A Conversation with ... Joe Barksdale on Going from Gridiron to Guitar
The offensive lineman channels Hendrix during his favorite off-field hobby.
By Mike Duffy
Joe Barksdale has an interesting predicament when it comes to playing the guitar.
While a guitar looks like a natural accoutrement when slung across the chest of most people, Barksdale's 6-foot-5, 320-pound frame makes one look almost like an overgrown ukulele.
To fret barre chords, he had to figure out how to curl his right thumb around the top of the neck to mute the high E string. He had to concentrate harder than regularly sized humans to properly pluck the correct strings with his massive right hand.
But none of that deterred the Los Angeles Chargers offensive lineman from learning how to play.
To Barksdale, who owns multiple guitars and has another tattooed on his arm, the guitar is a passion that he pursues just as much as he wants to protect his quarterback.
The LSU product and former third-round draft pick sees a similarity in both of his careers.
"I feel like music and sports, you learn certain things from sports. You learn certain things from music," he said. "They end up connecting and just adding to the overall growth of you as a person, and I think that that's really special."
Barksdale started playing guitar a few years ago as a member of the Los Angeles (then St. Louis) Rams. After his 2013 season, Barksdale saw footage of the great Jimi Hendrix playing live. His coach at the time, Jeff Fisher, suggested he try taking up the gutiar.
While Barksdale played saxophone as a pre-teen in Detroit, he hadn't thought of diving into music until Fisher's motivation collided with that viewing of Hendrix' electric Monterey Pop Festival performance.
Linking up with several instructors along the way, Barksdale is now comfortable channeling his rock idol on stage with his own slick licks.
He even had the gumption to write and record a full album, his recently released debut, Butterflies, Rainbows and Moonbeams, which featured a cover of Hendrix's "Wind Cries Mary" and his own favorite original track, "Stumble."
"I was first inspired to write my own music at the end of my third year," he said. "I'd been playing other people's stuff live, and I felt like I had gotten my theory and so forth together, and I had messages that I wanted to get out there to the world. Slowly but surely the ideas just started coming, and I wrote them down on paper, got in the studio and now there's an album.
"I know people all the time ask me, 'What gave me the confidence to drop an album? My best response is it's a good album. It's good music."
Now, one might find Barksdale on Sundays joining his Chargers teammates on the gridiron, only to see him playing at a club with his blues-oriented band the following evening.
Which scenario is more intimidating to the affable athlete and accomplished guitarist?
"It's definitely going to be playing the guitar and singing, because when you're walking out of that tunnel, you're with about 52 other guys," he said with a laugh. "People are wondering, 'What's this football player doing on a stage anyway? You're supposed to be playing football. You better be good.'
"Jimi Hendrix is one of the people whose music I want to keep alive. I just want to make sure that I'm doing a good job of doing that when I play."
Learn more about Barksdale at his official website.