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It’s 2020 — The Pandemic Tour — Singer/songwriter Joe Berk Hits the Road in Support of VH1’s Save the Music Foundation

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What is country music these days anyways? While the genre has in a way become genre-less, it has always meant one thing to Joe Berk — the story of your roots and what you grew up on. As long as the lyrics tell a great story, and you incorporate country sounds like banjos and pedal steel — that’s country music.

Drawing inspiration from R&B, Motown, Rock, and Hip-Hop, he has fused those elements with traditional country songwriting to develop a unique sound with witty lyrics and catchy modern hooks.

The Pandemic Tour started as a vision to bring music to the people. Quitting your day job to hit the road with a new sound system and your videographer Travis with his brand-new Canon camera to livestream/film the whole tour. How will the fundraiser campaign help you cover the costs of this tour as you are a completely independent artist with no manager or label?

In order to make this happen, I did have to quit my job as a server — I currently have NO income, with just enough savings to buy me this sick new sound system and continue the road trip for a couple weeks. But, I still have rent, a car payment, credit cards, gas, food costs, Travis’ $750 daily rate to come shoot all of this…and the list goes on. More importantly though, the money will be going to the kids.

Fans who donate can earn different levels of rewards, from merchandise to unique experiences. Can you describe one of those unique experiences?

I grew up collecting sports cards since I was 5 years old, and still do, so I wanted to take that same approach with my merch…create some collector’s items of my own! I will hand sign and serial number every single box purchased….also the FIRST 100 PEOPLE to select this option will get a PERSONALIZED MESSAGE from me written on the bottom of the box. Could be a “thank you,” could be a “YEE YEE,” could be a WHOLE FRICKEN’ PARAGRAPH. Who knows…it’ll just depend on how I’m feeling that day.

Also, the first person to donate $1,000 gets 100% of the royalty rights for my first song I ever released, “Tie a Knot.” That’s how serious I am. I am literally GIVING AWAY MY BABY to make this happen!!

Ten percent of all money raised will be donated to VH1’s Save The Music Foundation, whose mission is to give every child in America access to a musical instrument. How did your elementary school music teacher, Mrs. Emerson, inspire you?

Yes! I am starting out by giving 10% of the money to Save The Music. The more money raised, the higher the percentage donated. If we hit $100K, I’ll double that to 20%. Wanna take us to $1M? I’ll triple it to 30%. And so on. My ultimate goal is to raise $1B and give 100% to the non-profit. So many school districts have been forced to eliminate programs like chorus and band due to the pandemic and I want to be the one to put the biggest smiles back on the kids’ faces!

I started taking piano lessons when I was 5 years old. As is typical with kids, after about a year, I hated it. It became something that my mom would force me to practice and not quit. Who knew I’d be so thankful for that now. When I was in 5th grade, Mrs. Emerson urged me to enter my first piece of original music I ever created into a competition. It was just a simple instrumental piece called “Falling Leaves.” She really had an impact on me and believed in me. All kids need a Mrs. Emerson in their lives.

How did playing the video game “Guitar Hero” lead you to learning the guitar music of Guns N’ Roses, Led Zeppelin, and Van Halen classic songs?

Music had been dead to me for a couple of years after elementary school, and then I played “Guitar Hero” at my friend’s house. I immediately went out and got my own copy and couldn’t stop playing the game. I was obsessed. I begged my mom to buy me a real guitar and sign me up for guitar lessons — because, obviously, if you can play the video game, you can play the real game just as well! She thought this would be just like the piano, another phase, but I begged and begged and she finally caved. And I was right — I couldn’t stop playing. Guns N’ Roses, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen — I had to learn every single one of the sickest guitar songs. Those rockers were my heroes — in addition to Blink-182 and Good Charlotte. Other than my dad and his obsession with Shania Twain, growing up in Connecticut I didn’t really listen to country music until I was 17 — at which point I immediately fell in love.

You shared that your love of country music came about when you attended a Sam Hunt concert with a girlfriend. It was there you realized there were multiple ways you could make a career in the genre. How has country music helped you find an identity?

