Joy Williams Interview: “Innovate, Not Imitate”

Julia Braverman, GRAMMY Camp LA 2015

On June 23, guest professionals from all aspects of the music industry came to GRAMMY Camp at the University of Southern California to speak about their successful careers and share expertise in their fields. Joy Williams, a GRAMMY-winning singer/songwriter and co-founder of Sensibility Music, came to speak to the camp about her creative process and her business experience.

Q: How important is it for you to share your experiences and spread your knowledge to the GRAMMY Camp?

A: Well, I don’t know if I have a ton of knowledge as much as just a story to share. I feel like we all get a little smarter and maybe a little more compassionate and creative when we share. It’s just really fun for me to be able to give in this way, because it actually makes me think about, “How do I create?” “What are the things I would actually share with people?” “What has worked for me, and what hasn’t?” I feel like it hones in my creative energy, too.

Q: So I know that your album VENUS soon. Isn’t it coming out on Monday?

A: It is coming out so soon! June 29. I’ve got all the feels!

Q: What was your favorite song to record on the new album?

A: Oh, gosh. I feel like that’s asking me to pick a favorite family member. I think every one honestly had its own journey, but one of my favorites is a song called, “Sweet Love of Mine,” because it was a voice memo that I had when I gave birth to Miles. He was little, tiny and pink, and like seven days old. There’s this old tradition that I read about that when women find out they’re pregnant, they would be sent out into the forest to find a melody for their child and then they would bring it back and teach it to the village and it would become the child’s ‘theme song.’ This song would be sung at the birth, at rites of passages, and ultimately even their passing much further down the line. So I thought that I missed it, I’ve always loved the idea of it, but I’d missed it; I had given birth and I didn’t feel like I had time to hear the melody. But then, he was a week old, and I was holding him on the porch outside in Nashville, and this melody came to me. That doesn’t happen very often, so I saved it on my phone. You can still hear Miles cooing in it, but I kind of just closed the door to [the melody]. Two years later, when I was working on making my solo album, this melody just popped right back into my head, and so writing it and finishing it was a really sweet labor of love, no pun intended. It was a really cool way to see a song mature, shift, and change over the course of a really long time. That’s probably one of my favorites.

Q: This album is a different sound, it’s a little more pop. Tell me what that was like trying to transition and do something new.

A: I was really excited about and remain proud of what I did in The Civil Wars. I wanted to take the best parts of what I’ve learned and incorporate it into a new sound. That involved being brave, and going back to my own influences which were Kate Bush, Portishead and even some hip-hop that I listen to. I was really interested in innovating and not imitating music that I’ve heard and made before, so I’m innately curious. I always want to do something new.

In the Spotlight

Maxwell Yi

GRAMMY Camp (LA 2013, LA 2014), GRAMMY Signature Schools


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