Joe Iconis is a composer, lyricist and writer based in New York City. His work has been nominated for Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel Awards and he is the recipient of both the Jonathan Larson and Ed Kleban Awards. Some may know him from his concert act Joe Iconis and Family performing at venues around NYC such as 54 Below, Joe’s Pub and The Beechman Theater. His songs “Broadway, Here I Come” and “The Goodbye Song” were featured in Season 2 of NBC’s Smash.
Now, his musical Bloodsong of Love is being presented live in concert at 54 Below in NYC on October 20. While busy with rehearsals for Monday’s concert, Joe took the time to talk with me about not only Bloodsong of Love, but his new vlog and his career.
For those not familiar with Bloodsong of Love what is it about?
It’s a rock and roll Spaghetti Western musical about a man who is known only as The Musician trying to get his kidnapped bride back from the evil clutches of his nemesis, Lo Cocodrilo. But what it’s really about is being an artist and the struggles of sticking to your guns (both artist and otherwise) in a world that makes it hard to do so. It’s about creating a family of artists who are loyal to their work and their passion and each other.
In 2010 Bloodsong of Love had a successful workshop, even receiving three Drama Desk Award nominations, what’s next for the show?
54 Below on Monday. I’m hoping that leads to bigger and better things. I desperately want this show to have another rip at a full production. I’ve done a lot of work on it and I am absolutely, 100% positive that there is some commercial potential in this thing. I believe in it and the artists I’ve made it with so hugely. I just want it to be on a stage for a bit of time where people can pay some money to see it. If nothing happens with it in the next year, I’ll probably just leave the business and go become a farmer or something. Or I’m going to cut my hands off. Or both. I’ll be a handless farmer humming show tunes to myself and constantly thinking about what might have been.
What can we expect at the Bloodsong of Love concert at 54 Below?
Music, scenes, blood, dancing, flowers. It’s going to be a condensed, concert version of the show. John Simpkins, the director, and Jen Werner, the choreographer, have cooked up a pretty wild immersive experience. It’s going to be the greatest concert ever seen anywhere, ever. People will get their money’s worth.
What can viewers expect from your new vlog “New Musical Theatre Chats At Home With Joe”?
Viewers can expect a lot of me.
What was the inspiration behind starting the vlog?
I have a tricky relationship with the many New Musical Theatre blogs and vlogs and what-have-you’s that find NMT writers talking about their work. I love to hear any artist talk about her/his own work, but sometimes the pretentiousness of it all teeters on the brink of ridiculousness. I mean, I’ve participated in so many of these things and, even right this very second, I’m being interviewed for a blog about theater. So clearly, I love talking about myself and my art, but I recognize that it’s easy to get a little self-important. So the vlog seemed like a great way to both feed my addiction to talking about myself and my disdain for pretentious artists. To be honest, I didn’t think the vlog would go past one episode. I really started it with the sole purpose of having a platform to promote my own work- specifically, Bloodsong of Love at 54 Below. But I was happy with how it came out. I think the vlog confuses some people, annoys others, and delights others still. Which is a response I’m fine with. Perhaps I’ll continue it, or perhaps it will only last for one episode. I was talking about it with my great friend Jennifer Ashley Tepper and we thought maybe it would be nice to have writers playing other writers on the vlog. Like, Adam Guettel AS Adam Gwon or something. I think that would certainly open up the pool of potential guests, because then I could interview dead writers. “Tell me, Cole Porter, what do you think about YouTube’s place in the world of contemporary musical theater?”
Can you tell us about any other projects you’re currently working on?
I’m working on a million projects. Be More Chill, a sci-fi musical about mind control devices in teenagers that I wrote with Joe Tracz, is going to premiere at Two River Theater in the spring. I’m writing a musical with Greg Moss for La Jolla Playhouse about Hunter S. Thompson . I’ve also written a show with Lance Rubin and Jason “SweetTooth” Williams called Annie Golden: Bounty Hunter, Yo! that’s a full-length action musical about an actress named Annie Golden who stumbles into the world of Bounty Hunting. Currently looking for a home for that one.
Can we expect any upcoming collaborations and performances with Joe Iconis and Family?
We’ve got a Halloween show and then our annual Christmas Spectacular coming up in December. The fall/winter is usually all about the Holidays for us. After that, who knows. I may try to do something huge this fall. There are so many amazing actors I’d love for us to collaborate with, but a lot of their assistants won’t return my emails for some reason. I’m gonna try to hoodwink Bridget Everett into doing something with us. And if anyone reading this knows how to get in contact with John Goodman, I’d like to have him sing a song with us, too. Maybe with Bridget. That would be nice.
Everyone in the theatre community has that point when they realize following their passion in theatre and/or music is what they want to do for a career. What was your ‘aha’ moment?
I was probably in second or third grade when I realized that there were people who actually wrote the shows that I loved so much. But those people were Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Weber and Kander & Ebb, who didn’t seem quite real to me. In sixth grade I realized: “Wait a minute. People do this. In the same way somebody says: ‘I want to be an actor!’ Or, ‘I want to be an undertaker!,’” I could say: “I want to be a composer!” And then I said that a lot. Being a writer for the theater could not have been further away from the reality of my life. I come from a family of teachers and beauticians and restaurant owners and truck drivers and people who are very much not in the entertainment industry.
How did you first become interested in theatre?
Little Shop of Horrors on September 27th, 1987. Orpheum Theater.
What advice would you have for someone interested in pursuing a career as a musical theatre writer?
Do it. You can do it. It’s very hard but so is everything. It’s a frightening and unstable life- the lows are very low but the highs are insanely high. When everything is clicking, I feel like I am exactly where I want to be in my life and I can only hope the same for anyone else who considers a life in the Theater. I guess that’s not really “advice” as much as its encouragement. But encouragement is important.