In April 2019, Joe Savage carried his Martin backpackers’ guitar and walked across the north of Spain for 500 miles in solitude for 31 days. Trekking the stretch of land known as the Camino de Santiago (“Way of St. James”) convinced the Fort Worth singer-songwriter to continue his way of life as a C&W musician, and he is set to release an album inspired by his journey at the end of the year.
Starting in Irun, Spain, in the Basque Country, Savage experienced the first two weeks as cold, tiring, and rainy. Eating mostly lentils and sleeping in nearby hostels, he followed the coastline through mountains and valleys while in prayer, connecting to his spirituality.
“This pilgrimage dates back to Alfonso II in the year 800,” Savage said. “I did it to challenge myself. It’s one of those great journeys people talk about making in their life.”
Savage has released two singles to tease the release of El Camino, but he said his trip was a needed break from reality. After reading Paul Coelho’s 1987 The Pilgrimage, the 36-year-old Fort Worthian looked at the mystical and magical ideas of the Camino as a step toward what he wanted his next 35 years to be. Knowing the trail existed, Savage took the trip to be able to reflect on his mental and spiritual condition and said he wanted to regain his lively spirit again.
“Playing too much in the scene can be taxing,” he said. “I didn’t really realize how much it was wearing on me. I wanted to pause that, and it was an overall self-help program to affirm my path as a songwriter.”
Savage said he always loves a good adventure, from backpacking across European countries to his six years spent in Oregon. The songwriter played his first open-mic and his first paying gig in Fort Worth in 2013 and now performs solo and with a full band at local bars and venues in Fort Worth, Dallas, and Azle.
As a poet, Savage frequented nightly readings and jazz events at venues such as the Black Dog Tavern in 2005. He traveled to Oregon as an undergrad working for a graduate degree but instead went to teaching before deciding to trek back home soon after. Returning to Fort Worth, he found the music scene, which he hadn’t known existed.
Savage’s favorite spots include the Flying Saucer Downtown, The Chat Room Pub near Farimount, and Lola’s Saloon in the West 7th Street corridor. In Azle, he’s been hosting an open-mic at Split Town Tavern, and his full band has often played The Rustic in Dallas.
The songwriter consecutively released four albums starting in 2016, and El Camino will be his fifth album.
His latest singles, “Walls” and “First Sight of Danger,” are available at JoeSavageMusic.com. The songs were released in March and April and are what Savage calls his “quarantine singles,” set to be released on all digital platforms along with the album later this year on Patreon.com/JoeSavage and on all streaming platforms.
“I put the songs out for quarantine,” he said. “Normally, I would wait until the album was done. That’s what I had done up to this point. I usually release full 10- or 11-song albums.”
“First Sight of Danger” was recorded in September 2019 at Audio Styles outside of Austin with producer/engineer (and former Fort Worth guy) Taylor Tatsch (Gollay, Shadows of Jets, Crooked Bones) with lead guitarist Glenn McLaughlin, drummer Jon Mosig, and bassist Alex Sifuentes, with Savage on vox and acoustics.
“First Sight of Danger” is a brokenhearted country song, with Savage expressing heartfelt feelings for a loved one’s uncertain and questionable frustration.
“Running at the first sight danger,” he sings in his deep baritone. “Getting gone has always been plan A / You left an open tab down at the local spot / You knew I’d feel obliged to pay / Where you going? / What are you running to? / What are you thinking / ’Cause I ain’t got a clue / I’m missing something / Oh, tell me the truth / What am I to do about what’s bothering you?”
The song pivots on a dually paced acoustic momentum with Savage questioning his character’s obligation to love.
“We made a promise that day in the backyard / Did you really mean those things that you said? / I’ll work a little harder to be better / I wish that you would understand.”
The lyrics lead the listener into a heartfelt problem left unresolved for the duration of the song’s 3:14 minutes, ending with the refrain “What am I to do about what’s bothering you?”
Savage’s more recent single is a take on the same theme of a burdened heart. “Walls” was recorded in February with engineer/producer Tatsch on bass and auxiliary percussion, Beau Brauer on drums, Mohamed Diab on electric guitar, and Savage on vox and acoustic.
The singer-songwriter tells a tale of falling in love but is cautious due to countless heartbreaks.
“I’ve got my walls / They were put here to protect me / I built them up so long ago, and you could try / Yes, you can try to look around them, and when they slow me down, you can let me know / But each brick you try to pick apart is building a pathway further from my heart / There are some things I’d rather you not see at all / I’ve got my walls.”