"WE’RE pals now,” says Joesef to a slightly nervous reporter as he sits on a leathered bench in a Thai restaurant.

Between lively chatter and clinking glasses, the soul-pop singer discusses being on tour, the one song he still struggles to sing live, and the love letter he wrote to Glasgow.

But, first things first. What would he like to drink?

“A lemony tea. I’m not drinking at the minute, I’m trying to keep my voice good. The band went out for a Guinness last night, and I was on the bus choking for one. I really need one, but don’t tempt me,” he says with a grin.

Ahead of his sold-out gig in Dublin, he looks back on the previous night.

“We played in the Belfast Empire Hall. It’s really beautiful, it kind of feels like a little amphitheatre. The crowd was amazing, we were a bit nervous ­because it’s like the first night of the tour,” he says.

“I’ve only done the songs in rehearsals, so it’s a bit nerve-wracking, but it went down well. I’m ­always nervous, man. I feel like I’m always critical of ­everything, as most starters are. But yeah, it was a good night, it was really fun.”

In January, Joesef released his debut album, ­Permanent Damage, a collection of alternative-soul songs through which he pours his heart out. Through 13 songs, he touches on heartbreak, self-worth, and coming to terms with the idea that you can change after a relationship.

The National: Permanent Damage, his debut albumPermanent Damage, his debut album (Image: Josef)

With honey-soaked vocals and brutally honest lyrics, Joesef takes his time until “the damage seeps in just enough to change”.

Originally from Garthamlock in the north-east of Glasgow, the Scottish artist is currently on tour. ­After having established himself in his native country and headlined several sold-out gigs, he’s on the cusp of international fame.

When asked to describe his music, Joesef pulls a UNO reverse card. “How would you describe it?” he playfully asks.

Electric, poetic, relatable? “Nice, I like that,” he smiles. “I think honest, warm and colourful. It’s weird adjectives, but I think of music as a warm ­colour.”

Joesef had pretty much finished the album, when he felt he had one more song in him. The fifth track on Permanent Damage, Borderline, is the one song he still struggles to sing live.

READ MORE: Consecration star Jena Malone 'wants to spend more time in Scotland'

“I think it’s quite emotional, I still struggle to sing it,” he admits. “Lyrically, Borderline was probably the hardest song to leave as it is, it’s quite quiet. The subject matter is very fresh, it was the last song I wrote for the album, and I was very much going through it.”

He continues: “It’s about admitting that you’re ­never going to be enough, that you don’t give somebody what they deserve even though they are perfect and would give everything to you. I think that’s harder than a nasty break-up, because it’s not anybody’s fault. It’s just: ‘I’m sorry I can’t be that for you right now’.”

According to the soulful Glaswegian, most of the album is about somebody else. But there is an “uplifting” song about himself – and it’s one of his ­favourites to perform live.

Speaking of heartfelt, banger Joe, he explains: “It’s about my relationship with myself, and the mental health struggle that I’ve always kind of had. Puberty hit me like a train, I was just automatically depressed.

“I think everybody struggles with that aspect of being overly critical of yourself, and that’s what Joe’s about. Joe came from such a lonely place, but it’s such a ­unifying, uplifting moment in the set. It feels like it’s such a positive out of a ­negative experience. I wasn’t really that fond of it when I made it, but now when I play it live, it’s one of my favourite songs.”

The singer made his acting debut in the ­video clip for Joe.

“It’s quite different, man. When I first started, I wouldn’t let anybody see my face and all that. And this is very forward facing, and I’m ­kissing a guy, and it’s quite a strange experience,” he says.

“Have you ever done anything like that yourself?”

This reporter admits they don’t like being on camera. Joesef can’t help but agree.

“It’s very much against everything that I like. I hate having my photo taken. I hate people filming me, but with this job, it’s actually really fun.”

Inspired by a pack of fags plastered with warning signs, Permanent Damage is about change and being changed. Is there anything the Glaswegian would tell his former self?

“I don’t think there’s anything I can say to my former self that would make him listen to me. I’m a very strong-minded person. You just have to blaze your own trail and find out for yourself because anybody could tell you anything. I’m just gonna do what I’m gonna do, make the mistakes, and find out for myself really,” he notes.

His lyrics are heartfelt and personal. There’s nothing he wouldn’t write about, as he points out, “nothing is off the table.”

“Sometimes I feel like I’m quite ­protective or private of my personal life. But then when I say it in music and talk about it in that way, I feel like it’s ­easier to articulate how I’m feeling. I don’t think anything’s off the table because it kind of helps me articulate my emotions in a way that I feel very comfortable,” he says.

