10 Mar THE SEARCH FOR JOY CONAWAY
After two interviews with male-based bands (a HUGE thank you to The Polarizers and Chasing Moonlight!), I found myself wanting to shine the third interview’s spotlight on a strong, creative female in the indie space. As is the case with most artistic epiphanies I have, this one struck me in the earliest hours of the morning when I was already in the midst of convincing myself I should stop fighting slumber. With one eye open, I spied the half cup of coffee on the bedside table and thought: to hell with it! I’m NOT waiting until tomorrow. I must find this artist NOW…or, at least, once I’ve consumed the balance of the now lukewarm double dark potion, er, coffee.
And that’s what I did! I drank the coffee and began the search on social media. When I’m overtired from swimming in the creative arts, I’m uncommonly decisive. Whereas I would usually agonize over every detail of every artist I came across, here I was clicking and scrolling in somewhat of a frenzy. I knew she was out there. I just had to find her. Click. Scroll. Click. Scroll. Click. Scroll. STOP.
When I first heard Joy Conaway’s “Forever Song” I forgot the music flowed through my Audeze headphones. I forgot I was in my pajamas, perched atop a mountain of blankets in my guest room. I saw a lush forest of green and flowers budding in every bright color. I felt like I was running barefoot, alone in an ancient oasis of nature, in the type of gauzy, layered, ankle-length dress I would never actually wear in real life (but very much enjoyed wearing in my mind while listening to the track). “Forever Song” served as my gateway to the rest of Joy Conaway’s EP, A Tale of Joy & Sorrow, and those four sweet and emotionally powerful songs remained in steady rotation in my headphones for nearly an hour before I realized I still needed to reach out to her. (Listening links provided below. You won’t be disappointed!)
When Joy responded to my request for an MMM interview, I was absolutely ecstatic. (So much so that I actually screamed aloud in delight when I saw her first message.) In the days leading up to our meeting, I worried I might be too excited to speak with her. A Tale of Joy & Sorrow had evoked such emotion in me, I was concerned I might have lifted the idea of her too high in my mind. But I hadn’t! From the first moments I saw her onscreen, I knew she was as authentic and vibrant as her songs. I smiled throughout the entire interview, floored by her humbleness, her honesty, and her uniqueness.
Our conversation is chronicled below in a pure Q & A format.
Q & A:
Can you tell us about your latest EP, A Tale of Joy & Sorrow?
JOY: I’m kind of like a kid at heart. I’m an artist. One of my favorite movies is The Chronicles of Narnia, and I like the idea of being in this world, but knowing there is something that can take you somewhere else. I create a story, musically, because I want to take the listener to a fantasy-type place, a special space where anyone can listen.
“Forever Song” is my personal favorite on the EP – can you speak a little bit about it? Is there a story behind it?
JOY: For a while I was going to a lot of musical festivals, and I liked the atmosphere. It didn’t matter whether you were white, black, gay, straight, handicapped – everyone was there, and it was the MUSIC that brought them all together. I wanted to create a song that featured a vibe like that. You could sing “Forever Song” at a festival, and that’s why I connected so much with the song.
What it is like working with and writing with The Gigabots (Douglas Whatley & Prem Midha)?
JOY: It works because we are actual friends. It’s not just business and music – it’s about the journey. It’s about the creative process. It’s about everything. We’ve become, kind of, like a family, and I LOVE them! Doug and Prem have done SO much for the project – it’s their lyrics, and their music, and it’s like a one, two, three triangle type of thing. It’s very collaborative. When you are oiling a machine, there’s certain steps. With every step, we touch base and accomplish each task, making the creative run like a machine. It’s hard work, but, with their help, it’s been a lot easier. I just really appreciate them.
How would you categorize your music in your own words?
JOY: I would like to say that it’s FUN! I’m a fun person, and I like to have a good time. My music reflects that. It creates a story for you, and that’s what I want people to gain from it. My songs will take you through different emotions.
Do you have a routine or something special you do to prepare for recordings?
