A Chat With: Joey Heins aka ‘Gouda’

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Interview by Kalani Dunn

‘gouda’ stems from deep roots of love for gastronomy, colors, & smells. the project represents the identity of Joey Heins, his first project as a solo artist. inspiration for music comes from a wide variety of creative sources, so why not showcase them all? from Philadelphia, PA, ‘gouda’ makes music from real-life emotions & experiences, as well as publishing carefully & emotionally developed recipes, poems, and various forms of music/food content. recently, the ‘gouda’ brand has expanded to selling homemade pasta & granola to the local people of Philadelphia with great success. 

Explain to the FOURALL community who you are and what you do. How did you get started making music? How did you get started creating cookbooks? Let us know the overlap between your music and your recipes.

My (real) name is Joey Heins, I’m from Philadelphia, and I absolutely am in love with my senses; taste and sound being my favorite and most intense. I’ve been enamored with both ever since I was young; cooking for my family (perhaps at too young of an age to handle such hot equipment) and performing my favorite songs for anyone who would watch. Passionate, creative energy was (and still is) plentiful in my mind, body, and soul, finding a way out through music and food.

I quickly noticed my knack for cooking; quicker than I did for music. At the time I didn’t notice it, but it was the first time I felt passion. Cooking became a daily ritual. At the time I didn’t notice it, but it was the first time I felt passion. Food became my entire life, structuring my days around time-intensive meals from scratch to keep myself engaged. I could feel myself learning and developing as a creator, cook, and a human being. Self-sufficiency became incredibly important to me as I ventured into making my own pastas, breads, cereals, and yogurts. I think that aspect of the food is what will continue to stick with me; it becomes a part of my own being.

I was always enamored with music. Before I started playing guitar around the age of 12, I was obsessed with super-performative artists like Lady Gaga, Elvis, the ‘Wicked’ Soundtrack; anything I considered to be, as I used to say when I was young- fantabulous. Performing became a part of my personality- whether it was for my family or friends, I would constantly sing and dance. My mother noticed and gave me guitar lessons and I never looked back. When I started writing and performing music live (mainly on bass, guitar and drums, no synth yet), I noticed that I felt the same rush of vulnerability I felt when sharing a dish with someone. I was sharing every aspect of myself; it’s now something I live and thrive off of.

How would you describe your music? How do you imagine your listeners to feel when they listen to what you create?

Music is an emotive moment in time. My songs are tied to reality; specific moments of creation that cannot be re-created. These are moments of sheer, beautiful honesty with myself. I grow every time a new idea makes its way out of my mind, instrument, and into the world; it’s like looking directly into a mirror.

Electronic, synthesizer-based pop/alternative is a wordy definition, but the best I could come up with in terms of describing my music. People tell me it reminds them of Gary Numan and The Talking Heads; I don’t feel that, but if its what people say, I listen and understand. If I were to compare my music to a well-known artist, I’d call it a mish-mash of Lady Gaga, Nirvana, and David Bowie. I embrace rock, channel it into catchy pop, then glitch and grunge it up. I would think and hope that the combination is interesting, fun, and most importantly inspiring. My goal with releasing music is to inspire others to find their own outlets of self-expression. I want listeners to feel passionate intent, finding themselves through the music I found myself in.

Walk us through your creative process, for both creating music and cookbooks. How do you bring your ideas to life? What’s your favorite part of the entire process?

Musical and culinary ideas push themselves to the forefront of my mind. My favorite aspect of existence, not only creation, is when I can hear, see, and understand this idea. It is a peculiar, mysterious, but inspiring occurrence. The idea presents itself to me in full-form, often in times where I am not actively working on anything creative and doing something totally random. Once it hits, I can’t help but immerse myself in this idea; it’s possibilities, my plan of execution, and the idea’s limitations. I am thankful that my ideas come to me this way, because the unlimited landscape that comes with creative work can be overwhelming; there is always something new to explore. My ideas come to me telling how they relate to my personal life as well as my creative and professional pursuits. To put it simply; they come with great context and character. Though I don’t know how it happens, I know why it happens once it happens.

