If you ever happen to be walking down the streets of Manchester and you hear the familiar tune of Marigold in the air, it’s pretty much a given that Maltese busker Joe Roscoe is the one singing the Winter Moods classic.
“I play it every time I perform, just in case there’s someone Maltese listening. I know it’ll put a smile on their face,” he tells me after his one-and-a-half hour set.
Joe Roscoe (his real surname is Muscat) left St Paul’s Bay for Manchester three years ago as a fresh-faced 20-year-old. He’s still got a fresh face but now he’s also got the kind of mature confidence you only acquire through hard work and resilience.
I got a taste of his charm as he was looking for a place to set up. He asked a uniformed official whether it was ok for him to find a spot to busk.
“You’ve got to get a permit from the council,” the official replied, curtly at first.
Joe Roscoe went full-on puppy eyes on the guy and within seconds he softened. “It’s because there’s the Christmas market on. There are only a few spots and you have to reserve one,” he said apologetically.
“Maybe I could just find somewhere that’s free and not in anyone else’s way?”
The official paused. Then he looked up and channelled his inner Simon Cowell. “Are you any good?”
“I think I am,” Joe snapped back, flashing his cheeky dimples as if he knew he already won the guy over.
He did. Within a minute the official was shooing off a Jehovah Witness who was handing out leaflets in the vicinity, saying the spot had already been booked “by this young man”.
And the official wasn’t the only guy Joe Roscoe won over. Twenty minutes into his set people were practically lining up to fling their cash into his guitar case.
“It’s so much fun especially when you know people are really enjoying it. Three days ago a woman just came up to me in tears and told me she started crying as soon as she heard my voice. She just wanted to hug me.”
“Three days ago a woman just came up to me in tears and told me she started crying as soon as she heard my voice. She just wanted to hug me.”
Joe Roscoe busks around four times a week and makes around $80 every time.
“It pays the rent,” he says.
The rest of his time is spent at university where he studies sound engineering. This gives him plenty of free studio time to record his own tracks as well as those of other artists he comes into contact with.
Between his crowd-pleasing loop-pedal covers of Maroon 5, The Script, Ben Howard and Sting, the young singer fits in a lot of his own material – but you won’t even realise you haven’t heard them before. All of his songs sound incredibly current and radio ready.
“This is one I wrote yesterday,” he tells me over the microphone before belting out a song that would easily become a UK No.1 if it was sung by Ed Sheeran. The song was so fresh he needed to whip out his phone mid-way to remember the lyrics. But it still sounded like it was perfected by a team of top producers.
He knows it too, which is why he’s been playing hard to get with gigs like the X Factor and even Malta’s favourite love-hate music platform, the Eurovision.
“I had gone to try out for X Factor. They really liked my stuff and asked me to proceed to the second audition. But they also asked me to sign away the rights to all of my material, so I left. It just didn’t feel right,” he says.
He’s also got offers by Eurovision songwriters but he’s putting it off for now. He needs to concentrate on his studies. At least that’s what he says. I think he’s waiting to be discovered the old-fashioned way.
“I love singing in the streets. I’m hoping someone spots me. You never know who’s listening.”
One thing is clear. Whoever’s listening, they won’t be disappointed.