Jay Joseph’s journey from basketball to beats


Jay Joseph opens for Rags and Riches on Friday, Nov. 23, 2022, at Clubhouse in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Lindsey Davis | Kentucky Kernel

Lindsey Davis, Staff Reporter

Life in 2020 changed for a lot of people. For one man, Jay Joseph, it meant a complete career switch from basketball to music.

Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Joseph is the youngest of four kids.

“I grew up very middle class. My parents did a great job of teaching me at a very young age that you need to really work hard at what you want to get,” he said.

Before he began his career in music, he was playing basketball at Ohio’s Mount Vernon Nazarene University.

During a show at Clubhouse in Lexington, Kentucky, on Sept. 23, in which he opened up for local Lexington band, Rags and Riches, Joseph told a story about how his mother used to tell him he had to shoot a basketball and make 500 shots before dinner.

“I was on a full ride there (at Mount Vernon). I mean, basketball was my life. It was comfortable. It was something I was good at,” he said.

However, Joseph always loved music, and he got into it at a very young age. He taught himself to play several instruments, including the ukelele, piano and drums.

In 2020, Joseph made the transition from basketball to music and began recording music independently in his mom’s basement.

“That’s when I really started trying to produce music and make good music that I can personally enjoy,” he said.

His older brother, Tyler Joseph, really encouraged him to make that leap. Tyler Joseph is the lead singer of the Grammy award-winning music duo Twenty One Pilots.

“He was always around, and he would always encourage me to be a little bit more artistic and creative,” Joseph said.

In 2021, Joseph released his EP “Drywall,” and he dropped his debut album “Imaginary Friends” in May of this year.

Joseph described his own music as “alt hip-pop” and credited “my mom’s basement records” as his recording label. He references this in his song “Drywall,” in which he says, “My music, you can hate it. I’m making beats in a basement. I can just yell upstairs: ‘Look, momma, we made it!’”

The first song he ever wrote was for his now wife.

“The first song I ever made from start to finish was called ‘Windshields.’ I won’t tell you why, but it’s a very heart-wrenching rap song that’s three minutes and 30 seconds long. It’s for her only, but she showed everyone she knows. It’s embarrassing, but I love her,” he said.

While on stage, he told the crowd that his wife “friend-zoned” him for six years before agreeing to date him. From the audience, though, she corrected him and said it was seven years.

He then dedicated his song “Blackout City,” to her, which contains the lyrics, “But when I called your phone, you said you weren’t alone. I’d play pretend, like we were just friends. Acted like I wasn’t lonely,” and “You dipped out like you’re supposed to, and I would pray that I’m over you. The last thing, you take my last name, and know I love you.”

His favorite song he has written is titled “Gundabad.”

He said, “I was watching ‘The Hobbit,’ okay? That’s never a good start, but there’s this mountain called Gundabad. One of these wizards said it, and I was like, ‘I’m gonna write a song about that word.’ Then, I just built context around it and tried to apply it to myself.”

“Jay is Dead” is his favorite song to perform live. “The energy is super high, people get into it right away and it’s a blast to play,” he said.

Joseph said he likes that song because he admittedly cares too much about what others think of him and uses his music to “kill off” that part of himself.

The lyrics to the song say, “I know they playing rough. Now you wanna say that I’m dead, but if they’re talking too loud I know they’re paying respect.”

Joseph’s band consists of Jarrett Doherty, also known as Jady, and Jack Peterman. Doherty plays the bass and produces his own music, and Peterman plays the drums.

Peterman has known Joseph since high school, and the two have been friends ever since. Joseph asked him to quit his job and play drums for him. Peterman is actually a guitarist and hadn’t played drums in about seven years when Joseph called him.

Doherty’s father knows Joseph’s brother Tyler and asked him if he could show his son some stuff at Tyler’s home studio.

Joseph said he received a call from Tyler saying, “I got this 17-year-old kid coming over, can you come hang out?” Doherty then played them one of his own songs.

“I was like, ‘Dude, this is so sick.’ He’s killer. He’s a producer, a song writer, he’s amazing,” Joseph said.

Before driving across the country for their first show in Santa Ana, California, Joseph and his band had a rehearsal in front of their parents, which he said was awful. He also said the show itself was just as bad.

“We sold one shirt to a lady, and she got really drunk and got mad that she bought the shirt. She was like, ‘I can’t believe I bought this shirt from this terrible band,’ and that was us,” he said.

However, Joseph and his band went on to open for Twenty One Pilots on the “Takeover Tour,” which were the biggest shows they’ve played.

“It’s scarier to play these smaller shows because you’re rapping to like eight people, but then it was just like getting on stage and performing for one big person. It was really easy,” he said.

More recently, the band went on tour with Tanner and Peyton Whitt of Rags and Riches on their “I’m That Problem” tour, which comes from the lyrics of Joseph’s song, “Maybe.” The brother duo attended one of Joseph’s headliner shows and spoke to Doherty. The whole group got Steak n’ Shake together, and the rest was history.

In September, he headlined a show in Columbus, which he said has been his favorite show so far.

“It went really well. I think, for the first time, I felt like I had a real professional gig. My set was an hour long, which we hadn’t done before, but I finally had enough music. That was probably by far my favorite show,” he said.

As of now, Joseph is focusing on building his show rather than producing music. He’s going to continue touring next year and hopes to release another EP.