After Macklemore Tour, Andrew Joslyn ’12 Back to Berklee Online

Mike Keefe-Feldman
January 17, 2014
Andrew Joslyn dives from the stage to crowdsurf at a recent Macklemore and Ryan Lewis concert.
Andrew Joslyn
Andrew Joslyn (center) and the Passenger String Quartet
Andrew Joslyn

Prior to recently touring the U.S. and world with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Berklee Online alumnus Andrew Joslyn '12 had to take a “terrifying” leap. In July 2013, he quit his “dream job” as an A&R manager at the Seattle-based indie label Votiv in order to play the world’s largest concert venues before tens of thousands of hip-hop fans each night.

A multi-instrumentalist, composer, orchestrator, and scorer, Joslyn plays violin on several of the tracks on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s The Heist, which won four 2014 Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist, Best Rap Performance, Best Rap Song, and Best Rap Album (the album was nominated for seven Grammys, including Album of the Year and Song of the Year.) Joslyn also recruited and conducted other string players who perform on The Heist, and thanks to his string arrangements, Joslyn shares co-songwriting credits on two of the acclaimed album’s tracks, “Neon Cathedral” and “Wing$.”

Watch the music video for “Wing$” here:

Joslyn’s day-to-day life changed overnight upon joining the Macklemore tour, but the call to do so came after years of hard work in Seattle and music education with Berklee.

From Studio to Stage: Making Music with Macklemore

Joslyn had developed a reputation in Seattle as an excellent multi-tracking studio arranger who was adept at bridging the worlds of classical music and rock. He connected with Ben Haggerty (a.k.a Macklemore) thanks to a friend who passed the burgeoning rapper a tape featuring Joslyn on violin.

“This was when Macklemore first got out of rehab,” Joslyn says. “He had no career and no buzz. When I first met the guy, he was living in his parents’ basement and he had a sound recording booth shoved up against a wall in the corner so he could track things like vocals and violin.”

Soon, Joslyn started playing live with Macklemore, along with a trumpet player and a DJ. A couple months later, Ryan Lewis teamed up with Macklemore to work on songs that would eventually turn into The Heist and propel the duo forward as one of the most popular artists in contemporary music.

“It was an incredible feeling to watch this album that we’d all been involved with hit right at the top of the charts,” Joslyn says. “And now for it to garner seven Grammy nominations? That’s not something that I ever thought would be a possibility in my lifetime.”

Still, Joslyn feels equipped to navigate his new path in music, in part due to his education with Berklee Online, through which Joslyn has earned a master’s certificate in music business as well as a certificate in orchestration for film and television.

Coming Back for More: Joslyn and Berklee Online

Joslyn holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from Western Washington University and, even after earning two certificates from Berklee Online, he is enrolled in more Berklee Online courses this semester in order "to re-up on some things" such as advanced theory and counterpoint. He explains that he was initially drawn to Berklee shortly after completing his undergraduate studies while he was touring the West Coast with a rock band.

“It was just a bunch of bros hanging out and rocking out,” Joslyn says. “It was fun, but at a certain point, I thought, ‘I need to be realistic about this and find a way to have some sort of career longevity.’ So I started taking online classes with Berklee.”

The online format appealed to Joslyn because it enabled him to take courses while still working full-time at Votiv. Joslyn points to professors such as Brad Hatfield, Mike King, and George Howard as particularly helpful and says that Berklee Online was “instrumental in my development as a better performer, artist, arranger, and musician—period.”

“The thing that I loved is that I had these Berklee professors who weren’t academic stowaways up in some ivory tower,” Joslyn adds. “They were working in their field day-to-day. I wanted to learn about publishing and licensing and the stuff that every single artist really needs to know, and I love Berklee for teaching that stuff so well and making it accessible.”

The most important real-world result of his Berklee experience, says Joslyn, is that he now feels he can walk into a studio to deliver his next great track while getting a fair deal and protecting himself as an artist.

“I absolutely wanted to have a piece of paper saying, ‘Yeah, I’m a badass from Berklee,’” says Joslyn. “But that only matters if the information that you’re getting actually helps, and I’m still exercising the vast majority of the knowledge that I got from my Berklee classes, which is why I’m coming back for more.”

A Sherpa for Orchestra Nerds

On Friday, January 10, 2014, Joslyn kicked off the year by appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in support of Mary Lambert, who wrote the hook featured in Macklemore and Lewis’ hit song, “Same Love.”

Watch the music video for “Same Love” here:

The Tonight Show appearance was just the first stop on what looks to be another crazy ride of a year for Joslyn, who will once again find time for his music education in between a number of other projects, including work with his own band, the Passenger String Quartet, an album of original compositions, and collaborations with David Bazan from Pedro the Lion and with the rock band Walking Papers, which includes former members of rock powerhouses Guns n' Roses and Screaming Trees.

Despite the exciting prospects on the horizon and even after performing at many of the world’s top concert venues, however, Joslyn seems most excited not about the gratifying ride he is on but about the fact that he can bring others along with him.

“I started out as an orchestra geek looking in on the rock world and contemporary music and thinking, ‘I want a part of that,’” Joslyn says. “Because of Berklee and touring and all of these experiences, I feel like I’m now a sherpa for other orchestra nerd friends of mine, because a lot of rock artists don’t know how to talk to the classical world—but when I’m conducting these huge sessions for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis with a large string group, it just feels really incredible.”

For more about Andrew Joslyn or to read his blog, click here.