05 Oct JOY CONAWAY’S SOPHOMORE EP APRIL IN ATLANTA FEELS LIKE SUNSHINE
We’ve covered Joy Conaway twice on our blog before, and for good reason. The Atlanta-based indie-pop artist delivers a voice that soothes and a heart that can’t help but instill purity and positivity in every song she touches. What’s especially apparent in Joy’s newest EP, April In Atlanta, is her faithful commitment to honest, passionate, and purposeful songwriting. And that’s in part why this sophomore EP rises in rank above her previous releases. (Listen while you read.)
With this new installment, Joy welcomed and met the challenge of writing every lyric on each of these new tracks herself—and not a single word feels wasted or out of place. Here are some of my most-loved lyrics:
“Where do we go from here, and why did we leave the story unclear?”
–Gone With the Wind
“My ink won’t stain your skin. Let’s start right now and begin again.”
“Must be rain for rainbows, a devil for angels, the lost ones, a savior.”
“See this is how it starts, just one song. And now you’re on my mind all night long.”
–April in Atlanta
April In Atlanta gives us a deeper look into Joy’s world. We can see what fuels her, how she’s overcome dark moments and wants us to as well, and why she’s using her art to inspire change. Whenever I listen to these songs I feel as if the world is beginning to bloom. (And that’s SUCH a welcome image amidst our daily political turmoil and various personal pressures.) I love to play this EP while I’m engaged in creative work or simply seeking to unwind. Like a flower’s petals, the soft but textured sound gives birth to a chill, safe space you’ll probably catch yourself grooving to. If someone asked me to describe this EP in one word, I’d have to say “sunshine.”
In this interview, you’ll learn: all about Joy’s sophomore EP April In Atlanta; which artists, producers, and teammates played vital roles in taking this project from conception to release; who wrote and recorded the dreamy electric guitar intro for the EP’s title track; the gravity behind the loving lyrics in “Human;” what collection of movies inspired Joy to write “Gone With The Wind;” which track Joy considers “her baby;” the story behind Joy’s love of sunflowers; why she views planning as the most critical aspect of any artistic project; what she’s been doing lately to rest and seek inspiration; which other indie artists we should slide into our playlists; and when you catch Joy’s next performance.
The conversation from our interview is chronicled below in a pure Q + A format.
Q + A:
How does your newest EP, April in Atlanta, differ from your first EP, A Tale of Joy & Sorrow?
Joy: I still love the songs from the first EP, and I feel like they will always be a part of me; but the April in Atlanta EP is a little more personal, because I wrote ALL the songs. It’s my baby. My husband Tyrone produced this project, helped write songs, and sang background vocals. It’s really special to me, because we created the art together. It’s not only personal, but symbolic as well.
I told Tyrone what I was most nervous about this time around was that it was just us. There was no one else to fall back upon. And there were definitely some nerves attached to that.
The intimacy definitely comes across in these new tracks when you’re listening. The sound and lyrics seem to create a safe space that has a real grounding effect.
Joy: It’s great to talk to people who listen to your music and your art and give you feedback on the meaning it has to them. I always tell people I want my music to kind of be like the “no-judgement” peace and calm. When you play it, I don’t want there to be bad memories attached to the music.
Tell us about your writing process.
Joy: “Gone With The Wind” is about three years old, so that’s how long it’s been trying to get this project off the ground. One day, Tyrone came up with some new music, and he asked, “Hey, what do you think about this?” I wrote the lyrics, and it quickly became the first song on the EP. It was hard trying to create the other songs after it, because I wanted all of them to be as good as “Gone With The Wind.”
Sometimes I’d write songs but then the themes would feel scatter-brained and all over the place, and so it took me a minute to get to a place of writing where it all made sense. I would say January of this year through March of this year was HEAVY, heavy crunch time. We were writing. We were cutting vocals. One of my friends Dom Gryzboń—he’s an angel—mixed and mastered the project for me. I would send SO many emails, and he would just get it right EVERY single time. Every single note. It was the whole back and forth of getting it perfect at that point. But I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. It’s my project. It’s my baby. I wanted to make sure that it was going to be right. Those early months of this year were hectic for sure.
