|THE TORONTO STAR
Wednesday, December 24, 1997
|By CESARE CASCIATO
SPECIAL TO THE STAR
It's 45 minutes before noon, a weekday, in a trendy restaurant. Joee walks in, his manager, John Marmora, in tow. Wearing dark glasses on a sunless day, Joee takes a seat and admits he's normally still sleeping at this hour.
Maybe, but he still looks like he just stepped out of a teen magazine.
Joee's current single, "Angel," is doing well on the dance radio play charts, creeping its way toward number one.
Angel has touched a lot of people, from young to old," he says. The song is dedicated to his cousin, Joey Panetta, who died in a car accident in the summer of 1996. "Angel," a dance song, actually started out as a ballad, but the singer found it too emotionally draining. "The slow version of the song was too sad, like reliving the whole event. l wanted something positive to come from it; l thought l should make it more uplifting and spiritual. The loss of his cousin had a grounding effect on Joee, who's about 25 but won't be specific. "I realized that life is something fragile, something that can be taken away from you at any time. "
"Angel" is a single from a forthcoming CD to be released by Popular Records, a two year-old Markham label, in late spring. The as yet unnamed compilation of songs is a follow-up to his first album, Just A Taste, which sold 15,000 copies.
Joee realized he had a good voice when he got a minor role in a Grade 6 musical production that toured York Region. 'When l came out to take my bows, people would give me a standing ovation. Right then l understood that this was what l wanted to do with the rest of my life."
"Everyone has talent," he says. "Half the battle is recognizing what your talent is. l did that at an early age, and thankfully l had parents who supported me from the start." His father, a former drummer, introduced Joee to a friend in the music business. That friend has been Joee's manager since the singer was 12.
It hasn't been ail rising stardom for Joee, born into a restaurant-working family and raised in Woodbridge. He's had breaks fall through in a big way. In 1991, Joee was recording a single called "Only Woman" for Attic Records, a semi-independent label. Brian Allan, head of artist & repertoire (in other words, a talent scout), interrupted the session, disgusted. "He told me l was going nowhere," Joee recalls. "He said, You should get out of the business because, with a song like that, you're never going to make it." The same song that caused Clive Davis, the president of American giant Ansta Records, to fly a representative to Toronto and meet with Joee. The young singer was handed a 90 page contract for five years, $4 million; and Joee got to select his producer, Shep Pettibone, the same man who was producing Madonna at the time. Pettibone battled the record company over things like which song from the album should be released as a single. Fed up, Arista exercised its option and the deal fell through.
"It was my highest high and my lowest low," Joee says. "In the studio, or on stage, I'm the happiest guy in the world; but the business side can sometimes drag you down. "
A few years ago his singing landed him an audition as Al Pacino's son in Godfather, part III, thanks to some intervention by an L.A. producer, Joee who had no acting clases had to leam two opera songs in a few days. Flown to Italy as one of the top three contenders, he lost the role. "It sounds like such a cliché, but in this business where you're only as good as your last single, you really have to believe in yourself. Had I listened to all my detractors, I would have quit a long time ago."
His only formal music training has been some classical piano lessons. As a teenager, though, he sang before 50,000 people in San Antonio, Texas, and appeared on Star Search, the first Canadian teen ever on the shaw.
Though Joee had released two singles and two videos before he was 16, he got his first attention in 1995 with a song called "Nothing To You," which he released as the front man of the band Intonation. Following that was "Died In Your Arms," which registered on Billboard at number 80.
To capitalize on the momentum the band put together "Just A Taste" in three months. "That's why l called it "Just A Taste", because thats all it was."
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