Church pews and farm fields in the one-stop-sign unincorporated community of Atwood in Franklin County laid the foundation for Joseph Baldwin’s careers as musician and farrier.
Music played an important part in Baldwin’s life. Growing up, he watched his mom play piano at their church and learned to tickle the ivories at age eight.
“Some guys at school kind of poked fun at me for playing the piano, so I learned to play guitar when I was 17,” Baldwin said. “Then all those guys were jealous.”
It was music that also led to a fateful encounter with his future wife, Alfa Insurance agent Misty Ridings.
“The first time I actually saw Joseph he was singing a Gary Allan song on a local TV show out of Hamilton,” Ridings said. “I went to see his band play because I knew three of his band mates, but I had never met Joseph. We got married on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010, because all his weekends were already booked with shows.”
Having Misty’s support inspired Baldwin to enter an original song in the Alabama Department of Tourism’s statewide songwriting contest in 2011.
“I wanted my music to really stand out, so I actually wrote it first,” he said. “Then I wrote the lyrics, and it worked out.”
Of 145 contest entries, Baldwin’s song, “I’m Alabama,” won. From the longleaf pine and the yellowhammer, to sweet corn and Southern hospitality, lyrics to the award-winning tune are an ode to all things Alabama.
Winning the songwriters’ competition opened numerous doors for Baldwin. He received the grand prize of $2,000, an eight-hour recording session at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals and made a music video for “I’m Alabama.” Since then, he has performed across the country from Washington to Indiana and Florida and plays an average of 150 shows each year.
“Instead of Miss Alabama, I feel like I’m Mr. Alabama through music,” Baldwin joked. “I feel lucky and blessed to have won, and thankful my wife asked me to enter the contest.”
While Baldwin has always enjoyed singing, strumming and songwriting, another passion of his helps pay the bills: horses.
As a teenager, Baldwin’s father let him raise animals on part of the family’s farm. He used that land to raise horses, which he bought whenever he made enough money from mowing yards or hauling hay.
In his first experience with a farrier, a young Baldwin quickly discovered what most horse lovers know well — caring for equines can be expensive.
“My mom said, ‘You’re not going to be able to afford that farrier next time, right? So how about I buy you your own tools?’” Baldwin recalled. “To this day, I still have some of the tools she bought me 25 years ago.”
He started working on his own horses. It wasn’t long before he branched out to shoeing horses of friends and family and became one of the go-to farriers in Franklin County.
Surprisingly, Baldwin draws numerous connections between his two careers.
“For a horse, its feet are its life, just like for me with music, my hands are my life,” he said. “You have to keep a horse’s feet healthy.”
Baldwin said he knows people who have tried to be farriers but end up quitting due to cost of tools or the taxing work.
“It’s kind of like the George Jones song ‘Who’s Going To Fill Their Shoes?’ because I don’t know who’s going to do this after me,” he said. “I’ve been lucky to keep at it. It’s a job that suits me.”
With nearby attractions such as Rock Bridge Canyon Equestrian Park, demand for a farrier is strong in northwest Alabama. Baldwin said his music is one thing that sets him apart from others in his field.
“People will say, ‘I want the guy that sings to shoe my horses,’ so it goes hand in hand,” he said.
Another benefit — when music helped him find Misty he also found a business partner.
“Misty isn’t just my wife, she’s my manager and boss,” Baldwin said. “I’ll play anywhere, any time. It just takes a call to Misty to set it up.”
While she admits she may be partial, Misty said her husband is a talented and entertaining performer.
“Joseph and I work well as a team in his music business,” she said. “Once he plays at a venue, they want him back. He works the crowd and interacts really well. He just has a great personality and never meets a stranger.”
To book Baldwin for a performance, call Misty at (205) 468-7214 or visit his Facebook page by searching for Joseph Baldwin Music. View the “I’m Alabama” video at tinyurl.com/ImAlabama.