County Seat Newspaper
of Clare County

Clare County’s ‘Weird Al’ Entertains Millions

Joey Kalico on Internet Fame and more

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By ANGELA KELLOGG-HENRY

Cleaver Managing Editor

HARRISON – Joey Kalico, aka The Prince of Parodies, is as fun in person as he is in his online videos. It’s also clear from his videos that he is a musician with a natural singing talent. Kalico recently visited the Cleaver office to talk about his online career making parody music videos. I became aware of Rolling Blue when I saw a sticker on the back of a van at a fast-food drive-thru in Clare. I looked up the name on social media and realized an internet star lived right here in Clare County. At press time, his TikTok videos had received 17,421,153 total likes across all videos.

Kalico and his family live in Farwell, having moved from the metro Detroit area about five years ago. Kalico and his wife played in their band named Rolling Blue. Kalico was a guitarist and vocalist, and his wife played drums along with his friend Anthony playing bass guitar. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit there were no shows to play, and they were home bound like millions of other people.

“I started off in a rock band and then we were touring around Detroit, and we started getting bigger,” Kalico said. “The pandemic shut down every kind of live music, live anything. I thought I’m going to start filming videos every day. I followed PewDiePie and he made a video every day. So, my goal was to make a video every day even if it was bad and some of them were bad. I did a parody of [the song] Funky Town, and I changed it to Taco Bell. That was the first video to go over 100,000 views and I thought maybe there is something to this.”

The band’s rock album of original music is on YouTube under the Rolling Blue name, a name he kept for his internet accounts.

His videos have changed quite a bit in the last few years as he’s refined his content and his presentation.

“I used to do it every day and now instead of worrying about quantity I worry about quality. To make better videos instead of whipping something out every day,” Kalico said.

In his first videos Kalico is shirtless and that was his schtick for a while. A chubby guy making funny videos was instantly recognizable and showed his lighthearted humor that you really can’t help being entertained by. Now he keeps the shirt on, so he is not in violation of community standards on some platforms and because he is so internet-famous his face and video style are now his brand instead of his physique. He also had to be mindful of advertisers and sponsors.

“I felt like advertisers might not want a fat dude with no shirt on as part of their product,” Kalico said. “Versus now I can do my stuff and still be funny. In the beginning I was trying to crank out one video a day and that was cutting a lot of corners to make it happen.”

Four years and many videos later, Kalico supports his family of four on his internet content. He is on multiple platforms (see box) with millions of followers. His videos are mainly parody music videos meant to be silly and make people laugh. His topics are goofy and funny with some potty humor that targets the TikTok demographic but that all can appreciate for the parody lyrics from popular and classic songs.

He has parodied “Hotel California” by the Eagles as “Local Taco Bell,” “Mother” by Danzig as “Butter,” “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” by Randy Newman as “You got a Felony,” “Jolene” by Dolly Parton as “Gosling,” referring to Ryan Gosling, and hundreds more songs turned funny parodies from his imagination. A 20- to 30-second video can take hours to produce with all the elements of a music video; audio, video, captions, music and content.

“What’s funny is that song [“Gosling”] was from a person who sent me the lyrics as a suggestion and do “Jolene” but make it about Gosling, and most of the lyrics I did in that video were from that person. I get good suggestions and requests. One guy messages me all the time and he always has good ideas, so I told him he should start making these videos but he doesn’t like being in front of a camera.

“It’s where my brain goes when I hear lyrics when I’m listening to a song. I try to make stuff relatable as I don’t want it all based on toilet humor. I don’t want to be the ‘fart guy’ but want to be the ‘parody guy.’ Some people get confused because I changed the lyrics to a song that I’m making fun of that song or the people that wrote that song. I love that song, that’s why I did it. Because I can listen to it, and I want to sing it – 90% of the songs I do, I do because I enjoy the song.

“In the beginning I could tell my mom wasn’t as big a fan as she is now. She was supportive but she’s also ‘Why do have to sing about that? You have such a good voice you could sing something else.’ Now she knows people like it. The hardest part was telling my mom I got a million views and explaining what that means. It’s a whole other job to try to figure out algorithms and researching stuff. My wife will help me with lyrics but it’s me for the most part. She helps me sharpen things up.”

Kalico isn’t worried about running out of material.

“I sometimes will have a dry spell and the ideas aren’t coming to me, but the world is always changing, and music is being made every day. As long as they are making music, I can do it.

“When I first started making money it wasn’t that much, I still had to do something,” Kalico said. “It slowly started increasing to the point that I didn’t have to work and if I focused solely on this and invested more time and make it really happen. And I did. I made money off of merchandise, paintings, and TikTok started paying better based on my views.”

He was trained as a carpenter with his father and worked in that industry for over 20 years.

Some of the locations in his videos were filmed locally. His parody video of Jelly Roll’s song “Son of a Sinner” was partly filmed at Ponderosa and even features an Amish horse. Other videos have the backdrop of the park in Farwell and wooded locations around Farwell. He hasn’t been asked to leave any location yet.

When asked if he ever had a musician or famous person reach out to him about his parodies, the answer was “yes.”

“A couple cool things have happened like that,” he said. “I did a Carl Weezer song and Rob Paulsen that does the voice and character of Weezer [in the animated film “Adventures of Jimmy Neutron”] commented what a great impersonation it was. Two other times the bassist from the band System of a Down shared the “Bacon” song that I did, that was pretty cool. CeeLo Green shared my “Lazy” video and that was super cool.

“Cheech and Chong follow me on Instagram which is awesome. I still owe them a tattoo; I told them I’d get a tattoo if they follow me.” Kalico is not immune to being star struck himself. He’s met Jack Black and Kyle Gass of Tenacious D. and he counts many other favorite celebrities as followers.

“I get recognized a lot more than I thought I would. People who take time to send me a message; I reply to every message I get. Sometimes it’s a lot but I’ve reached out to people before way bigger than me and just never getting anything back. I know they are busy, but wouldn’t it be cool. People write to me the same way I did. I always say thank you for enjoying what I do,” Kalico said of keeping in touch with his fan base. He worries less about anyone online stealing his content and more about scammers targeting his fans with fake contests and messages impersonating him.

“I get messages…I’m going through cancer and your videos really make me happy. That really means a lot to me because it’s something I never would have expected to come from what I’m doing. I’m just trying to make funny jokes and trying to make people laugh. But when people are going through something as serious as that, a laugh is hard to come by. To feel happy for a second is pretty cool they come to my videos to do that.”

Kalico also had advice to anyone who may want to make online content as a career.

“Consistent, persistent, keep going and never stop. For a year straight I didn’t get anything crazy. A year of posting and posting and posting, every day for a year. Just finding my niche in my music, it took off. I still had to work, and I still had to post every day. Anyone can get a million views on one video, but can you do it again and again?

“I’m glad I don’t do this for fame or money, I do it because I enjoy it, and that’s what I did when I wasn’t working anyway. From 2014 to 2020 we were doing the band thing. And for a long time, we weren’t really doing anything. We’d go into a place and there wouldn’t be anyone there, we’d be playing to the bartenders. I’m still liking it and wanting to do it. And now I get to do it out of my house and make videos, go cool places and meet cool people. It’s fun to be a part of it. If you see me, don’t be afraid to come say Hi.”

On any criticism the internet may serve up, Kalico quotes Andy Warhol: “Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”

 That’s exactly what he intends to do. Next up he’s contemplating a tour of the United States traveling with his family and doing one-hour shows at various venues.

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