Not everyone has a name that matches their personality, but Joy Clark sure does. To pair with the world premiere of her new music video, “Good Thing,” we caught up with the New Orleans-based singer-songwriter in 5 Questions, and her excitement and appreciation for music are palpable and inspiring.
Filmed at the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music in NOLA by Jared LaReau, “Good Thing” is Clark’s “middle of the relationship song… The part of the relationship that takes real work – trust – vulnerability and patience.”
5 Questions with Joy Clark by Sam Shansky
1) What’s your musical journey consisted of to this point, and what’s your hope for where your career will go next?
My musical journey has consisted of many things in the past 10+ years. I performed with living legend Cyril Neville and a host of bands in the New Orleans area. I pretty much just followed positive energy and whatever felt good to me. I just wanted to connect with audiences. I learned so much from being a support musician because I know how to give others space to say what they want to say. In turn, it has helped me to find my own voice in my own story.
This past Spring, I debuted at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and French Quarter Festival – two of New Orleans’ biggest fests. To be invited to perform my original music there was a huge moment that I’ll hold in my heart forever. I’m really looking forward to sharing more of my story and releasing more studio projects. I’ve found a certain groove in the studio and I’m really looking forward to bringing this project to life. “Good Thing” is just a peek into a larger picture. I want to keep whatever I do organic and connect with people on a genuine level as much as I can. I’m also striving for a horse and a mango tree somewhere down the line.
2) What was it like for you growing up in New Orleans, what were you into as a kid, and what can you tell us about your first guitar, which you bought at Gold Star Pawn Shop?
I actually grew up in Harvey which is a suburb outside of New Orleans proper. We didn’t live around a whole lot of live music venues, but my parents took me and my siblings to church 3 times a week. Church was the music venue, and my first performance space. Being the youngest of 5 kids and homeschooled I was a very quiet kid, I always felt out of place, but when I got interested in something, I really went all in! I was into basketball and baseball, and I spent a lot of time at the library checking out books on guitars, weather, and dogs.
After begging my parents for a guitar, they finally got me this really cool looking blue Texarkana guitar from the pawn shop. It was love at first sight. It had an input and really old strings, but I didn’t care! I worked around it. That guitar was my best friend. I carried it everywhere because it made me feel more connected to myself and to other people when I played it. It helped pull me out of the habit of hiding myself. It was a freedom for me then, and is still a freedom for me today.
I remember the bridge detached from the body and was no longer playable. I was devastated and desperate that I hot glued it back on and down tuned the strings to relieve the tension on the bridge. It’s wild that that actually worked! After the repair was done I played “I Could Not Ask For More” by Edwin McCain in a much lower key. I remember feeling really proud I’d revived my best friend. I had some great memories with that guitar, and it still sits in my music room today.
3) We’re thrilled to offer the world premiere of your new music video, “Good Thing.” What can you tell us about the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music where you filmed this video in NOLA, and what was the experience of producing the video like for you?
I’m so thrilled to finally share it with the world! The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music is a performance, education and recording venue located in Musician’s Village in the 9th Ward of New Orleans. It’s an absolutely gorgeous venue and the people who operate it are rooted in the community and care deeply about nurturing homegrown talent. I always knew I wanted to create something in that building, and when “Good Thing” was complete, it was sort of a no-brainer where we’d shoot.
The space lent itself so perfectly to the intimate nature and mood of the song. Jared LaReau, the director, heard me give an artist talk and volunteered to shoot “Good Thing.” I was pretty blown away by the lighting techniques and all the different angles he and co-producer Jazz Franklin were able to capture. They really did a superb job. There was so much love on set. Both of my sisters were there helping to make sure I had everything I needed. Everyone was happy to be part of the moment. As for myself, I think I delivered a convincing performance. There are several intricate guitar parts that I nailed haha.
4) What inspired you to write “Good Thing,” and what emotion does performing the song bring out in you?
The desire to connect to something deeper and a little more challenging inspired me to write “Good Thing.” I realized that my songs were either about the beginning or the end of a relationship. There was no in between, and no “in the thick of it” long haul feeling. That realization made me curious. It made me think, what am I afraid of? Am I afraid of the long haul? Am I afraid of conflict? At the time, those things were true, and I knew I wasn’t alone in that feeling.
“Good Thing” is my middle of the relationship song. The part of the relationship that takes real work – trust – vulnerability and patience. I wanted to dig deep into some of those unsure and uncomfortable feelings that arise in any relationship. I feel like I learn something new every time I get to perform it and it’s heartwarming to see people relate to the message so much. It has been a fan favorite for a while now, and I’m really excited for people to experience the work we put into making it a solid studio product.
Many thanks to David Villalta who recorded, mixed and mastered the track– and to heavy hitters like Lilli Lewis who jumped on the bgvs and piano, Wade Hymel (drums, bass, percussion) and Rick Nelson (strings). They all enhanced this track and helped make it what it is.
5) Could you describe your musical chemistry with Allison Russell and what she and her artwork mean to you?
There’s an ease when I get to make music with Allison. It doesn’t matter the size of the stage or venue. I always feel her trust whenever we play together. She’s got a natural flow that I really love, and that allows each performance to have its own identity.
When we were on stage at the Grammys performing “Nightflyer,” I thought to myself how easy it felt and how much fun we were having at that moment. The ease comes from the respect we have for each other, and the priority we put in listening to each other. Not only that, she also lifts up everyone around her and sets the example for what a real community looks like.
Her artistry has had a deep impact on me over the past several months. Hearing her tell her story of abuse and trauma, while also weaving stories and moments of unbridled joy is such an inspiring thing to witness. And seeing a queer woman who looks like me do it? It fills me with such pride and hope to see the doors she’s kicking open for our community. I am really proud to know her, to work with her, and to see her shine so brightly.
Bonus: Are there any causes or organizations close to your heart that you want to encourage readers to get involved with?
I’d like to highlight Women With A Vision – a New Orleans-based non-profit that does very important work to improve the lives of marginalized women in the community. This organization has been putting in the work for years, and with recent court rulings, right now is a great time to support.