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Resident promotes bands with own record label

Date: 9/13/2013

By Carley Dangona

WESTFIELD – Picture this: you’re out with friends at a local pub and just heard the most incredible band ever and want to share their music with the world; or a friend of a friend invites you to a jam session of his band – turns out, they’re really, really good. Now if only they could get some promotion…

Western Massachusetts native Joe Urban has made a career doing just that. Urban is the owner of Take This to Heart Records. A songwriter and musician since childhood, Urban has toured the U.S. multiple times with festivals such as the Warped Tour. He also manages Zing Recording Studio in Westfield, where he began as an intern for Holyoke Community College (HCC).

Zing Recording Studios, established in 1995, has produced records for bands such as Killswitch Engage, Underoath, A Day to Remember, All That Remains and many more. Jim Fogarty and Eric Arena are the engineers at the helm of the studio, which has received two Grammy nominations and earned four gold records.

“The reason I do this is that moment when you show someone a new band for the first time and they say ‘that’s awesome,’” Urban said. His goal for the label is to produce quality recordings to promote bands whose music he enjoys.

The label’s name stems from the phrase, “Don’t take this to heart, but...” Urban wants listeners to take the music to heart.

Big D and the Kids Table was the first band Urban saw in concert. He was inspired by the band’s do-it-yourself style – they too owned their own record label. Subconsciously, Big D was a model for who Urban is today.

“They are good people too,” he said, adding that he’s met the band personally.

“I’ve written all the lyrics for all the bands I’ve been in,” Urban said, adding that the songs are true stories about people and experiences from his life in Western Massachusetts.

His newest project is Rock Out City, which he plays in with Arena from Zing. He has played for many bands such as the Modern Day Saint.

During the interview, this reporter remembered encountering Urban at the band’s booth during the Warped Tour. I thought he looked familiar; Urban was the guy with the megaphone enticing concertgoers to take a listen to the band’s album.

He gave Reminder Publications a sneak peek of a track from Rock Out City’s upcoming EP that he calls “The Growing Up Song,” about his decision to stay in the music business rather than get a 9 to 5 p.m., 40 hour a week job.

Urban noted that he joined a band before he could even play a full song on his guitar. While he’s always “enjoyed the stage,” he said that he’s “not even that good at playing guitar.”

In addition, Urban manages bands such as Arrows Over Athens and Maker. “I try to learn as much as I can about the business,” he said. “You do this because you love it. It’s fun, a labor of love. It never seems like work.”

He added, “I guess I’m a control freak. I like to have my hand in everything.”

For artwork, Urban said he prefers “hand-drawn work.” He utilizes Radiant Media, a design company run by former Zing interns Dan Hutton and Matt Cyphers, whom he met at HCC and Westfield State University, respectively.

Cyphers, like Urban, has been part of the music business since childhood and doesn’t plan to switch careers any time soon. “Before I started coming here [Zing], becoming a musician or a designer seemed like a pipe dream,” he said, adding that his internship gave him the “spark” of encouragement he needed.

Hutton credited his experience with bands for his range of style. “Every band sounds different. A lot of it [the design elements] has to do with what the band wants,” he said, adding that he not only has to meet these criteria, but has to make a product that stands out for fans to notice and remember.

Cyphers and Hutton described Urban as an “older brother figure” and agreed that he has helped them out a lot.

As for the future, “I want to do this [the promotion] but for bigger companies in the music, entertainment or car wash business – whatever [as long as I’m in a creative atmosphere],” Urban said.

Upcoming releases include albums from Traditions, a local band and three others: Knockout Kid from Illinois, No Tide from Nebraska, and Fourth and Goal from Connecticut.

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