Thursday, August 19, 2010

Interview with singer/songwriter, Joy Williams


I’m so excited about this interview with one of my very favorite artists, Joy Williams! I’ve followed Joy’s music for years now. I started listening to her when she released her first Christian/pop cd back in 2001. Now a successful indie artist with her beautiful solo music as well as in her duo, The Civil Wars. This interview was originally posted on the E-zine I co-run with my friends called, The Waking. Not sure if I’ve ever talked about The Waking on here before. But we do interviews with creative people, reviews of cds/books/movies, write blogs on God & life, and post recipes. I’m actually planning to start posting some of the artist interviews we’ve done on The Waking here on Ink & Frosting! We’ve had some good ones so I was thinking of posting one each month. So be on the look out for that, I think you guys will enjoy them! And please check out our E-zine sometime!

But for now I hope you enjoy this interview with Joy Williams, and don’t forget to check out her music!

TW: In April you released your 4th solo Ep, "We Mapped The World", which we loved by the way! Could you tell us what the writing and recording process was like for this Ep?

Joy: Glad you like it. I really enjoyed the process of making the EP. Writing wise, those songs came in a season where my husband, Nate, and I traveled Europe together for over a month. We wanted to travel light, so our suitcase was just one standard school-sized backpack that we shared. We wanted to see, to explore, to be unfettered! We visited 6 different countries, and the unique feel of each place we experienced seemed to linger with me even after returning home. When I managed to finish all the songs, I worked with an amazingly talented artist/producer named Daniel James. We set out to create a different sound on the EP than others I’d made before. I wanted this one to match that batch of songs, which seemed to be a bit moodier, a little mysterious, slightly more raw sounding. So, we limited ourselves in studio to inspire a unique kind of creating. We set to stomping our own feet to create drum tracks, used other unexpected ambient noises in lieu of some more obvious sounds/tones, etc. I was really pleased with the way it all turned out, and really felt like Daniel helped capture what I’d been hearing in my head all along. 

TW: "Lover, Find Your Cover" is one of our favorite songs. The lyrics are so poetic and beautiful. Can you tell us a little about the meaning behind this song and what inspired you to write it?

Joy: Believe it or not, “Lover, Find Your Cover” is one of the very first songs I’ve written completely on my own. I’d spent years co-writing, collaborating, etc, but as I made a point to create alone...this song rose to the surface for me. After our European adventures, I found myself home alone on a rainy night, contemplative, red wine in hand, at the piano. And these lyrics started pouring out- about savoring the quiet, the comfort that night can bring, being present to recognize the beauty in small things, the power in being vulnerable, of loving and being loved in those moments. That description might sound broad and meandering, but in all honesty? I never tried to wrangle the inspiration that night. I didn’t want to force it to fit into anything too “scene-specific”. I just followed the Muse, and that is where she led me. 

TW: "Woman of a City" is such a unique and interesting song. We love the sound of the pounding drums! What's the story behind it?

Joy: “Woman of a City” was inspired by Prague, actually. When Nate and I stepped off the train there, I could almost feel the history in the air. Political and economic strife within that region has been plentiful over the years, but the art, architecture and the music seemed to only become that much more breathtaking because of it. To me, there was a kind of moodiness that soaked Prague- unflinching, intriguing, lovely. I wrote a blog about the city a few days later, describing Prague as if it was a woman worn wise with time, with stories and beauty...all born out of struggle.

TW: So many of your songs have been used in tv shows such as; "Drop Dead Diva", "Grey's Anatomy", and "90210".  How did those opportunities come about? And what is it like to have your music exposed to such a wide audience; how has the response been?

Joy: It’s been a fun surprise to see several songs get picked up for TV and film. I work with a great company out in LA who pitches songs, but a few of those placements came from personal relationships I and Nate had organically with people in the business. Responses over some of the songs has blown me away. Placements can be like lifeblood to an independent artist, bringing exposure and income to make it all the more feasible to do what it is that I love to do: keep making music. :)

TW: Apart from your solo music you are also in a incredible duo called, "The Civil Wars", along with musician, John Paul White. Can you tell us how you two met and how this collaboration came about?

Joy: We met at a random co-write that our (then) publishers arranged. The moment we started singing together, it was like we’d been singing for years. It was beyond strange, but magical for both of us. Months later, we decided to stop shuffling around and both agreed to start a band together.

