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Overcoming Odds And Stereotypes, Safari Joe Is Not Your Average Musician

Why Sound is a live music venue and recording studio that caters to local musicians and bands in Cache Valley. The owner is currently working on producing the first record for musician Safari Joe. He's an older artist who plays music that fits in with a younger, more contemporary group of listeners. He suffers from a physical condition and relies on music as a form of therapy.

Safari Joe, or Greg Kliever as he's known at his day job, is trained in computer science and writes software for a company out of Boise, Idaho. 

Jett Fesler, owner and producer of Why Sound, says he is working on a 12-song record for Safari Joe.

“He’s come in and recorded a lot of his stuff just acoustically where it’s him playing and singing," Fesler said. "And then on some of them I’ve added some parts like some little symph sounds and even I’ve added bass and guitar and drums too.”

Safari Joe has been playing guitar for around five years.

“Pretty much when I started playing guitar immediately, I started to write music," he said. " And that’s partly because I’d already been playing piano. I’ve been playing piano a good portion of my life and had written songs before, so when I picked up the guitar it just seemed very natural to immediately write songs. Within a month, maybe within three weeks, I had my first song.”

Safari Joe says although writing songs has come easy, learning to play the guitar has not.

“I have to work really hard on the guitar," he said. "I actually have a lot of nerve damage in my fingers. Things that most people can do are just an incredible struggle for me. And sometimes my fingers just don’t cooperate. It’s a huge challenge for me.”

He says the nerve damage has become so difficult that an activity as simple as washing his own hair can be a challenge.

“I’ve had a number of accidents," Safari Joe said, "it seems to be a little bit congenital. We think I have a condition that’s called Inclusion Body Myositis. Which basically causes nerve damage throughout the body, so it’s not just in my arms or my fingers though it’s very pronounced there. I’m incredibly weak I have any strength in my arms and it’s getting worse.”

Safari Joe says, although he is pretty comfortable on stage, it’s frustrating to watch people who are physically more capable to play the guitar.

For him, music has served as a therapeutic outlet.

“Working my fingers constantly I’m sure is helping this condition to maybe not progress as fast as it would otherwise," Safari Joe said. "But also just emotionally it certainly, just generally, music is very therapeutic for me emotionally. It feels like a journey, it totally feels like every song is taking me to a new place of the universe. And that’s my path, that’s my journey.”

Safari Joe’s record is called Under the Burl.

“Burl is that big kind of lump or knot you’ll see on the side of a tree," Safari Joe said. "I use that to symbolize the belly of Buddha. Its ‘under the burl of Buddha’s beautiful belly,’ that’s how the song starts.”

He performs at open-mic nights and hopes to continually improve his guitar skills.

On his stage name, Safari Joe said,"It should be noted that I’ve never been on a safari, but I sure would like to go on one someday.”