UNO employee lives musical passion through local band

Photo courtesy of Allie Champion
Joe Champion, an office assistant in the University of Nebraska at Omaha graduate studies office, is living out his passion of building a musical career.

John Elster

In the graduate studies office in the Eppley Administration building is an office assistant doing what he can to help graduate students at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Joe Champion does his best to keep the office running smoothly.

Although Champion enjoys his job, it is not his true passion. His passion is music. Specifically, it’s his band Uh Oh.

Champion is the lead singer, guitarist and primary songwriter for the Omaha-based rock group. “I think I just look like your average Joe,” he said, laughing. “I don’t think you would know unless I told you or I saw you at a show.”

The 29 year old has been playing music since the age of 16 when he and two of his friends started a band called Hot From Far in high school. He said he learned guitar to play in the band. The first song he wrote was about chili cheese burritos.

He said that when Hot From Far started, the other two members were the primary singers and songwriters. However, by the time the band broke up in early 2013, Champion had taken on those roles.

After Hot From Far disbanded, Champion wanted to keep playing music but could not find band mates. During that time, he played solo, acoustic concerts. These concerts featured old Hot From Far songs and other songs Champion had written.

In late 2013, he and three friends got together to jam, and all four musicians seemed to click. “We’d all been friends for years and liked making music together, so we decided to make a band,” he said.

The group couldn’t decide on a name, but booked its first show anyway, Champion said. A couple weeks before the show, the singer Ben Kweller was playing at the Waiting Room. Champion recalled that after Kweller played, he got the opportunity to talk to him. So, Champion decided to ask him what he would name a band. “Without hesitation he said ‘Uh Oh,’” Champion said, “so that’s what we named it.”

Champion’s main inspirations for writing Uh Oh songs come from Bruce Springsteen and Jeff Rosenstock, an influential singer in the underground rock scene. He said he loves the honesty and passion both singers have in their lyrics, and he wants to write songs that are “honest instead of hiding behind something ironic.”

Champion uses music as an outlet for the things that he can’t get out any other way. “If I get it down and do it good [music writing], my issue feels resolved because I’ve found a way to express it.”

During the past four years, Uh Oh has released three EPs and a full-length album called “You’re Not Dead.” In 2014, Uh Oh was nominated for Best New Artist by the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards, and in 2016, Hear Nebraska’s podcast “On the Record” called their song “Try to Stay on My Side” one of their favorite songs of the year.

There are some challenges that come along with being in a band, Champion said. Balancing going on tour and a full-time job can be difficult. “It’s harder to schedule the bigger stuff like that,” he said. Though he’s never had to ask UNO for time off to play music, he does not think they would have a problem with it.

Champion’s wife, Allie, supports his music. “I can follow my passion thanks to her… and she likes cool music too, so I’m definitely thankful for that,” he said.

Uh Oh’s next concert is May 10, at 9 p.m. at the Petshop in Benson, which is located at 2727 N. 62nd St