Download New Album: Joy Williams – Front Porch
Joy Williams comes through with a brand new smashing hot and dope studio album, packed with 12 amazing and solid tracks entitled “Front Porch“. These are things I like to toy with when I write as well. It’s like, “The Trouble with Wanting,” it’s the ache of desire. How do you access that and talk about it truthfully? How do you remember where you came from, with a song like “Preachers Daughter,” and be, like, no-holds-barred about it? What does it look like to talk about the difficulties in a long-term relationship? And when do you know when to hold on and when to let go? When does the heart move on? If you don’t linger for a moment to ponder this stuff, then you miss it, and then you’re just bulldozing through.
Some people do really great things, I suppose, or build big corporations doing that, but that’s just never been me. I have to sit and stop for a moment and take stock of what’s happening around me in order to be present in the way that I live, and love, and parent, and create. What I love about making music and just life in general, the front porch feels like an extension of that. When you come up on a front porch, or at least my front porch, you’re gonna see real life. There are kids’ toys, rocking chairs and a dusty mailbox. And a welcome mat that, six months ago the mat said bonjour and now the new one says, howdy. I love the idea of no pretense and that everybody’s welcome. And I feel like that’s what I’ve been learning in my life in general about just learning to love what is in my life, to love the beauty and challenges of life as it comes and remember that I’m connected and I have a place to belong, even if it’s just within myself. And that process really got crystallized when I was writing this record and wanted to call it Front Porch.
It basically alludes to the idea of simplicity and belonging. it has been really remarkable to see how much people are resonating with the music that’s out, even before the full record has been released. It makes my heart feel really happy and I know that sounds so cliché. But the reason it also feels so encouraging is because, like you mentioned, in an age of Instagram where we’re generally putting up a highlight reel of our lives, if I look at Instagram or social media in general too long it can bring up feelings of, “Oh my god, I think my life might suck, at least compared to everybody else.” And all I really want, though I wonder if this is a general desire, is to be seen and loved and valued for who I am, warts and all. And I think that is maybe just a deep human need in general, to feel seen and accepted and for life to not have to be this peachy, rosy all the time conversation. But instead it can be, “Here’s what I’m wrestling with and here’s what I don’t have answers to. Here’s how badly it hurts to desire something that you don’t know if it’ll ever come true.”
And I think that is maybe something that is connecting with other people. On man, do you have a hour and a half (laughs)? Basically anything Billie Holiday ever sang. There’s such an ache. Even when she is singing a happy song there’s an ache in her voice that arrested me the moment I heard it and I was probably 10 the first time I heard a Billie Holiday song. I remember sitting in my room, probably seventh or eighth grade, and hearing R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” and being like, “That’s my song!” There are songs that continue to resonate over the years where the ache feels real. I think people don’t want to feel alone. It’s really comforting to know I’m not the only one. So hearing music like that and hopefully writing some kind of music like that is hopefully a part of connecting with others. That song came out really, really easily. I wrote that with a songwriter, Natalie Hemby, who’s a dear friend of mine and a badass songwriter in her own right. We were writing at night and we’d already written one song. We got to talking over wine about how painful it is to desire something, someone and the idea of longing can feel really devastating. And I’d just had a conversation with one of my best friends earlier in that week, who’d had an on-again, off-again relationship with somebody for 10 years.
And that conversation was fresh in my mind. That’s where “The Trouble With Wanting” came from. And it was such an easy song to write. I’m singing these songs on a nightly basis when we go on the road and what I find really mysterious and somewhat intoxicating at times is while every crowd has a different personality, the songs each night also shape shift in their own ways. And singing these songs different lyrics will mean something different to me on a Monday then they will on the Wednesday when I’m on the road. And memories will come to mind while I’m singing certain lines that I haven’t thought of in years. So I think that’s sort of the mystic nature of making music is you really just become a bit of a conduit and then as you look up from time to time and look around you go, “Oh no, I had no idea that maybe was what I was writing about.” Or, “I had no idea that life experience would fit perfectly into this line that I was just writing at five PM last fall.” So it’s interesting how music shape shifts in that way. And it’s one of the things that keeps me so passionate about making music and loving to sing it each night. Absolutely, I love the challenge of re-imagining some songs that lived in other eras.
I sing some Civil Wars songs live in my set. I’m very proud of the music I made in that duo and that I co-wrote in that duo. And I’ve had a lot of fun re-imagining those and it’s been really fun to see people’s faces in the crowd that might not know that a Civil Wars song is coming. And all of a sudden their ears perk up and they start to sing along. And I re-imagine some songs that are from my last solo album, Venus, which was a sonic departure from what people would have known me for in the Civil Wars. And it was a sonic departure I felt I had to make in order to cleanse my palette so to speak. So coming back and doing music that feels the most comfortable to me it’s fun to include all of that. The first name that comes to mind is Emmylou Harris. I love her longevity, her courage, I love she worked with Daniel Lanois and I love that she is willing to branch out. I love Joni Mitchell for the way she fearlessly wrote and didn’t give two s**ts about what anybody thought about what she did. She just stayed the path, stayed on her course and did what she did. Basically what it is about artists that I love and this could be anyone from John Coltrane to Adele to Janis Joplin to Emmylou, is anyone who is willing to tell their truth and sometimes be willing to risk the rejection of that by taking the risk of that. So that’s what matters a lot to me and moves me as a human being and moves me as an artist to continue being open to evolve, whether that’s in life or music or both.
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