Envy. That’s all a hermit like myself can have towards an artist like Em Joy. Not only is her voice one of the purest things to enter my audible space in a long time, but her life around the world is something to admire. Living everywhere from Africa to New Zealand, she poured all of that and then some into her latest release, The Wanderings. Em Joy talked about the music, the movements and more…
Kendra: You’ve been writing and recording for a handful of years now. Did something switch up in your life in 2013 or had you always been interested in doing music?
Em Joy: Actually yes. I wrote and recorded just playing around in high school. In 2012 the year prior to my album release I had a huge lifestyle overhaul and became a raw vegan. A lot of things changed in my life that year. I got out of a relationship, prioritized myself, followed my intuition and finally had the energy to go after my dreams.
Turns out I didn’t even have to work very hard as a friend I’d had for years. Producer, singer-songwriter, Australian artist Billy Otto, approached me after hearing me play some of my own songs at a BBQ in Newcastle NSW. He was surprised when I told him it was my song. He told me I definitely had to record and he’d help me sort it out. A few months later after a bit of organizing and my first blissful stint in a real studio we had my first EP Say Nice Things.
Kendra: Your sound is downright beautiful. It has this simple elegance to it. Usually, that is due to where artists come up, but you’ve lived all over the world. What do you attribute your style to location wise?
Em Joy: Okay so I know that everything is subjective but I have this image of the graceful poise of the Zimbabwean woman. No matter the skin colour, whenever I’ve met a fellow Zimbabwean woman she’s always had this beautiful persona, really elegant yet there’s always a bit of a spark in her eyes. I really feel like I relate most to that.
I’ve traveled and lived in so many different places but I always bring my fierce yet pure Zimbabwean femininity along with me and see the world through those eyes. I think that comes through very much in my music too. I read this quote in a book recently, “Ignorance is not knowing anything and being attracted to the good. Innocence is knowing everything and still being attracted to the good.”
I think that this may be irrelevant to culture but just another glimpse into my heart. I feel like, despite a lot of the less beautiful things I’ve lived through, I’ve maintained an innocent heart, and that too, I think is what you can feel through my songs.
Kendra: Because you mentioned it, how long did you live in Zimbabwe after you were born? I hope long enough to share at least one tale.
Em Joy: I lived in Zimbabwe until I was 11-years-old. We moved around a lot as my parents were Adventists. My dad wouldn’t work on Saturday so would sometimes have trouble finding work as the whole country seemed baptist. We moved 19 times before I was ten if I remember correctly. The longest time we spent in a place was a couple of years and it was this huge game farm with the African bush on our doorstep. I think I must have been around 8-9-years-old when we were there. The farm had three young elephants and I remember how my two brothers and I got to ride on them as they were being trained. We’d climb up behind their heads and walk around the park for hours.
Elephants have incredibly prickly bristles so remember to wear jeans if you ever get that chance! I also cherish the memory of floating around in horse feeding bins on a small lake that formed in the rainy season. My mum used to be very into horses and bred me my own one when I was a kid. I think I was 9-years-old when I broke him in. Until we left I’d been the only human to ride on him. His name was Kasala and he was half Arab half thoroughbred and the most stunning horse in the world!
When the political unrest happened and white farmers were getting kicked off farms, 20 war veterans with AK47s came into my dad’s office on the farm and gave us 48 hours to leave the farm. That’s when my family moved to New Zealand…It seems like such a faraway dream life. I haven’t been back since and I’m not sure if I will. I have the most beautiful memories and I don’t want to infiltrate them.
Kendra: Your album, The Wanderings, inspired at all by the moves you have had throughout your life?
Em Joy: Yes! 100%. I’ve always been a wanderer. Even through all the many moves of my childhood I always looked forward to the next house and picking my new room out. So I think wandering is inherent to my nature and a very powerful way for me to interact with the world and process life. I think a lot of people can relate to their twenties being a part of their life where they wandering around a fair bit. That’s definitely what mine felt like…I’ve been mulling over ideas and themes for the next album and I think I might call it Planted. I am still traveling like a gypsy but I feel like within myself I am becoming more and more settled in who I am and how I do life.
Kendra: If you had to compare The Wanderings to an item you’d bring to “The Feast” to end all feasts, what would it be and why?
Em Joy: Definitely a fruit salad. Sweet, juicy, sometimes tart, firm, squishy, all of the feels. It would include papaya, mango, pineapple, rockmelon, strawberries, mint leaves, watermelon, and dragon fruit. It would be dressed with lime juice and a good sprinkling of passion fruit! The Wanderings has all the ranges of feelings packed into it and expressed in a sweet, pleasant sort of way. Kinda just like a fruit salad!
Kendra: You’ve said you’re often in awe of nature. What’s been the most awe-inspiring thing you’ve seen and did you ever happen to pen a song about it?
Em Joy: I’m currently writing this to you from my Airbnb in Split, Croatia. I think I may have found my new earthly heaven yesterday. I haven’t written a song about it yet but I just might! It’s the Krka National park one hour north of Split and it is the most divine place.
Wooden boardwalks take you all through this magical hobbit/elf like kingdom of waterfalls and trees and little swampy parts. It is the most magical nature I’ve seen in possibly ever and I would move in there tomorrow if I could and write songs about it till the day I died.
There are some places in nature where I feel alive and I literally feel like magic could be real. I can almost see it. I feel powerful and I feel most me. This is when I’m in the flow, inspired and reminded of the power we can all tap into because mother nature has very clearly demonstrated what’s possible with this incredible power by creating whatever she’s created that’s got me so inspired. Krka National Park is 1000% one of these places. I hope I get to return there someday to soak it all in for a bit longer!
Kendra: What’s to come for you in coming months? Shows?
Em Joy: Well you know, can’t say too much but let’s just say it may involve microphones and gadgets and no crowds. Until someone manages to successfully lure me on the stage I will continue to woe you all from the safety of the studio. And if the stars align I will have seem very special wooing coming sometime in the near future.