What was most memorable about recording these new songs in studio?
Joy: The whole EP was recorded in Atlanta. My friend Slim”wav (a member of the Band of Brothas) produced “Human” and “Gone With The Wind.” We recorded those vocals at his studio. Some of the vocals we recorded at SAE Institute Atlanta. My friend Tyler Sherard also helped with the project; he did production on “Lost Ones” in his home studio. (Tyler has been rocking with me and playing acoustic guitar for years.) And the rest of the vocals were recorded right at our house. At home, Tyrone set up the sessions, and we sang until it was right.
There’s always a story with every session for every song. When I was doing the vocals for “Lost Ones” I was very nervous, because the lead vocal doesn’t have a lot of effects. There’s no auto-tune and no background vocals—just me singing the song with nothing to hide behind. And I was worried, since we’d never released anything we recorded at home before. I told Tyrone, “I don’t know what this quality is going to sound like.” Then when I actually sang the first verse of “Lost Ones,” Tyrone kind of gave me this look, like, I think this is IT. Let’s keep moving in this direction. This is working.
I’m really grateful for Tyrone, that we’re able to do this together, to create together, and that music is something he TRULY GETS. He feels the artistry. This is the real support I need, and I’m honestly blessed.
How would you describe the sound of new EP in relation to what you had previously released? + What do you like best about it?
Joy: For this project, I wanted to stay with same acoustic pop singer-songwriter vibe. And so, I feel like, although The Gigabots produced the last project, the sound of this one is similar to the sound of my first EP.
What I like best about the April in Atlanta EP is that I really can say it’s a work of art that I wrote. It’s different when someone presents a song to you, and you sing and interpret it in your way as opposed to creating something yourself from the VERY beginning. There’s a different sense of ownership and pride that I have with this, because I WROTE these songs. I remember the mood and place I was in with each of these tracks, and I carry them a little differently.
Can you tell us a little bit about each of the 4 songs on the EP?
Joy: I grew up on Disney princess movies. I must have watched all of them. I wanted “Gone With the Wind” to be like a fairy tale/lullaby type song, and that was the vision, motivation, and fire behind it. I know it might sound cheesy, but that’s what inspired me with this first one.
“Human” was inspired by police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement. With this song, I wanted to show a different version of African Americans than what the media portrays. That what I was painting with the lyrics, “We are the same. Two hands. One heart and eyes.”
“Lost Ones” is my baby, baby, baby. I was SO nervous about this song. After this project was done, we sent it to Tunecore, and I felt like, I mean, I know we ONLY have 4 songs, but I really, REALLY want people to like to “Lost Ones.” I want them to listen to the lyrics, even if its just the chorus. It only took me ten minutes to write the chorus for this one. When I sung it to Tyrone, he whispered, “that’s going to be it.” And he assured me people would really take something away from the project by listening to *this* song. I wrote it when I was in a hopeless place. I’m still hanging on, and I know there’s still something out there. I wanted other people to know that, too.
Let me tell you about the title track “April in Atlanta.” My best friend (and Virgo sister) Erika Janaè recorded the electric guitar intro for the song. What’s funny is that we hadn’t heard it at all. Tyrone created a piano track, the percussion, and some background vocals. Erica let us know she also put something together for it, but warned us we might not like it. I said, “Let’s hear it.” When she played the track, Tyrone and I gave each other THE EYE, because we knew it was the right fit. Erika asked, “Are you sure you don’t want me to re-cut anything?” And I was like, “Sis, this is IT!” Erika and I make music together and perform at shows together. She’s an artist in her own right—we make music together and perform at shows together—and I just LOVED having that moment of creativity with her. It made me excited about the title track.
As a whole, the April In Atlanta EP is so near and dear to my heart, because so many caring hands touched it. People that mean a lot to me and support me. That’s what made it really just…special.
What do you want your fans to take away from this new release?
Joy: I want them to take away positivity. There’s a lot going on in the world and in people’s lives, and I want people to be able to listen to the EP and feel a fresh breath of air. That “ahhhhh” moment, even if it’s a sigh in your day. That’s honestly what I want my artistry to be, a fresh wind. You’re just inhaling, and then in that moment where you sigh it out, THAT’S where I want this EP to be.
