Interview with JOY.
If you’ve somehow been away from the planet in recent months, you may not have heard of JOY., Brisbane-born wunderkind of only 18. The singer/producer has made a large, ethereal splash in waters both big and small with her acclaimed EP, ODE, (which we reviewed here), and is now midway through her first national headline tour. Straight off the plane from Sydney, JOY. sat down with me to chat about travel, Drake, and expanding her musical horizons.
Anna: ODE has attracted massive international attention. What was the transition from local to international like for you?
JOY.: Really weird. Especially because it was like a bedroom project, and then I signed a record deal and a publishing deal and I went over to the States for a long time to work with a writer and a producer. So it was really weird. It wasn’t like you go over there and it’s all Hollywood and Drake, it’s more like hanging out with really sick people behind the scenes, like people who had written for Beyonce or Katy Perry or whatever. It’s a very weird lifestyle I guess. I don’t think the transition was like you woke up one day and something happened; it was very gradual.
If I were a superhuman, I would be half Beyonce and half Mark Ronson.
Anna: When you talk about the production side of it, that’s something people really responded to with the album. Is that production aspect of your music something you’d like to work on equal to or more than the vocals?
JOY.: I think I want to be half producer and half artist. If I were a superhuman, I would be half Beyonce and half Mark Ronson. I feel like it’s going to be a very hard thing to balance, but I really like producing for other people as well. I find it really fun. Like, I really love hip-hop and my stuff’s not very hip-hop at the moment, so you can make all these weird beats that you would never use and then just give them to other people. But then again, I like playing shows, so I’d want to balance that as best I can.
Anna: Is that hip-hop element something you’d want to introduce to your music later on?
JOY.: I am introducing it in the newest stuff, I think. I really want to. When I sing on any of my hip-hop beats, it doesn’t really sound hip-hoppy, it just sounds ethereal and I don’t know why, it’s just my voice. But it’s definitely something I want to start doing more of. Less cinematic shit.
Anna: Lyrically, the EP is pretty profound and emotional. What was the song-writing process like for it?
JOY.: I’m the type of person who won’t work unless I have a stupid deadline, so I had a couple weeks to do it. I don’t even know how it came about. I had a couple of beats hanging around and I had a bunch of lyrics in my phone, and I kind of just pieced it all together, redid all the beats, and recorded it. A lot of the songs had actually just been written on a piano beforehand, and then I just kind of produced them.
Anna: And you’ve worked with so many cool and different people in the past, particularly in America. Who would be your dream collab?
JOY.: I feel like I wouldn’t know until I work with them, because you might think someone’s cool until you work with them and then you hate them. I guess the typical stuff like Kanye, Drake. I really want to write with Stevie Nicks from Fleetwood Mac. I think that would just be awesome on a song-writing level. Enya would be cool, Bon Iver would be cool.
Anna: Recently you’ve done lots of live dates and lots of touring. What do you love and/or hate about live performances?
JOY.: Touring’s really fun but I always get sick. I have a normal immune system but when you don’t sleep for a long time it kind of just hits you and you die. I’m a horrible singer, I don’t warm up properly and stuff like that when I do a show. Touring is really fun though. I played my first headline show the other day in Melbourne and it was sold out, and it was weird playing to a crowd that was actually listening. I’ve only ever played opening slots for people and there’re like six people there on their phones.
If I hadn’t started working with other people or signed a publishing deal I’d probably still just be in my bedroom.
Anna: Getting picked up quite young and then having the mobility and flexibility to work on your music career so intensely, do you think that at all affected your musical process?
JOY.: You kind of get put with different people to work with and that influences what you’re making. If I hadn’t started working with other people or signed a publishing deal I’d probably still just be in my bedroom. But I think your whole sound changes depending on who you’re around.
Anna: What are you looking at for the future?
JOY.: I want to keep writing. I want to put out an album, but I think it will take me so long to do that I might just do a couple more EPs first. There are some really different sounds that I want to get into, rather than just my normal sound, so I want to experiment with that, maybe even have an EP where I’m not singing on it, just random beats and stuff or get other people on it. I want to do more shows, more festivals, travel. I want to go to exotic countries. It’s pretty good — you can work and holiday at the same time.