Joey Frendo is a man on a mission: to tell stories that speak to the human experience with authenticity and passion. His grit will pull you in, and you’ll stick around for a while once you’ve caught an earful of his lived-in blue-collar storytelling. After building his brand on the soulful hooks and detailed arrangements of 2021’s Stone Mason’s Son EP, Frendo returns in 2023 with his debut full-length offering Bound for Heartache.
Equal parts alt-country, Petty-esque jangly guitar anthems, and bonafide Red Dirt twang, Bound for Heartache marks a natural progression for Frendo as he settles into his craft, showing that his new home region has rubbed off on him for the better. He’s not afraid to show his range here — from pedal steel and barroom piano-laden rompers “Fool Hearted Woman” and “Building on Quicksand” to the driving rhythms and pop hooks in “Get What You Get” to the forlorn balladry of “Wild Pilots” and “Nebraska Rain” — each track standing on its own while never once feeling misplaced or out of sequence.
“I think more than anything, this record speaks on the stories we tell ourselves,” Frendo notes of the album's overarching theme. “It captures pieces of that dialogue we constantly have with ourselves — how life is always unfolding, leaving you to shade in the details, and how those stories affect where we end up and how we interact with others along the way.”
“Old-Fashioned Country Singer” is perhaps a high watermark on the new album, with Frendo calling out: “I think Ol’ Waylon said it best / when he asked If Hank really done it like this,” posing an existential question of how and why we do what we do in life. These introspective, character-driven narratives are a hallmark of Frendo’s output, unpacking emotions and experiences which listeners from all walks of life can relate to.
With a heart rooted in his native Michigan and a mind that’s steeped in Southern musical tradition, Frendo is a perfect representation of the ever-evolving greater Oklahoma music scene that brought us beloved fellow acts like John Moreland, Turnpike Troubadours, John Fullbright, and more. He relocated to Tulsa in 2020 during the pandemic, shortly after losing his mother — crediting in hindsight that the one-two punch of major life events inspired this batch of songs. Getting back into the studio to record them over a year later proved to be a cathartic experience.
“I honestly felt like I was writing the best songs of my career, and finally starting to really see what I wanted to be as a songwriter,” he recalls. “I was grateful to be making music with people again, full stop, but also to be doing so in a new city with new people who I was genuinely ecstatic to be working with.”
Fully embracing this self-discovery, Frendo has now firmly planted his roots in Tulsa and found his identity as an artist. He’s a songwriter’s songwriter, pouring his soul into each and every line, and Bound for Heartache is a triumphant showcase of that commitment. This is but the latest chapter in a story that’s still being written; this is his life’s craft, being methodically chipped away by an artist hard at work earning his keep.
“I try to be a student of it, to serve it as best I can,” he affirms of his passion for the trade. “It’s the thing I know I was put here to do.”