Joe Keery Finds It 'Validating' His Song 'End of Beginning' About Life Before “Stranger Things” Has Gone Viral (Exclusive)

The singer/actor, who releases indie music under the moniker Djo, has seen a viral hit that cracked the Top 40 of the Hot 100 with 'End of Beginning'

<p>Jamie McCarthy/WireImage</p> Joe Keery at the Vanity Fair Oscars party in Beverly Hills on March 10, 2024

Jamie McCarthy/WireImage

Joe Keery at the Vanity Fair Oscars party in Beverly Hills on March 10, 2024

Before Joe Keery became a household name — known for his role (and hair!) as Steve Harrington on Stranger Things — he was a local celebrity in the Chicago music scene.

The musician/actor, 31, was a member of the psych-rock group Post Animal, friendly with indie legends like Twin Peaks and Whitney and a fixture of the local community for years — which is something that indie music fans and Chicagoans alike have long treated like a fun fact.

It’s heartwarming then, and a bit surreal for Keery, that the one song from his solo music project as Djo that’s gone viral and broken into the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 is “End of Beginning,” his reflectant track about his early 20s spent in Chicago.

“It's pretty crazy to see the reaction to the song,” Keery says, noting that he originally put it out over a year-and-a-half ago on his 2022 album DECIDE. “I have not totally moved on, but I’ve put it out and am at peace with it, so to see it now take new life has kind of made me reflect again on that time.”

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The “Roddy” singer says that he returns to memories of “the camaraderie of all the bands back then.” “Everybody was giving each other a leg up,” he reminisces. “Obviously, you wanted to perform well and write something interesting, but it was also a real sense of getting into it and doing something for the love of being creative.”

On the Djo track, which was a dreamy synth-pop standout on his sophomore album and recently took off thanks to TikTok, the musician sings of both loving a time and place and recognizing when to move on.

“And when I'm back in Chicago, I feel it / Another version of me, I was in it / I wave goodbye to the end of beginning,” he lulls on the chorus while attempting to let go of nostalgia and look towards the future — which, for him, meant bidding farewell to DIY shows and easing into a successful career on screen. (In addition to Stranger Things, he’s also starred in the blockbuster Free Guy, the indie thriller Spree and, most recently, in the latest season of Fargo, among other projects.)

<p>Guido Gazzilli</p> Joe Keery's musical project as Djo

Guido Gazzilli

Joe Keery's musical project as Djo

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Now, Keery feels as though he’s “halfway there” in his journey to remain present, as he advocates for on “End of Beginning.” “I feel like maybe there are certain things that I was going through at that time in my life that I feel I have maybe come to terms with or been able to work past,” he shares. “But the challenge is never over and you're always working towards self betterment and trying to live a more fulfilled and happy life.”

Ultimately, it’s been rewarding to see how much that message has resonated with fans, as he describes how “insane” it felt when his friend/producer Adam Thein’s wife notified the two that she had noticed the song going viral.

“I'm just making sure that I'm telling myself every day to be very thankful,” he continues. “It's crazy because I know that things like this don't happen very often and it's something to be proud of and appreciate.”

He explains that it has also felt “validating” for him as an artist, considering Djo a side, passion project. “It's just mostly cool that I wrote about something that felt really specific to me in my life and turns out that a lot of people can connect with that same feeling,” the indie artist shares. “I've had a really cool experience with Stranger Things, obviously, but I wasn't the writer of that. So this is my first foray into writing something and having it connect with people.”

Keery continues, “Now the job is to continue trying to just do the same thing: Keep writing songs and not getting too far ahead myself.”

<p>Scott Legato/Getty</p> Joe Keery performing as Djo at Lollapalooza in Chicago in July 2022

Scott Legato/Getty

Joe Keery performing as Djo at Lollapalooza in Chicago in July 2022

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Another project will soon come off the heels of “End of Beginning.” Djo’s third studio album has yet to be officially announced, but he says that it’s on the way and “definitely an interest” of his to include collaborations.

The “Runner” singer admits that he also has “aspirations” to tour after he bids farewell to being the “mom” of the Hawkins AV club when the fifth and final season of Stranger Things wraps production. The shows would mark his first-ever live run as Djo, and while he might be playing stages bigger than the ones at the Chicago DIY venues that he frequented nearly a decade ago, he envisions bringing that energy back out on the road.

His dream tour simply consists of “just me and all the friends in a big tour van traveling around” and making “the experience as fun as possible” for both themselves and fans.

It’s unclear who he’d like to tap for an opener at this time, but the suggestion of reuniting with Post Animal and bringing them along for the run elicits nothing but excitement. “That would be insanely fun. I’ll steal [the] idea,” he says with a laugh — as if the dream of being “back in Chicago” has the ability to take on a new life in the present, just like “End of Beginning.”

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