“The moxy was just to be very honest, starting with myself.”In the time between the band’s split and making her album, she became a mother, her relationship with husband Nate Yetton was on the rocks and her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died. It focuses on hope.“I wanted it to be a healing process and to write in a way that I found the glimmers and flickers of hope and fight, and letting go, and accepting and forgiving, and finding that there actually is another side once you move through the darkness, sometimes even more vivid and colourful than any place you were before.” She finally takes a breath and smiles ruefully, then mutters: “Hard fought, hard fought.”After the band dissolved, Williams got in touch with Justin Timberlake to get some advice on how to become a successful solo artist, and he in turn put her in touch with producer Matt Morris, who’s worked with Timberlake and other solo artists including Cher, Christina Aguilera and Mary J Blige.They met at a friend’s house in Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles and it was “like a first date”.
“I am 100,000 percent focused on this project, my family, the record label, and the studio. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do this at all anymore so it’s interesting that it has become so rich.” From his Jeff Buckley-style runs at the end of “Hope I Die” to the gritty yelps on the barnstorming “Fight for You,” he sounds unleashed. The schedules wouldn’t line up, so I hired a fiddle player from Lafayette and a guitar player from Tuscaloosa.
The ensemble playing is nuanced and in-the-pocket, just what you’d expect from a crew of Muscle Shoals ringers. They sing those parts, but now I have less weight on my shoulders.
Still, the gorgeous material, by turns heartbreaking and life-affirming, steals the spotlight. I can concentrate on emoting instead of praying I get every chord right.” The Civil Wars interpreted songs as disparate as Portishead’s “Sour Times” and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” Audiences should expect covers, but White is tight-lipped about titles. People may not realize how great a song is when the production is so amazing.
White promises a fleshed-out sound for his upcoming tour, which begins in New Orleans and covers a half-dozen states before he heads to the U. I tend to gravitate towards those and strip ’em down.” Metallica and Megadeth (“I was an 80s kid,” White says with a laugh), but now he listens mostly to bluegrass and vintage country like Moon Mullican and Tex Ritter. “I’ve had a hard time finding things that really blow my skirt up, for lack of a better phrase.” As a musician from the Quad-Cities, Southern rock was everywhere. On the Tennessee-Alabama state line, you have to be able to play that stuff.” Regional pride birthed Single Lock Records, his label with partners Ben Tanner of Alabama Shakes and Will Trapp.
But the band’s deterioration began two years before.
Joy Williams and John Paul White’s final gig was at the Roundhouse in Camden, London, in 2012.It takes two.” Now, she is finally ready to let go.“You can’t have that much tension without something changing and it did,” she says when we meet at a private members’ club in London.On her old album covers she looks like a different person – a soft round face, light blonde hair, ridiculously wholesome.She’s 32 now, strikingly beautiful and thin, with a Hollywood smile and huge brown eyes. “When the band imploded it wasn’t just a business implosion, it was a massive life disruption in every way and our marriage was almost a casualty of that.Williams would leave the studio every 45 minutes to feed her newborn son, Miles. I personally felt like John Paul was more of the ilk that things would happen organically and ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.” In August last year they announced their split.