This being said, there is still trial and error when I create music. Especially this past year, I have put an intense focus on sound design as opposed to composition. Since compositions come to me fully-fledged out, I need to make sure I am serving the idea with its greatest honor. Only lately have sound-design based ideas presented themselves to me fully-fledged out; I think that’s because I have put such an intense focus on it that my subconscious is thinking about it for a great deal of time.

Furthering that, I think that there is little trial and error with my culinary based ideas due to the fact that I have been cooking for longer than I have been writing music. I have an intuition with food that just feels natural. While I love music, I see food as more of a comfortable place. Creating a new recipe is like winding down from the music for me; I can get so high-strung and obsessed with my musical ideas, while with food, I simply know that I am going to enjoy whatever it is I create. My music isn’t always immediately enjoyable, while food is a constant in that sense.

You mentioned that you’re a current Drexel University student studying music industry. Has your experience in school impacted your artistry and ambitions?

School has proven to me that there is always something else to learn; something else to embrace and channel into my own energy and pursuits. The basic concept of consistently learning something new, however pertinent the information, is one that keeps the brain energized and open. I’ve learned about the history of music and made connections to its connection with modern culture. I’ve learned about the history of the music industry, its ties to the mob, its shortcomings and its beautiful treasures. Most recently, learning about the origins of Motown, and the lasting effect on the industry and culture has greatly inspired me. Everything from how the label was run, to the branding and of course the music just fascinated me. Knowing something like that had the impact it did keeps me going. It makes me wonder if anything like it can be re-created today.

Who or what inspires you, and why? Do you find inspiration for both your music and food in the same people/things?

I could answer this question differently every single day. “Live in the moment” is something I have embraced ever since I began performing. I used to block everything and everyone out and live inside of my own world no matter who or what was around me. In a way, I still do, but I’m now embracing and inspired by my surroundings. People I see on the street, interactions with cars while I’m riding my bike, and watching interactions between strangers while sitting in a park have been my main inspiration lately. Lately, I’ve been going to Rittenhouse Square and focusing on just sitting. No phone, no overly strenuous thoughts, no serious contemplation; only think about what I am currently sensing. I wouldn’t even call it thinking, I think feeling is a better word.

Just feeling has allowed me to live and, more importantly, create outside of a box. I no longer force myself to create because the creation happens through feeling whatever is surrounding me. Everything is fascinating when looked at in this lens. This translates directly to my culinary creations as well as my eating habits. I’ve gained a healthier relationship with food through just feeling, as opposed to my toxic ‘always eat less’ mindset. I’m able to feel my body being hungry and my mind wanting certain flavors. I can get attached to certain foods and flavors for weeks, months at a time; I always call that an ‘era’ in my life because the flavors bleed through into every part of my life. I am currently in my turnip era. The turnip is the most beautiful root vegetable I have ever experienced. It bleeds through to my music, my lyrics; my everything. I see the world through the lens of a root vegetable which makes every part of nature seem directly on my level.

What do you do any of it for? Are music and cooking therapeutic for you? Do you do it to share your creativity and talent with others? Tell us what you think your purpose and mission as an artist is.

Creativity keeps me alive. Without creation, I am nothing, my body is nothing, my soul is nothing, and there is no point to my existence. Creation is its own, and in my experience, the most powerful form of therapy. My songs and recipes are as significant internally as they are externally. I will additionally admit that I’ve not always felt that way; I used to do it all for myself.

As I’ve mentioned, I spent the majority of my life growing up stuck inside of my own world. I was struggling with addiction and depression, boxing myself into my problems and my wrongdoings. It was impossible to see outside of it; until I realized how I felt when I was creating. I could see outside of myself and how my addiction was affecting loved ones because of the honest, mirror image I saw whenever I would play something back that resonated with me, or ate something so good that I couldn’t believe that the same shitty, low-lived human being I thought myself to be created such a thing. I realized that all of my addiction and depression was truly just pent up energy; I just needed to channel it.

