopefully when that picks up get some musicians together to hopefully go out and tour it!