Country music has always meant one thing to me — it’s the story of your roots and what you grew up on. As long as the lyrics tell a great story, and you incorporate country sounds like banjos and pedal steel — that’s country music. I think you can really find yourself when listening to an awesome song that resonates with you.

Using reels on Instagram and going viral with posts. Reading a trend. Selling baseball cards for profit to help pay your music costs. How has all of this helped you with the business side of your career?

I was doing the Instagram reels trend before it was cool! It’s the same idea as TikTok essentially, but Instagram has been around longer. I started posting funny songs, country covers and my original music and my social media BLEW UP!! It’s all about the numbers. If you keep people engaged, they will keep returning and viewing your content. Same with my baseball cards — if I have the cards people want, they’ll buy them.

Management consulting experience to now offering different sponsorship options for brands as part of the tour. In what ways can local/national businesses help sponsor your tour?

Businesses can help me reach my goal of raising $1B for the kids!!! Up until this point, I’ve never asked for anything monetarily — but sponsorships would really help with this cause!! I have used my business mindset and problem-solving skills from my past life to create a list of super creative ways for brands to get involved. Please email me at contact@thepandemictour.com if things like this might interest you:

1. Be my DRY SHAMPOO sponsor and let’s destigmatize dry shampoo for men! I’ve got a MULLET and I need to keep it FRESH on the road. Let me promote your dry shampoo on my road trip and help men understand that this product is more than just for women! Come on, Garnier! Make it happen!

2. Be my FLOWERS sponsor!! I’m a hopeless romantic and would love to bring all the pretty girls roses for Christmas at every stop along the route. Come on 1–800-FLOWERS!!

3. Want me to promote your dating app? I’ll swipe across the country!

4. Dude Wipes — come on, Mark Cuban!! I’ll post videos of me in front of rest stops along the way promoting your product. Let’s do it for the kids!!!

5. Be my breakfast sponsor! My fans already know I’m a creature of habit with food, so sponsor me to eat the same exact breakfast every single day on the road. CHICK-FIL-A! I’m gonna call you out here because I already have a Large Original Cold Brew with light ice and a Chicken Breakfast Burrito with Chick-fil-A sauce every morning already.

These are just a few examples — let’s work together and do it for the kids. They deserve music education so they can change the world in the same way I’m trying to right now!!

It all started when you reached out to fans on Instagram to set up your ‘front porch tailgate’ stops. First stop is in Boulder, Colorado, on Monday, December 14. In what ways will you be making each stop unique to the people in that town — like have a local food truck come out or have a local artist join you?

Yes, I asked my fans what cities they’d like me to go to if I planned a last minute tour. In less than 24 hours, I had over 150 responses. Totally shook me! I knew we had to do it and try to hit as many places as we could. Each stop is going to be a completely different experience. Whatever we are feeling that day, we plan on doing! We will be in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, and Utah on this first leg. Come hang and let’s party together!!

All the footage from the tour will be compiled into the music video for “Firsts.” “Live your life so that coming home from work to your girl is like a little kid running off the bus to show their mom what they made in art class.” You shared that the song was written for the most amazing girl in the world. Can you describe how you and Travis have planned out the storyboard for the video?

We are just going to document how much fun we are having. 2020 has been a year without music, so we are going to end it with a bang. I can’t say too much, or I’ll give away the surprise, but we are really excited about it.

How will you be able to make genuine connections with people, like meet & greets, along the tour within the pandemic restrictions for each show?

I’m a real people person. I want to meet everyone I can on this tour, but we will be taking precautions to ensure everyone stays safe. During meet & greets, we are going to take measuring tape to mark off six feet. I plan to take pictures with fans in poses like “Ew…stay away!” That way, we have this kind of cool memory during an unprecedented time. Also, if you’re on your porch, shout to me — I’ll shout back and we can have a dope conversation while safely distancing!

You will be returning to Denver just before Christmas. What are the plans for the next phase of The Pandemic Tour?

I’ll be heading back to Connecticut after the first leg to spend Christmas with my family. I’m planning on doing an East Coast tour for the second leg. Who knows…I may even buy a new truck in while I am there and kick things off right away!

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