JOY: When it comes to music, there is always that one thing that somebody is REALLY, really, good at. And, for me, music is something that I’m REALLY, really good at. To perfect my craft, I always try to learn the music before. Even if it sounds tedious and redundant, it helps the session flow. Then, we’re not starting and stopping and trying to find a vibe. We’re in there, and it’s been rehearsed, but it is still something that’s a good, finished product as well. I definitely like to learn the material before I go into the studio.
Do you have a certain time of day that you feel like you are more “on”, or as long as you feel prepared, it doesn’t matter what time it is?
JOY: You know, that is actually a really good question! I don’t think there is a certain time that I am “on”. If I know I have a show lined up, I will rehearse at the same time as the show for a week leading up to it, so that I train myself to already be ready to perform at that exact time.
Tell us about the recording studio(s) you use. What do you like best about it/them and the engineers that work there?
JOY: I guess what I like most about recording is that I’m able to act out the emotion that I’m trying to convey. Sometimes it makes me think about hurt times, happy times, or sad times, but it’s always an authentic emotion. I really like to place myself in that emotion to get that sound across. I really like to get in a zone. As far as engineers, I really love how Prem and I work. For a while, I was very self-conscious about my vocals. I mean, there are just so many singers, and sometimes you question yourself: Uh, am I REALLY as good as _____?
When Prem and I started working together, my weakness was that I would always sing a lot of runs vocally to try to grab the attention. Prem would tell me, “Joy, just sing the song.” Through that, I was able to find my tone and my singing voice. He coached me through the process, and I started gaining confidence, and I felt like: Okay, I can do this! They believe in me. I have a machine that’s helping me run. As far as engineers, I really enjoy working with Prem. We would record in his old house in the closet.
What is it like to be a recording artist in Atlanta? Do you feel like the city embraces you?
JOY: I love Atlanta! The people here have been the MOST supportive. You know, you start seeing the same faces at shows, but then they are bringing other new faces with them. The fans grow with you. I love the culture and the atmosphere here and making music here. It’s fun! It’s hard work, but people really do support you. I LOVE IT HERE!
What do you do when you are not making music?
JOY: I work. I believe if you have a dream, you need to work to make that dream happen. I support my dream through my work. The best part of having a job is meeting different people along the way that inspire you. It’s a journey, but it is paying off.
Who or What keeps you on track and continues to inspire you?
JOY: I would have to say: my husband! I love to be able to sing about love, and to know what that really feels like. It makes the music authentic for me, because I’ve really felt that emotion. He really motivates me, and he will do little things to encourage me on my journey. Things that I don’t have to ask him to do. That shows me he really believes in me and that this dream can happen. That’s inspiring to me – like, we have to do this!
At what point did you know music would play a major role in your life?
JOY: It was just something I could not get away from, no matter what. It didn’t matter what job I took; it was always just something that seemed to have my attention. In the morning, I was writing down different ideas and thinking of songs. And I knew I needed to put that to use. I realized I couldn’t keep running from music. It was slapping me in the face, so I figured I will do both. I have to chase this dream. I love the journey.
What album(s) could you never part with?
JOY: I almost want to open up my iTunes! Oh my gosh… Prince! Literally, anything Prince. I just, I can’t even –put my finger on just ONE Prince album. Graduation by Kanye West – that was a pretty great album, and so was The College Dropout. My life was kind of changed after those two Kanye albums, I’ll be honest with you. I’m kind of into old school music. Beyoncé’s, Dangerously In Love – I love Beyoncé’s artistry and her package and what she delivers. It’s an excellent product. Frank Ocean’s Nostalgia, Ultra – I really love that project. It was great. I’ll also say Earth, Wind & Fire, but I can’t pick an album. Michael Jackson, everything he’s done. Whitney Houston, any album she put out. She was one of the greatest! And I know those are, like, cliché artists, but I could literally put them in my CD player or iPod and sing the whole album from top to bottom. Those are the classics, man, and I cannot change that.
