The man behind the piano: Epigram speaks to Bristol-based YouTuber, Joe Jenkins


By Anna Johnson, Deputy Style Editor

Meet Joe Jenkins, the daring 20-year-old youtuber who has taken his acoustic piano all over Bristol, capturing the reactions of the public and harnessing an impressive 300 million views. His creative and innovative attitude to his videos has earned him a mountainous 3.6 million subscribers on Youtube alone.

A born and bred Bristolian, Joe spent his younger years learning to play piano in Mickleburgh Musical Instruments, an independent music shop in Stokes Croft. A ‘big inspiration’ - he reminisced on how after his lessons he would explore the instruments and play ‘every single piano there’; it is evidently a place of nostalgia and meaning to him. The shop is described as a ‘mammoth musical maze’ on its website and spans 10,000 square feet, so it must have taken him a while!

'Joe playing his piano in a hot air balloon above Ashton Court' | Joe Jenkins

Nostalgia is obviously a big influence on Joe’s videos, particularly his most recent video titled I Played the Up Song in the Style of Up, which involved him playing an acoustic piano in a hot air balloon. Many of the comments highlighted the sentimental quality to the song. ‘This generation runs on nostalgia’, he explained the method behind his madness and seemingly random video ideas, stating that ‘anything nostalgic does seem to work.’

It is Bristol’s public that form the backdrop to Joe’s videos – perhaps this is part of the reason they are so well received. Joe chuckled, admitting how ‘all sorts of characters’ make up Bristol’s ‘massive creative hub.’

Joe’s public piano videos first originated from artist Luke Jerram’s Play Me I’m Yours 2017 art installation. The installation was a collection of artsy street pianos sprinkled around Bristol for the public to play and enjoy, and helped spark online attention for Joe’s video, Playing Thomas the Tank Engine theme in a Train Station, which was filmed in Temple Meads station.

The Bristol public, Joe claims, are often ‘naturally incredibly talented and upstage [him] a lot of the time.’ He is modest, describing himself as ‘only mediocre’ and his piano-playing skills as a ‘smoke screen’, despite his millions of subscribers thinking otherwise. One comment from a viewer who plays the flute read that watching his light-hearted approach to classical music helped her to realise that ‘I didn’t have to play serious music, I could play things that made me happy.’

He expressed that receiving comments from viewers accrediting him to learn piano is the one kind of comment that ‘warms [his] heart.’ In his video, Play Meme Song, Win a Piano, he gave a 20-minute lesson to the public and rewarded the more passionate subjects with a free electric piano. ‘I’m keen to encourage people to learn. I’m not keen to teach,’ he laughs.

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Joe admitted that he ‘still gets nervous’ when playing in public but he ‘just pretends [he’s] playing at home.’ He has taken many risks with his piano, manoeuvring it to locations such as Buckingham Palace, where ‘I knew I was going to get stopped by police,’ and indeed he did. When asked if there is anywhere he fears to tread with his piano, he boldly stated that ‘nothing’s off limits.’ He joked that he would like to play his piano in all of the elements – ‘I’ve done the air, water... next one – fire!’. Let’s hope Joe’s next piano adventure leaves him safe rather than sorry!

Featured Image: Joe Jenkins

Have you seen Joe playing his piano around Bristol before?