Joe Barksdale was born and raised in Detroit, attended Cass Tech, and after graduation, earned a degree in pre-law from Louisiana State University. While still a student, he got drafted into the Los Angeles Chargers as an offensive tackle. Barksdale enjoyed playing on the field, but he needed something more, so he picked up an electric guitar. His first album, Butterflies, Rainbows & Moonbeams, was released last year, and now he’s working on an EP with superstar producer Narada Michael Walden, who produced Aretha Franklin’s ‘80s hit "Freeway of Love." "I describe my music as something that you’ve always wanted to hear, but haven’t heard yet," Barksdale says. "I would call it electric soul. Like everyone else’s music, it’s my interpretation, artistic DNA and so forth. The way that my music relates to my life, I’m always trying to get better, learning new things."
Barksdale started playing in 2014, right after the end of football season. During this time, he had a "significant" death in his life, so his head coach suggested rather than spending time getting lost in playing video games, he might want to try the guitar. "I picked up the instrument, went through learning the scales, and things became more natural … then you drop an album," Barksdale says. And while he did advance fairly quickly, he made sure he had a thorough musical grounding. "I take lessons," he adds. "I didn’t teach myself how to play football. I’m not a shortcut guy." If you’re looking for a word-picture to visualize his music, he suggests thinking of it this way: "It would be like if Jimi Hendrix joined The Allman Brothers Band and Paul and John (from the Beatles) were writing songs." Word pictures aside, Barksdale is hoping to send a positive message to the world.
"There’s entirely too much division, social, political however you want to put it," he says. "I feel like we need to come together as people. (I want) my daughters to grow up in a better world. Everyone’s kids, not just mine. It’s a message of love." As a husband and father of two daughters, family is important to him, and although he spends most of his time in LA, he still has a house in Michigan and keeps those ties to Detroit. "Detroit will always be my hometown," Barksdale says. "Every time I’m there … it’s cool to see there’s a different feeling than back in 2011 when I was first drafted. Everyone agrees that the city is trending in the right direction."
He also provides an annual backpack and school supply giveaway for Detroit students, as a way to stay connected and to touch other people’s lives. Whether through football, music or community involvement, it’s all about moving forward toward the goal post. "I look at myself as a helper," Barksdale says. "I want to be a driving force behind the solution. We really have to go back to treating each other like we want to be treated. We all have dreams and we can reach those goals and dreams working together."
Editor's note: Joe Barksdale was released from the Los Angeles Chargers following this interview and after the December issue went to press.