Joe Lewis couldn’t have known that picking up a guitar to kill some time during a particularly boring shift at a pawn shop would make his life calling clear. In retrospect, however, it feels like fate.
“It was just being bored. You start messing around with stuff, and it was pure chance,” he said. “I was really into Jimi Hendrix when I was in high school. Naturally, I guess you do what you idolize, you know what I mean?”
It didn’t take long for Lewis — taking inspiration from Howlin’ Wolf and James Brown — to realize he was a natural; he soon bought his own ax to take home. After a few years playing solo in Austin, Texas’ dive bars and coffeehouses, he found his musical soul mates in The Honeybears.
That’s when things really took off.
The band opened for Spoon on tour in 2007, which led to festival appearances at Lollapalooza, Coachella, Austin City Limits and Bonnaroo, as well as national TV gigs on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and Late Show with David Letterman.
After being asked to open for bands as varied as the New York Dolls and Passion Pit, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears released their debut, Tell ’Em What Your Name Is!, in 2009.
“We are doing our own thing. We’re totally original,” Lewis said. “Old people, young people … we can play for whoever. So many bands are like, ‘We’re an indie-rock band,’ or, ‘We’re a rock band.’ We just play music, and I’m proud of that. Not many people can say they’ve done what we have in that regard.”
2011 saw the act unleash its second effort, Scandalous, and appearing on the Main Stage at Norman Music Festival. The group has spent almost all the time since on the road, although Lewis found time to finish writing what will become its fourth album, with plans to enter the studio this month.
“It blows everything else out of the water,” he said. “We’re always finding out new things about ourselves, and the band has really found its own sound now. My songwriting is so much stronger. The first two records didn’t feel like mine, really. This feels like the first record I’ve really made, as far as I’m concerned. Naturally, I’m going to say it’s better.”
Hey! Read This:
• 2011 Norman Music Festival highlights