Raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, the son of a professional opera singer mother and a "lazy genius" dad, the now 25-year-old Joe Firstman gravitated towards the family piano at the age of 12. He quickly developed an insatiable love of music from the melodic genius of Elton John and the Beatles to the lyrical complexity of Dirty South hip-hop heroes like Outkast and soon began penning original songs. Putting to rest his father's hopes that he might pursue a career in sports, Firstman began singing and playing piano in his first band while still in high school. Despite his band's loyal local following first in Charlotte and later in Raleigh, where he spent a year at Western Carolina University, Joe found himself musically unfulfilled and aching to push the envelope and write new music.
He used inspiration from the Allman Brothers to Jackson Browne to bluegrass music to broaden his horizons, but it was meeting his first love Shannon Marie that perhaps had the biggest effect on his writing. Their magical and rocky relationship "was adulthood in Technicolor," he says. "I'm a big believer that if you're going to write a lyric, you can't beat around the bush. I want to see it and I want to feel it. And that time those experiences definitely gave me more ability with that level of expression."
After a one-way Greyhound bus ticket landed him in L.A. in 2000, the tireless self-promoter took the city for all it was worth. Joe learned the secrets to packing a place in, and then once he got the place packed, he won them over with his music. His emotional sound and powerful performances soon became the buzz around town.
In 2001, he was named Singer/Songwriter of the Year at the Los Angeles Music Awards. Signed to Atlantic in early 2002, Joe went to work with producer Rick Parker to record his debut album. Paving the way for a full-length premiere was an EP called Wives Tale released in 2003, which Joe called "just a collection of music recorded in a nonchalant fashion during the making of the LP." Later that year came The War of Women, which put him on AAA radio with the song "Breaking All The Ground," gave him the chance to explore and mold all sides of his musical personality with a terribly vast array of materials from piano-driven ballads to sophisticated pop to rollicking roots-rock, and was a fitting premiere of an exceptional new American artist. He was quickly featured in the Sundance Channel's original documentary series Keeping Time: New Music from American Roots. His segment, a personal exploration of the creative songwriting process, is part of the episode titled "Art of Song."
That album also put Joe on the road for the next two years, headlining his own shows and supporting artists including Jewel, Lisa Marie Presley, Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow. "His brief, eight-song set earned him a standing ovation unheard of for a warm-up act," said the New York Post in its review of Firstman's Radio City Music Hall performance.
While not touring, Joe collaborates with other songwriters including his hero Bernie Taupin with whom he penned "Tin Cans and Tear Drops" for a recent Willie Nelson project. He's also the full-time house band on NBC's Last Call with Carson Daly.