The Civil Wars' Joy Williams on Wearing Black, Her American Apparel Security Blanket and Mommy Duty
“I feel like I tapped into something that I didn't know I had, I've become strong and more aware,” -Joy Williams, one half of the folk band The Civil Wars, told InStyle.com when she called to tell us all about her new album, The Civil Wars, which came out last week. For this singer-songwriter, the past few years have been a metamorphosis, with ups and downs that shaped her new-found strength and awareness. Last year, she and band mate John Paul White made their breakout debut, performed at the Grammys and took home two trophies (Best Country Duo/Group Performance and Best Folk Album) for their first album, Barton Hollow. Fast forward to today and the band is on an indefinite hiatus -- yet their relationship status did not affect the release of the new album or the tracks on it. “Despite the communication problems [John and I] were having, we really managed to create something visceral, honest and raw,” explained Williams. “It’s a strange, miraculous tension that has birthed something beautiful." Her personal had dramatic changes, too, though the happiest of kinds. She and husband Nate Yetton welcomed their first child, Miles, who is now 13 months old. “It's the most exhilarating, exhausting, and wonderful experience becoming a mom,” Williams said. Scroll down to read more of her conversation with InStyle.com, and listen in as she discusses on-stage fashion, beauty must-haves for touring and, yes, the joys of never-ending mommy duty.
How is this album different from the previous one?"It was similar in terms of the actual recording process. We wrote the songs together, recorded them in the same room, much like the previous project. This time around we wanted to really profess a sound sonically and lyrically and I think we did that despite the tension between us. The tension is very much in that sonically regarding harmony. In the music, we took some experimental feats and playing around with sounds in the album."
How would you describe the overall feel of the album?"Raw, honest, moody, human, organic and electrifying."
How have you grown since the first album? "The last couple years have been really painful and beautiful. I’ve recognized greater depth from within myself by experiencing both the light and the dark [of life]. I feel like my life has transformed a lot and my son has only enhanced my art. I feel like he inspires me to be present and to take it all in and to stay curious and to continue to live and move forward."
Will there be a concert or tour for the new album?"That is something that we are trying to figure out. Honestly, I would love to be on the road and promote this album. I believe this album merits it, so for me, there is no final decision. I, for one, would love to be pounding the pavement. I love this record and I'd love for it to have a life on stage."
After you've performed, how do you soothe your voice?"Lately, it includes humming to my baby so he can fall asleep so I try to rock him asleep. I sing old classics like Billie Holiday, “You Are My Sunshine,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and of course a few Civil Wars songs."
What makes you choose the outfits you wear when you're on stage?"I love to have dresses that have a little body on the bottom for movement and play. Practically speaking, I have to love the cut and the silhouette. [I ask myself], 'Can I breathe in it? Can I reach the high points? Do I feel comfortable in it?'"
You tend to wear black on stage. Why?"We’ve kept everything black from the moment we started The Civil Wars and somehow the aesthetic lends itself to the music and gives it a southern gothic feel. Black is such a beautiful tone. Someone once told me that the color black whispers, and I definitely feel that is what drew me to black. It’s full of mystery and drama."
How does your style change on the road?"I still wear a lot black honestly because it's easy to mix and match and play around with pieces you have and layer. I’m really obsessed with Citizens of Humanity Rocket jeans ($229; bloomingdales.com), they are slick high-rise skinny black jeans. I wear them with some shoes with a little bit of spice and something simple on top like a Topshop, Zara or Urban Outfitters. I try to keep it streamline and clean with a little bit of spunk in it somewhere, whether it’s an earring, necklace or a strong lipstick. I try to mix it up."
What are your style must-haves on tour?"My American Apparel black infinity scarf becomes my on-the-road security blanket ($28; americanapparel.net); black dresses by Of Two Minds, and my Lancaster bag in black leather. It is the perfect size and it doesn't look like I’m hauling around a man’s bag."
What is in your beauty survival kit?"Michael Kors Leg Shine in classic ($32; michaelkors.com). I put on right before stage and it gives my legs a really natural shine. I also like Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer in Nude ($43; lauramercier.com), and the gel Mac Chromaline in Black Black for eye liner ($19; maccosmetics.com)."
What's your go-to hairstyle?"My hair is up in a bun because -- as we moms all know -- showers are not easy to come by. Thankfully, the trend right now has been a messy bun. I also love to keep it wavy, down, and parted to the side, much like you would see on stage."
Where do you like to shop?"I love to shop at Rag & Bone, Elizabeth and James, Sam Edelman for shoes and Topshop. I also love Saint Laurent and Citizens of Humanity. Recently, I was looking at The Row and I’m really looking forward to their chunky, cozy knit and boots."
How has your style changed now that you're a mom to little Miles?"I think my fashion sense still remains. I love silhouettes that make me feel feminine and strong, I just have to get use to picking little food particles after meal time [with my son]! I keep finding little bits of corn and peas on my sleeve, so my accessories are a little more organic these days. [Laughs.] What I really enjoy is finding that place where fashion meets function, but not losing feeling like a woman -- whether it’s putting on my Tom Ford perfume or an old ring I found at vintage store or spending an little extra time figuring out if I'm going to wear flats, wedges, or heels. It's still part of the process, I just have a less time to meander in the closet."
Where do you shop for your son Miles's clothes?"American Apparel makes super cool, simple classic pieces that are really fun. Baby Gap has great pants. And I think might have a problem when it comes to shopping at Zara. It's honestly fun. Also, Freshly Picked's handmade moccasins come in pretty much every color. They stay on his feet and add a little spunk to any outfit."
Do you coordinate any Mommy-and-me looks?"No, I don’t necessary want to coordinate what we wear. I want to find clothes that fit his personality. I love putting him in stripes and patterns. He is so sweet and has a quirky sense of humor already. He is a total cuddle bug and a mommy and daddy boy, and anytime there is music playing, his body can’t help moving to the rhythm. He inherited that from his parents, so we have dance parties in the kitchen, mostly to Daft Punk and Gypsy & The Cat."
Download her new album, The Civil Wars, for $10.99 on itunes.com.
Plus, see matching mommy-and-me style -- just in time for back-to-school shopping.