TW: I recently heard you guys are recording a full length album. What is it like to record with John Paul? And what can we expect to hear on it?

Joy: We are making the final touches on the full length this week, actually. It will be releasing soon! I’m thrilled with how it turned out. The only thing is that it’s really awful recording with John Paul. We don’t work well together, enjoy each other’s company, or crack jokes all the time at all. (pause) See, if John Paul were here right now, he would inevitably have something witty and impishly sarcastic to throw back at me. It’s just plain weird talking about John Paul and The Civil Wars without him. :) Honestly, he is like family, and I’m looking forward to many years of writing and touring together.

TW: The song "Poison & Wine" cemented our love of The Civil Wars. What was the inspiration behind that song?

Joy: Truly, that song took on a life of it’s own even as we were writing it. We wanted to create something that could reflect not just how each of us battles within romantic relationships, but also reflect how someone might battle dealing with addiction, a job, their faith, their past, etc.

TW: Who or what inspires creativity in you? And what do you do when writers block sets in and the songs don't seem to flow as easily?

Joy: Truth and beauty inspires me. The art of story inspires me. When writer’s block sets in, I worry just like every other songwriter might. Then I go for a walk outside, or I re-read books like The War of Art (by Steven Pressfield) and Bird By Bird (by Anne Lamott). I am reminded that it is not as scary as it may feel. And then, a little later, I sit myself back down at the piano and try again...and again...and again...

TW: What are some things you love to do in your spare time, when you're not touring and recording?

Joy: I love hanging with friends and family, I love being creative in the kitchen, I love being outdoors, love reading, love watching movies, etc...

TW: What plans are up ahead for you and for The Civil Wars?

Joy: Well, with our full length set to release in the near future, The Civil Wars has just hit the road this week for a 20+ city tour. (Come hang out with us, if you like! For show listings, see We are out on the road with a good friend and great artist, Madi Diaz. Solo-wise, I am writing consistently for tv/film, and am also trying to give myself a little headspace to concoct the next batch of songs for a hopeful solo full length in the not too distant future.

You can purchase Joy's Ep, "We Mapped The World", as well as others at iTunes or Amazon.


  1. Krystal, I loved this interview..I kept wanting to read it.. and finally have had the chance to, without feeling rushed! ;)

    I loved learning more about Joy! I like her new style so very much, very lively, cheerful, creative, bouncy and just very STYLEish from her heart.

    My favorite (new!) song I have bumped into of hers after charmed life is Sunny Days.

    I found it interesting to learn about her Europe backpacking experience, and also I love what she said here: "So, we limited ourselves in studio to inspire a unique kind of creating." -- it is amazing how God works like this.. I just read the other day again in the Bible where Jesus tells his disciples that they are it, the equipment is simple, and you don't need a whole campaign and funding to get started, you just dive in and follow Him!

    I love what she shared about truth and beauty inspiring her. This resonates deeply with me especially lately. I used to think that beauty was luxury and so much has changed now and I embrace simplicity, creativity, beauty and God's provision in my life, and it just feels like the perfect package of essentials. We have to get inspiration from the Source, it just can't be found anywhere else. So, I enjoy nature, solitude, and all that reflects back the Deeper Waters of soul.

    hugs, great interview and thank you for sharing here! I look forward to you sharing more of The Waking interviews here also, since I am don't head over to MySpace much anymore.

    take care, Jenn

  2. So glad you had the chance to read and enjoy the interview, Jenn!!

    I was so excited to be able to do this interview with Joy! Her answers were very inspiring me. I also loved hearing about her trip to Europe and how it basicly inspired the whole ep. After hearing the stories behind the songs and the creative way in which she wrote and recorded them, I feel like I almost hear them in a new way. They seem to have come alive for me that much more. And it's true that we don't need all the bells and whistles to create something beautiful. Most of time it is just as simple as, like you said, diving in and following God. :)

    I also found myself relating to what she said about being inspired by beauty and truth. I can't think of a more perfect discription of what I find myself constantly inspired by.

    It's so easy to, like you said, see beauty as a luxury. But I think a life lived in God's presence means finding beauty and truth in so many different and unexpected places. In the simple things. And it's true, we can't find inspiration, as well as beauty and truth, anywhere else but the source of it.

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting Jenn!! And, yes, I will definitely be posting more interviews from The Waking really soon!! :)