They don’t call Milwaukee the “Hollywood of Southeastern Wisconsin” for nothing . We’ve got our fair share of locally born, bred, or based celebrities, and The Squeaky Curd is sitting down with them at local watering holes to talk dogs, Willy Porter, beer, and Milwaukee.
If you have ears and stepped foot inside a bar, festival, casino, or benefit concert in Milwaukee in the past few decades, you’ve undoubtedly heard the smooth crooning sounds of Milwaukee’s premier Piano Man: Joe Hite. Besides 15 years of performing solo around the country, Joe’s tickled the ivories on and off for local legendary groups including Chasin’ Mason, The Boogie Men, 52nd Street, Kris Crow Band, and Uprising. That’s a pretty obvious starting point in our conversation at the biker/beer lover bar The Stone in Bay View.
The Squeaky Curd: As a Milwaukeean, where do I probably know you from?
Joe Hite: Almost definitely my Joe Hite solo show. I’ve been doing it in the area for 15 years.
TSC: In your opinion, what would you like me to know you for?
JH: I’d like to be known as a rounded musician, not simply a piano player. I’ve played in jam bands, I had a college scholarship for saxophone, I play a ton of different things for my own backing tracks. It’s all connected; I see all instruments as just music.
Actually, it took me a while to use my own voice as an instrument. I was always scared to sing lead, which is probably why I’ve been part of so many different acts over the years. One night, because of some weird circumstances, I had to sing for a crowd by myself, and realized people didn’t pelt me with things. I still don’t like my voice, but people tell me it’s okay so I go along with it.
TSC: What’s your connection to Milwaukee?
JH: Born & raised, though I’ve always had one foot in and one foot out until six years ago. I still travel around the country for gigs, but Milwaukee’s home. Now I’m living downtown, and I’ve been able to watch it come [about] in recent years.
TSC: What makes Milwaukee a desirable place for you to live and work?
JH: It’s the perfect size. The city is big, but the music scene is still “small town”. There’s always someone new to play with or something new to be a part of, but it’s all more approachable than other places.
TSC: What’s your favorite thing to do in Milwaukee?
TSC: What else have you been working on besides your solo act?
JH: Me and Tony [Goff] have been working at Cave Studios for a few years, recording local and traveling artists. We started collecting equipment and bit by bit we all of a sudden had all this incredible gear. We do anything from straight recording to producing to “building a song to something even bigger.”
When we’re in that studio, the whole world doesn’t exist. It’s just music. Best of all, it’s fun to sit down with a musician I’ve never met before and work out a song. In part because of that, for the last 3 years I’ve said “yes” to anything new musically.
TSC: What beer are you drinking?
JH: It’s a *reading off the chalkboard* Metropolitan Afterburner Oktoberfest [from Chicago]. I love the amber richness; I’m into something dark with character. I can’t stand IPAs, too f$%*ing hoppy.
TSC: If you could have a beer with one other local celebrity, who would it be?
TSC: If you could say one thing to someone just moving to Milwaukee today…
JH: Be sure you experience the entire city, or you’re not going to understand and love Milwaukee the way you should. As great as the downtown is growing to be, there’s so much more in different areas.