In additional to those, here’s a list of albums I love that brought me through:
Acoustic Soul (India.Arie); Southern Hummingbird (Tweet); Diary of Alicia Keys (Alicia Keys); Metropolis: The Chase Suite (Janelle Monáe); The Polkadotted Stripe (Jaspects); Sailing Soul(s) (Jhené Aiko); Vows (Kimbra); To Pimp a Butterfly (Kendrick Lamar); and A Seat at the Table (Solange Knowles).
These are some of my favorite songwriters:
Alicia Keys; Frank Ocean; Andre 3000; Phil Collins; Katy Perry; Sara Bareilles; Jarle Bernhoft; and Oren Lavie.
What current or emerging artists are you listening to – maybe that you saw recently at a festival or show?
JOY: Rahbi… his name is Rahbi, he’s excellent. His energy, his intensity. He brings an unforgettable show. Also, Angel White, she is incredible. She just released an EP called Day Sessions – ahhhh- she’s dope!
What’s the most encouraging comment you have received from a fan?
JOY: One of the most encouraging things is when I get messages from fans saying that “Monsters” really helped them. I received one that said, “I was really going through a rough time, and I listened to the song.” It means A LOT. I know I’m making a difference even if it’s one person at a time – I will take that! Some of the most encouraging comments have been messages like that one, thanking me for a particular song and letting me know that the music helped them through a difficult time. That is the most rewarding thing for me.
What do you want your listeners to take away from your music?
JOY: I want to be able to add a sense of peace to people’s lives. There are so many things going on in an individual’s life on a daily basis, different situations that happen and I know that GOOD music can help relieve some of that stress. You know, you’ve had a rough day, and you just need to be in a certain place of relief. And music can be a carrier for that release.
Are you currently working on new music? If so, can you give an estimated release date?
JOY: I AM going to be releasing another song! The date is still pending, but I want to say before May. It just has to be right before release, and sometimes it just takes time to get it right.
(Gasp!) Have you started recording it or are you and The Gigabots still in the writing process?
JOY: No, we have started recording. Slowly but surely it will become perfect.
Please let me know when it is released. MMM will definitely post about it on social media!
JOY: I will!
Do you have any performances scheduled in the near future?
JOY: I have a show March 9th in Atlanta sponsored by Hard Rock Café. I’m REALLY excited about it! It’s a 50 minute set. Two of my friends, Desi Raines and Erika JaNaé, will be singing and Remey Williams and DayShawn Mojica will also be performing, so it’s going to be a really good time. Really good music and really good vibes.
I need a portal to the show in Atlanta! I’m stuck in California!
Are there any people you’d like to give a shout-out to and/or any other artists you’d like to draw our attention to?
JOY: If I make a list, I might miss someone, but I would like to shout-out some people: my husband, Tyrone, definitely at the top of the list; my manager, Byanka, who has been helping me every step of the way; and The Gigabots – production, writing, music, friendship, and everything else you could hope for in the creative process. I also want to shout-out: my best friend Jayh; my stylist, Ashley Thai; my makeup artist, Dawn Marie; Joseph Brown and Mel Elder Jr., incredible hard working photographers; and Daniel and Meg! You da best!
As far as awesome artist shout-outs, I have to mention these artists you should LISTEN to: India Shawn, Micah Kiyo, Jimi Cravity, Siergio, Brik Liam, JK Howells, DayShawn Mojica, Remey Williams, Hey Jade Novah, Rolynee, and The Band of Brothers, an amazing Atlanta based band.
The indie artist scene is filled with so many talented artists. You ALL inspire me!
Please keep making amazing music with The Gigabots, Joy – I cannot wait to hear the new song!
Connect with Joy Conaway:
Listen to Joy Conaway:
YouTube: User: https://www.youtube.com/user/cjoyfulc/videos
Listen to what Joy Conaway is Listening to:
Spotify Playlist (User: Ivy Cayden, Playlist: MMM: Joy Conaway)