Joseph Hitchcock started Paper Anthem in 2013, when musicians still put music on CDs and assembled bands on Craigslist. The band began as a solo project in Eureka Springs: “My family heard some songs I had written for fun and encouraged me to record them,” Hitchcock says. These initial recordings led to the first record By Ghosts. Unlike most debuts, By Ghosts sounds fully realized. These are weighted songs that conjure vivid imagery and act as their own miniature soundtracks. 

Besides music, Hitchcock is a filmmaker and screenwriter. “I’m currently sitting on a small mountain of yet-to-be-shot screenplays that I’m excited to produce at some point,” he says. He spent a decade filming short videos. “I used to have a YouTube group called Exploding Taco Productions in Fayetteville with some friends, which I still consider active and am attempting to return.” Apart from his own films, Hitchcock works as a freelance editor. 

Hitchcock has been living in Eastern Europe since June 2018, after moving to Bulgaria to take a chance on a potential romance. When it dissolved, he stayed. “I ended up just sort of wandering around, making new friends, which I’m grateful for, in retrospect. I’ve been backpacking between Bulgaria, Greece and Romania, taking advantage of the food and culture as best I can,” he says.

In September, Hitchcock released his second Paper Anthem record, To All The Sailors We’ve Lost. Its songs were written during the sessions for By Ghosts, but he took them overseas and through a relationship before capturing them. The songs are vibrant and brooding. The building blocks to worlds are simple thoughts, and Hitchcock has layered the songs on To All The Sailors We’ve Lost to sound encompassing and well traveled. 

With the release of new music, Hitchcock is preparing to move back to Arkansas. His next Fayetteville show is set for January 29 at Nomad’s Trailside, where he plans to have a live four-piece band: Hitchcock on electric guitar alongside a featured pianist, bassist and drummer. He says he plans to play a variety of songs from his first two albums, as well as a new single from an unreleased album, The Year You’ll Never Get Back, which he hopes to release prior to the show.

“My dream is still to have a collaborative band, but I have to find the right people, and that’s hard,” he says. Hitchcock is happy to be coming back to the states, adding, “There are a lot of projects I feel like I can only do here in Northwest Arkansas, because those ideas were born here, they’re set here, and I don’t feel like adapting them to a different location.”