What’s the most critical thing you’ve learned as an artist over the past year?
Joy: By nature, I’m a Virgo, so I’m very organized and strategic. It’s never too early to plan. Setting goals is critical for any artist, and that was the biggest part of this particular project for me. I learned to plan and hold myself accountable to those plans so deadlines weren’t missed. I also have to give special thanks here to Byanka Tucker for all that she does.
How do you unwind lately?
Joy: I won’t say there’s a *specific* thing I do to cultivate creativity, but, as of late, I really LOVE yoga. I’ve been trying to keep myself accountable by attending a yoga class at least once a week, just to get back out there. That’s my me-time, my down-time, my thinking time. When I’m there, I think about different covers I want to sing and new lyrics even emerge sometimes. I try to take yoga very seriously in the quiet time that the instructors allow, and that has helped me. That has been my calm.
What other artists should we slide into our playlists?
Joy: I always support my talented, Atlanta-based artist friends, and these are well-worth the listen:
The Band of Brothas is a hip-hop fusion/pop/R&B/soulful band. I love them! They are all musicians, producers, and artists in their own right.
Earlier I mentioned my close friend Erika Janaè. What I like most about her art is her ability to play such a variety of instruments: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, keys, trumpet, and more. She has the talent to create a song right on stage, and I love how she’s able to really bring the music to life.
Rahbi is a dope performer. I’ve seen his shows hundreds of times! Siergio is a singer-songwriter with incredible vocals as is Jade Novah and Angel White.
Other indie artists that always inspire are: Tony Eagle (that’s bae!), Chantae Cann, Angelina Sherie, Rolynee, Brik.Liam, Jayh, DayShawnx, Remey Williams, PJ Morton, and Lucky Daye.
What song did you last listen to on repeat?
Joy: It’s so crazy that you’re asking me this, because I really do play this one on repeat, A LOT! The song is “I am Light” by India Arie, who is probably my favorite vocalist. Much of my music is inspired by the acoustic soul she exudes in her artistry. That positive energy.
We’ve noticed you have a thing for sunflowers! Is there a story behind your fondness for them?
Joy: YES! This is kind of a two-part thing. Initially I just thought, Sunflowers—these are cool. I didn’t give thought to the meaning behind them. Then I was singing background vocals for an artist at a festival, and the stage was covered in all types of flowers. At the end of the show, myself and another background singer, Angel White (one of the Atlanta artists I mentioned earlier), decided to take some of the flowers home with us. From there, I began playing with the sunflowers and taking pictures with them.
At that point, I researched sunflowers, and learned about their association with vitality, harvest, good fortune, happiness, and prosperity. I thought, I WANT people to have all these things in their life. My attachment to sunflowers began as something simple and cute, but it turned into something solid and much deeper after researching their meaning.
What’s next? Will we be seeing any music videos or future performances to promote the April in Atlanta EP + are you already working on new music?
Joy: I work with an excellent videographer/cinematographer, Arie Raines. She’s already helped me with little promo ideas and shot some mini music videos, but I haven’t done a full production yet. That’s definitely the next step, and I’d love to work with her on a music video some time down the road.
As far as new music, I am taking a breather, but I have been writing as well. Tyrone is my biggest cheerleader and helps me keep myself accountable. He’s already said, “Well, bae…I know we JUST released this, but maybe we should release something else next year, or even in just a few months….” And he’s right. I don’t want to stop writing. While we have been working, we haven’t officially put a date on the next project yet. Right now, we’re sifting through ideas and seeing where things go musically.
My next performance, which I’m really excited about is with SoFar Sounds in Atlanta. I’ll keep you posted on the date, so you know when and where it will be. Hope to see you there!
Connect with Joy Conaway:
Listen to Joy Conaway’s April In Atlanta EP:
Read our previous posts about Joy Conaway:
Joy Conaway’s Newest Single “Alone” Is Summer Soundtrack Ready
The Search for Joy Conaway
Photo by Tyrone aka Tony Eagle