Joy Clark is a musical force of nature: songwriter, guitarist, producer, and performer, Joy has been performing for audiences since her teens, engaging listeners with soulful sensitivity, heartfelt rhythms, and melodic nuances that capture the ear with understated musical prowess. With accolades and major performance features lining Joy’s artist resume, Joy’s music has taken her across the U.S. and international waters, garnering hosts of fans with every performance. We took some to time to sit down with Joy and talk all things music, mental health, wellness, and in-between – read on to learn more about the mind of Joy!
How would you describe your music in three words?
Genuine, heartfelt, and soulful.
What is the earliest music memory that made you think, “I want to do that!”?
I fell in love with music at church when I was about 5 or 6. My eyes were always glued on the bandstand, but particularly on the guitarist. I remember thinking the guitar was sexy even before I knew what sexy meant. I felt in my body that I could learn the guitar, so I bugged my parents to get me one. I also recall as a teenager flipping through TV stations and stumbling upon Tracy Chapman performing on Austin City Limits. I think that’s what really did it for me.
You have notably spoken to being a self-taught guitarist, and your skills with both guitar and songwriting have led to major work as a sidewoman, composer, and producer, in addition to your own career as a solo artist. With such a nuanced career in a wide variety of musical roles, how has your music-making process grown and changed over time?
I’ve been really lucky to play guitar in a variety of musical settings, including touring with Cyril Neville, performing with Water Seed, and accompanying Michaela Harrison. When I’m playing as part of a band or ensemble, I listen first and try to complement the song in the best way possible. I think that skill has carried over to my own creative process. When I’m writing, I play around on the guitar, listen keenly, and tailor the lyrics to whatever melody comes up. So essentially, I am writing to accompany myself.
Allen Toussaint once stated, “Music is everything to me short of breathing. Music also has a role to lift you up - not to be escapist, but to take you out of misery.” Reflecting on this sentiment, how has music gotten you through hard times in your life?
I think it goes without saying that 2020 was particularly hard. The beginning of lockdown was scary. We didn’t know what was going on with COVID and everything changed so fast. Shows and events were rightfully cancelled, and I felt disconnected from the world and, in a way, disconnected from myself. I realized a big part of me had been put on pause. The music never left, but the performance and energy exchange from a physical audience was no longer there. I listened to so much Dr. John during that difficult period. His music just makes me really happy and added some needed levity.
What does the phrase “Music for the Mind” mean to you?
Music just makes me feel less alone. No matter what feeling, there’s a song to match your mood. Not only is it comforting to hear music that expresses your feelings, but it is comforting to know that someone, not only, felt the same emotions, but created art around those same feelings. That’s really healing.
In addition to music as a cathartic measure, what other resources or coping tools do you use for your own mental well-being?
I’m really big on staying active and spending time outdoors. Whenever I’m not in my physical music space creating, I make sure to take walks in my neighborhood or to the river. I find that moving my body, getting sunlight, and interacting with my neighbors puts me at ease and helps me work out whatever I may be anxious about. I also love to just sit in my backyard in the sun with my cat Sadie and meditate and think about all the things I’m grateful for.
As we wrap up this interview, what are some final thoughts you'd like to leave with our readers?
I’ve been thinking a lot about courage and putting yourself out there. It’s so easy to hide in the shadow of our own doubts and fears, but I’ve found that if we confront whatever feelings we struggle with head on, we create new possibilities. 😊
Learn more about Joy Clark at:
All photos by Nkechi Chibueze for the Brett Thomas Doussan (BTD) Foundation.