Joe Dep is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Having realized early on that he was a slave to the groove he quickly began mastering any instrument with strings. Once Joe found his musical stride he began experimenting with the banjo. His involvement with the Shelf Life String Band, has granted Joe the opportunity to try his hand at not only writing but arranging music and he played a large role in doing both for their first full length album, Another Evening and Other Tales, in 2014. After gaining even more musical momentum Joe gave into the whim to play with strangers and has since become a four year veteran of Del Fest Academy—which has given him the opportunity to play with some incredible musicians whose gifts, talents, and advice coaxed him into auditioning for his spot at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. While at school Joe had the pleasure of studying under the banjo Maestro, Tony Trischka, whom has worked with such banjo greats as Béla Fleck and Earl Scruggs. The academic backdrop allowed Joe to become immersed in a world of music: different musical genres, different types of musicians, and different people from all walks of life. This immersion has allowed him to soak up the sounds of those different cultures and as a result Joe has grown as a musician, a composer, and an arranger.
Joe maintains that if he had not heard Jerry Garcia play a banjo he would have never started picking the strings of one. While he also pulls his influence from other greats it is also apparent from listening to him that he pulls inspiration from more than just the bluegrass genre. This is in large part because, like the giants on whose shoulders he stands, he hears the beautiful sounds of the banjo everywhere he goes and in every song he hears. This love carries over in his stage presence and with this air of love and comfort—Joe makes it look easy, which is a sure sign of his skill. While school raised his confidence his skill level has come from determination and passion and in turn his style has become more fluid and natural.
Joe Dep utilizes his skill to feed the musical fire that seems to be perpetuating the Cultural Revolution that is taking place in his home town of Pittsburgh. This revolution is seeing a revitalized thirst for the eclecticism that is inherent in string band music and Joe is setting the bar high for the countless other talented musicians who want to throw their hat in the ring. By elevating his own level of skill he continues to raise the level of skill and passion that others put into their work. He presents himself on the stage with a level of professionalism, yet maintains an aura of natural relaxation that encourages a good time. His work with The Self Life String Band has sparked a push for patrons to frequent their local bars and jam clubs trying to suffice their insatiable desire for local music. He may not be single handedly responsible for this Cultural Renaissance but his presence is definitely noted. Over the past year Joe and the Shelf Life have made Bluegrass Night at The Park House in the Northside of Pittsburgh a weekly routine. This drive and passion carries over into his new projects: working with the Banjonauts and inspiring others with music lessons. By using everything he has picked up over the course of his musical journey he is now paving his own way and shows no sign of slowing down.