As a native New Yorker, nothing surprises me. I would remain undeterred by the ramblings of a madman sitting next to me on the subway, and I wouldn't flinch if a breakdancer did an acrobatic leap in my midst. That being said, just when I thought I had seen it all I stumbled upon Joe Everson, an Anthem Artist. Joe sings the national anthem while painting a patriotic painting on canvas. The effect is quite moving, and something to take notice of. I spoke to Joe Everson about how he fell into this unique line of work, and his story like so many that I have had the privilege to cover for Macaroni Kid will inspire you.
COURTNEY DALY-PAVONE: How did you get into this line of work?
JOE EVERSON: I became an artist early on. I remember sitting in church and my dad had me draw to keep me occupied. Apparently, my drawing was a very strong likeness of the pastor. It was then that my parents knew I had natural talent. I started pursuing a professional art career about 8 years ago. I’ve lived the “starving artist” mentality. My first studio was a laundry room. I’ve had times when I couldn’t pay my bills. I hustled and worked hard to get to this point. Success doesn’t come easy. Thankfully I have a supportive wife and friends that have helped me along the way. I never forget where I came from.
What inspired you to sing the anthem and paint at the same time?
The actual National Anthem/Painting idea was born out of a collaboration between my manager and I. At the time, the anthem was in the news a lot due to some disrespect, and it prompted me to create my own response. A few years prior, I was traveling in a quartet singing Gospel music. My manager knew this and had the idea for me to sing while painting. The National Anthem seemed to be the likely candidate for the song. Coming up with a military image that was powerful, recognizable, and that I could complete in less than two minutes became a challenge. Once I settled on Joe Rosenthal’s iconic image of the Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima, it was just a matter of learning to execute the painting. My manager Dan apparently didn’t think painting while singing in less than 1:30 was challenging enough and so decided that I should also paint it upside down. While we were working on the process, I decided to title the performance “Project Beni”, in honor of my cousin Benito Diaz who
served in the 101 st Airborne and gave his life in Vietnam. I had attended a flagpole dedication in honor of Beni when I was 10 years old and I remember it having a profound impact on me. That was the first time I realized what it meant to give your life in service to the United States of America.
COURTNEY DALY-PAVONE: Are you busy performing?
As of this interview I just flew from a show in Atlanta to a show in California, and now I am in Colorado. I did 70 shows in 2017 and will end up with about 80 in 2018. I was fully booked for the year by the end of February. I travel around performing for professional sports teams, Fortune 500 companies, and celebrities. I’ve done a few shows now with Arnold Schwarzenegger and he has one of my artworks in his collection. I’m a big fan of his and I think he likes me ok too! I travel the nation performing at some
large sporting events like game 2 of the Western Conference Finals with the Golden State Warriors, Bristol Motor Speedway, the LA Clippers and LA Galaxy just to name a few.
How do people respond to your show?
The reaction is always positive. You will sometimes have your outliers that don’t like the fact that I’m moving while singing. That’s a rare case. I think the majority of people know where my heart is. You’ll always see me place my hand over my heart as soon as I am finished. The uproar of cheers when I reveal the painting is deafening every time. People begin to chant USA! USA! I’ve had over 500 emails from veterans and active service members thanking me for the performance. Through the sale of the
paintings, we’ve been able to raise nearly a million dollars for military charities and 501c3’s. I’d say that’s a pretty great response to what I do. I’ve performed in front of five different Generals from America’s Fighting Forces, as well as General Colin Powell. As long as they approve, I know I’m doing something right.
How can we teach our children about the military and the sacrifices of brave soldiers?
It’s easy to gripe and complain when things don’t go your way. You get in trouble and so mom takes your iPad. Your friends have a cell phone already and you don’t. Someone lives in a nicer house or drives a better car or has a video game system that you want. You get annoyed with your brother and sister and say stuff you regret like “I hate you”. I’ve met soldiers with missing limbs, scarred faces, and brain damage from service to our country to protect our freedom. There are bigger things going on than whether your friends liked your last Instagram photo. Let’s remember the sacrifice being given to us every day. Honor your veterans and active duty men and women. Thank them for what they do.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
My advice to younger people is you can’t let what other people think, determine who you want to be. Always respect your parents and elders. Outside of that, do what you can to accomplish your dream. You don’t have to fit a mold. Break the mold. I told myself early on that I could always get a 9-5 job, but I wouldn’t always have this opportunity to live out my dream. You only have one life. That’s a sobering thought. Don’t waste it.
To see a video of Joe Everson's unique show visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrUEHu_-J8g
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