AriZona 20 Years: Josh Koterba

Published July 11, 2012

ENAMORADO: Do you remember the first song that you wrote? How did it go?

KOTERBA: Oh wow. That was a long time ago. I’ve been writing songs since I was two singing in a microphone on my Fisher Price tape recorder. The first “real” song I wrote all the vocals and instruments to, would have been a song called “La La Land.” I wrote it in junior high, and it was all about day-dreaming and not paying attention in class.

ENAMORADO:How do you begin a song? Do you start with a concept, a chord, an image?

KOTERBA: For me, art can happen in a variety of ways. Most of the time it begins as a melody. I try to add words that enhance the feeling the melody gives me. Once I have an idea of where the song is going, an overall image starts to appear. I then use that overall image of the song, the story, to tie up any loose ends. At the end, I reassess the song, and make sure all lyrics and musical elements are working together, to tell that one story, and bring that image across to the listener.

ENAMORADO: Do images factor into your music? If so, how?

KOTERBA: As the son of a professional artist, I grew up consuming visual art. I typically paint a picture, or have a still photograph, or cinematography going through my head whenever I’m writing. I think it really helps tell whatever story it is I’m trying to share with the world.

ENAMORADO: Your dad is a cartoonist and a musician, what about the rest of your family? Did you grow-up in a particularly artistic environment?

KOTERBA: Yeah, my father is a pretty talented guy! He’s an editorial cartoonist, a published author, and his band has played some of the coolest swing clubs across the country. His work ethic and passion for creativity set such a great example for me growing up.

My mother is a published author and poet and taught me the importance of words and really helped root me as a songwriter and storyteller, not just a musician. They really both have supported me in their own ways since the beginning. I honestly wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today if it wasn’t for them.

ENAMORADO: You composed the soundtrack to Voluntary Gestures, a documentary about your father. Can you tell me a little bit about this?  What is the most important thing you learned about your father?

KOTERBA: That project was a lot of fun to work on! My dad was actually there during the entire project and even helped a bit. We just took a couple days, and had some samples of footage, and just kind of knocked it out. Kind of cool to step away from my typical style of music, and create something out of the ordinary for me.

I’m not sure that I really learned anything extremely new about him, because I’ve heard all of his stories about a hundred times, at least. I think the biggest thing was learning how vulnerable being in a documentary can make someone feel. He was very self-conscious about the world seeing him as he really is. He was diagnosed with Tourette’s in his mid-30s, after being picked on all through adolescence and young adulthood. The documentary showcased his Tourette’s, and it was really hard for him to watch, especially in front of other people.

ENAMORADO: What is the best thing about being a one-man band?

KOTERBA: There are so many things that are great about being a one-man band, though there are some drawbacks. I really enjoy getting to create the song from the inside out to my complete vision. The financial benefits of not having to split record sales or royalties 4 or 5 ways are definitely nice too.

ENAMORADO: How personal are your lyrics? Can you ground a recent song in a particular time or place for me…

KOTERBA: My lyrics are either about personal stories of things I’ve actually gone through, or known someone who has. It’s all extremely close, and each song really is a window into my life.

In early fall of 2009, I wrote a song called “I’ll Give You The Moon.” It was about that previous summer, where I had just gone through a really rough patch with my (at the time) girlfriend. We were broken up, and barely spoke. I spent the entire season missing her, and struggled with extreme insomnia, to the point where I was sleeping only one or two hours a night. We both really took that summer to grow up a lot individually, and eventually started talking again. This song was really my apology to her, and about me promising her that I would never break her heart again. It’s themed as a lullaby, and all about setting the sun on that lonely period in our relationship. We’re now happily married, and have a wonderful son, Jonah.

ENAMORADO: What’s the craziest venue you’ve ever played. The most exotic locale? Who has the best crowds?

KOTERBA: The craziest venue I’ve played would have to be at this awesome local ice cream shop in downtown Omaha, Nebraska. It’s called Ted & Wally’s. A few summers back they would do shows down there after hours; they’d clear out all the tables, and about a hundred kids would cram in. Fire code was probably only 50 or so, so kids would be sitting or standing on the counter and on booth benches. There were all these low hanging lights that were supposed to be over the tables, where the bands would play. I accidentally shattered one with the headstock of my guitar once. It would get very hot and sweaty, and very loud. It was awesome. I don’t think they do shows in there anymore.

The best crowds are always in small towns. I think it’s because there is less to do on a regular basis, so every one and their brother comes to hang out. They get the rowdiest, sing the loudest, and generally are less stuck-up.

ENAMORADO: Who are your musical heroes and why?

KOTERBA: My biggest musical hero would have to be my dad; he helped teach me how to play guitar, and even bought me my first one. He’s such a great player, and I look up to him with such respect. He shreds on the mandolin too, an instrument I have yet to take up but would love to. He works hard, and plays harder.

ENAMORADO: What were you doing 20 years ago? Where would you like to be in 20 years?

KOTERBA: I was in kindergarten. Oh how things have changed—from learning to share toys with others, to all the things I have accomplished now.

In 20 years, I would like to be able to look back on these next 20 years, and say that I absolutely did the best I could in any circumstance. From music to fatherhood, business to marriage.

ENAMORADO: Why did you choose this particular can as your favorite? Tell us about its color, images, texture, techniques?

KOTERBA: I really like the Manuel Peon can. It looks fresh and artistic, modern yet relatable. It makes me want to drink the beverage and makes me feel like the contents will be refreshing. I like the artist’s use of line drawings and the sketchy feel. The colors lend themselves to what I imagine the drink to taste like, are eye catching without being too over-the-top, and really come across in a stand out way. It has some musical elements, and, much like the way I write, this can tells a story.

ENAMORADO: How did this can respond to your interpretation of the AriZona brand?

KOTERBA: AriZona has always been a very hip, and relevant brand. I think this can directly lends itself to their style, artistic nature, and overall awesomeness.

ENAMORADO: When evaluating the design submissions, what was more important to you: color or design?

KOTERBA: I think they were both equally important. That’s like asking which is more important when judging a song, lyrics or music? There we’re a couple designs where I really liked the colors, but didn’t enjoy the design, and visa versa. This one really had it all for me.

ENAMORADO: What’s your favorite AriZona drink?

KOTERBA: Trick question, I love them all. I really really like the Southern Style Arnold Palmer, or the Red Apple Green Tea.

ENAMORADO: How does your audience relate to AriZona’s audience?

KOTERBA: I think that most of my fan base knows and loves the AriZona family. Anytime I mention them, my fans seem to light up with a positive attitude. They love the product. They’re pretty die hard, as are the AriZona fans.

ENAMORADO: How did you come to partner with AriZona? Why did you think the partnership made sense?

KOTERBA: It all started on Twitter actually. I was addicted to their beverages, and was posting a picture almost daily of one of their products. Several fans joked that we should work together. We got in contact, and the rest is really history. I think that the partnership makes perfect sense. I love their products, so it’s never like I’m “selling out”. Their brand is so relevant and innovative, that it helps me keep my artistic integrity.

ENAMORADO: Why did you choose AriZona’s Artists Lounge as a platform?

KOTERBA: AriZona has some great fans and customers, and I think that any crossover we can establish between our two brands is great business. They’re such an amazing company and so easy to work with, it was really a no brainer. Thank you for the opportunity to do this interview. It’s really been a pleasure, now I’m going to go drink AriZona!

For more from AriZona’s design panel, click here.