READ MORE: Darren McGarvey talks The Social Distance Between Us and Scottish independence

For the majority of his life, Joesef felt like he was wandering aimlessly. But ­music changed everything. And, it all ­began when, nine pints deep, he sang California Dreaming at an open mic in a bar. After realising his potential, the guy he was with became his manager. With music, it feels less lonely.

“I’ve been quite aimless and not ­really tied out to anything. But when you get into music, you meet people and they have a connection. I feel like it’s ­something

I’ve always felt was missing that I didn’t even know what it was. So when I meet people, and they’re like: ‘Oh my God, that helped me so much’, it makes you feel a little bit less alone, whatever your ­ struggles are.”

Growing up in what he describes as a “very masculine” Glasgow, Joesef found it hard to navigate his queerness.

“It was difficult, man,” he says softly. “I feel like it is for most queer people ­anywhere. I grew up in a very working-class background in a deprived area, it was very masculine. People would just think with their fists and think about the consequences later.”

In Garthamlock, it was difficult to “not stand out”.

“If you wanted anything other than what was ‘normal’, it was hard to not stand out and have a target on your back. I think I had an easier time than most people, I grew up with two older ­brothers, I could always fight my way out of ­anything if I had to,” he recalls.

However, the Glaswegian feels his ­experience has set him up for life – with quite the advantage. “Character ­building”, he laughs.

“I feel I’m way more ­empathetic to ­people that I meet because I ­understand what it is to be picked on. There’s a ­positive aspect of having a ­familiarity with people who are going through ­struggles because you’ve struggled ­yourself.”

In his songs, he uses snippets of ­conversations he has had with people he dated. Does the singer ever feel wary of their reaction?

“Oh honey, they know, and they love it,” he says with the widest grin. “I feel like I’ve been very lucky. I never slag ­anybody off, I’m not saying like: ‘You’ve got a tiny cock’ or anything like that, I think that works in my favour.”

According to Joesef, it would be ­impossible for past lovers to not realise his songs are about them. Particularly when it comes to the standout song, ­Borderline, in which he boldly asks: ­“Remember what you loved me for?”

“There’s so many specific parts in the songs that I’ve directly taken, ­little ­conversations that I’ve had with ­somebody are in the song. They’ve been really good sports about it, but I don’t know how much longer I can get away with that. Maybe I’m going to write about the wrong person, and there’s ­gonna be some sort of article coming out,” he laughs.

Back in October, Joesef met novelist Douglas Stuart to chat about their shared backstories with Rolling Stone Magazine. Douglas, who has been listening to the soul-pop singer with his husband, made it clear that Joesef’s art is intertwined with the world of his second novel, Young Mungo.

READ MORE: Douglas Stuart on Shuggie Bain, New York and changing face of Glasgow

Once Young Mungo is adapted for TV, Joesef would love to get involved. “I would do anything for Douglas. Shuggie Bain and Young Mungo changed my life.”

Before reading Douglas’s work, ­Joesef had never heard people talk about ­Glasgow in such a way.

“I’ve never heard people talk about it so accurately and so beautifully. I’d love to have a cameo or write a theme tune or something,” he confides.

When he wrote East End Coast, ­Joesef was reading Shuggie Bain, the story of a sweet but lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow.

Speaking of Douglas’s prose, he notes: “The language he uses when he’s talking about Glasgow, it doesn’t shy away from the brutality of the experiences that ­people are going through, but he tells it in a really beautiful way. I feel like you can’t talk about Glasgow without talking about the hard times, but there’s so much light and hope.”

For Joesef, it’s all about the ­“juxtaposition” of a gruesome subject ­being delivered in a romantic way. In East End Coast, Joesef sings his own love letter to his native city. “Permanently” on his own, he can’t help but miss Glasgow.

As he now lives in London, one can’t help but wonder: Would he ever move back home?

“I’ll probably die in Glasgow. That’s very morbid,” he laughs. “If I ever have kids, I would move back to Glasgow, I’d definitely be buried there.”

What he treasures most about his city, is the people and their sense of humour. After all, “People Make Glasgow”, right?

“People are fucking hilarious there. There’s a level of transparency and ­community that I don’t really feel ­anywhere else. It’s very much like ­everybody feels like we know each ­other, and if they don’t, we’ll get to know you. You can’t sit at a pub by yourself without having a conversation with ­someone,” he smiles.

As our conversation comes to an end, the reporter asks if there’s one thing people should know about him.

“I’m not sad. I feel like when people meet me, they’re expecting me to be like, hi,” he says, mimicking a long and sad face. “But, it’s just not my character. I’m very much jovial and probably like the class clown at school. Always ­making jokes, making light of the situation. I think it’s a Scottish thing.

“I’m just a happy boy,” he concludes.