This was the most important discovery of my entire life, so important that I realized the need to share and NOT internalize everything. I do write music and create recipes to keep myself alive, to keep my mind in a healthy state…so-on and so-forth. However, I’ve learned that allowing myself to be vulnerable through sharing is one of the most important things I can do, because it allows whoever I’m sharing with to be vulnerable themselves. They can take away their own meaning and inspiration while still hearing my experience and noticing the feelings I was inspired by. I’ve learned that my purpose is to continue embracing vulnerability, make it clear in my artistic outputs, and inspiring others to channel that nagging energy of theirs into something they love.

Tell us about some of your favorite recipes. What do you like about them?

I feel at home when I make a pasta dish. My all time favorite dish is lamb ragu with cavatelli. I make it in two ways; San Marzano tomato-based, or winter squash & pepper based. San Marzano tomatoes are my absolute favorite tomatoes, but I think the earthiness of a squash-based ragu is incredible. Lamb is better than beef for ragu; that is if you like lamb. Some people say it tastes metallic…? Whatever. Lamb is incredible. For meatballs, sauce, really anything; but its best in ragu. One of my favorite parts in all of cooking is letting the sauce simmer for an entire day while I roll out pastas and make music. Pasta rolling isn’t really a recipe, but it is another home for me. It’s therapeutic, cathartic, and relaxing. There’s nothing like the instant gratification of watching a perfectly pressed cavatelli roll off of the wooden board while smelling the sauce cooking, knowing you will devour it later. Check out my cookbook for the ragu recipe.

Fish is also at the top for me. Preparing and fileting whole fish is something I took pride in learning how to do, and a quick cast-iron sear is encapsulating. The smell, the feel, the sound of the initial sear of a filet is just wondrous. I feel self-sufficient when preparing things from scratch. Just like music, it feels like the food I spent hours on, months perfecting the techniques of, has become part of myself. Food is my home.

What’s your biggest advice for young creatives out there? How can Gen-Z’ers who dream about taking their passions and turning them into something big make their dreams a reality?

Don’t be afraid to scrap ideas. It’s overwhelmingly easy to get immersed in an idea, constantly looking for a way for it to ‘work’. Everything must happen at its right time, and forcing ideas will only bring down your morale and the morale of the idea. Patience, with everything, but in particular regards to creativity, is incredibly key. You will know when the right time for that particular idea hits, and when it does; just do it. Everything you need is within yourself to produce that song, to learn that software, to market the song, to make engaging content; everything you need to succeed, you can do. Self-doubt can be crippling in how it boxes us in to thinking we are less than we are. You will become the best in the world at that one thing you aren’t great at (yet) if you just start doing it. Don’t be afraid to take time off of music to work on content and marketing; they complement each other, and your music will only grow by gaining more knowledge on engaging with your audience. For a quick recap: you can do everything, and be patient.

Where can the FOURALL community see more of you and what you’re doing? Link us to your socials, recent projects, your Spotify, etc.

I just collaborated with Velvet Fields Magazine (@velvetfieldsmag) to put out my first print cookbook, and you should totally buy it. They did an amazing job with the design and making the book match all of the vibes I was going for and my personality. It’s much more than a cookbook; I include lyrics and stories of all of the songs I’ve released this year, as well as pictures of my cats, bike, food, everything important to me. You’ll also learn more about my two beautiful cats Marley and Maple if you aren’t convinced yet. Follow Oscar on Instagram @oscarcompo, & you can follow me on Instagram @goudabuzz, and find me on Spotify under ‘Gouda’. Currently working on my TikTok, but also @goudabuzz.

I’ve collaborated with a long-time friend of mine Oscar Compo this past month to create a three-song EP consisting of music I’ve never been more proud of. In our time growing up together in Delaware, our bands, named Arden Kind, and mine Rusty Blue, played together regularly. There was a serious bond that grew between our two bands as the years went on, and though we are both thankful to have the fun times we had paired with the experience we gained, forward motion must remain constant. Oscar and I want to continue our musical pursuits in whatever ways we can; him soon to be starting a solo project and writing with/for a handful of local artists, and of course our continuing to work with each other. Follow Oscar on Instagram @oscarcompo, & you can follow me on Instagram @goudabuzz, and find me on Spotify under ‘Gouda’. Currently working on my TikTok, but also @goudabuzz.