Recommended Cincinnati Concerts: Joy Williams at 20th Century Theater (Nov. 30)

The former Civil Wars singer/songwriter is still flying high, with a new, largely acoustic solo album, 'Front Porch,' due next year

click to enlarge Joy Williams - PHOTO: ANDY BARRON
Photo: Andy Barron
Joy Williams

Joy Williams has had a relatively wild career path over the past two decades, with plenty of personal and professional tumult along the way, specifically her Everest-high/Mariana-trench-low roller coaster ride with The Civil Wars.

The Michigan-born/California-raised singer/songwriter’s musical journey began in 1999 with her self-penned songs of spirituality and faith, which led to a contract with Reunion Records as a Contemporary Christian artist. At that point, Williams was 17 and still in high school. Over the subsequent few years, she forged a successful career in the Contemporary Christian world, then broke away from Reunion to start her own label and artist development company.

Williams was on a songwriting retreat in Nashville in 2008 when she was randomly paired with fellow singer/songwriter/solo artist John Paul White. The creative spark between them was undeniable. The following year they formed The Civil Wars and began writing Gothic Folk songs of romantic and doomed love that sounded like covers of tunes from a bygone era. The Civil Wars were an immediate hit. The duo won three Grammys for their exquisite 2011 studio debut, Barton Hollow, and another one for their 2013 self-titled sophomore album, but by then they had already announced their indefinite hiatus, which was upgraded to a break-up in 2014.

As soon as the hiatus was announced, Williams began collaborating with a wide variety of artists, including Chris Cornell, The National’s Matt Berninger and Paramore’s Hayley Williams. She had released four solo EPs during The Civil Wars’ tenure, and with the band’s official cessation in 2014, she commenced work on her first full-length solo album, Venus, which was released in 2015. All of the emotions that Williams had experienced in her life and career, from The Civil Wars’ dissolution and marital difficulties to motherhood and her father’s death, were grist for the songs on Venus. Late last year, while she was early in her second pregnancy (daughter Poppy Lou was born in August) and recently relocated in Nashville, she began work on her new, largely acoustic album, Front Porch, which is due in early 2019. Williams has already released two songs from the set, the haunting “Canary” and the quietly compelling “The Trouble with Wanting.”

With all of Joy Williams’ amazing accomplishments over the past 20 years, even greater triumphs may be waiting just over the next rise.


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