Shortly after Joe Purdy signed a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell in 2004, he got a phone call from TV producer Brian Burk. “He said, ‘I’m working on this new TV show called “Lost,” and it airs in a week. I need you to write me a song about being stuck on an island,’ ” Purdy recalls. The singer/songwriter plucked from his archives a frankly cheerful-sounding suicide ballad called “Wash Away” and the track was played over speakerphone to the show’s producers. “They said, ‘Great, can you make it 40 seconds longer?’ I played it live right there and tacked on a bridge,” Purdy says of the tune, which aired during the show’s first season.
TV, in a way, is what keeps the 27-year-old Arkansas native on the road. He’s scored six placements on “Grey’s Anatomy” with such songs as “I Love the Rain the Most” and “San Jose.” “Can’t Get It Right Today” can be heard in a new commercial for Kia cars and “Rainy Day Lament” was placed on “House.” “I take all the money from that and then just blow it all going on tour,” Purdy says.
Writing “mostly sad bastard” music, Purdy has sold more than 201,000 digital song downloads in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. He’s also released nine full-length albums, produced in an imagined race against the clock. “I always had it in my mind that I was going to die at the age of 27,” he says with a laugh. “So I wanted to get a lot done.”
After moving to Los Angeles, Purdy started “working four jobs and hitting open mics.” He resisted signing to any labels after lunch courtships would turn into reps “spewing bullshit.” He found the right deal only when a rep from Warner/Chappell sat him down after a showcase at South by Southwest. “I needed something that let me put out as many records as I want, that got me enough money for a studio and some boys to make a band and go on tour.”
However, Purdy adds, “I lose the bank whenever I play live. It’d be great to have a label that helps me out in that respect, but then I have to listen to them talk all day long.”