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Joy Williams Finds Renewal and Comfort on Her Latest Release and Tour

Joy Williams is on her own after the end of The Civil Wars.EXPAND
Joy Williams is on her own after the end of The Civil Wars.
Andy Barron

Joy Williams has spent many years on the road, so she’s used to the controlled chaos that accompanies tours. For her latest venture, though, the mother of two has some traveling partners alongside that are making things just a bit different.

“It feels like a totally new chapter for me. The scene has changed. I’ve got two beautiful kids on the road now, which is basically a beautiful zoo,” she laughs. “I’m running around crazily backstage and just trying to put a little blush on before I go out.”

The multiple Grammy winner has been building a steady following of fans for years now. Her career started in the early 2000s as a faith-based musician before morphing into a larger scope with her musical involvement in the critically acclaimed duo, The Civil Wars. Following their dissolution, Williams decamped to Los Angeles and used her new surroundings to cope with both the professional breakup and the death of her father. There, she also released Venus, a hook-laden album with a broader pop palette than many of her fans were accustomed to hearing.

Fast-forward to late 2018 and Williams is in a more settled place. For starters, she and her family have traded in the California coast for a relocation back to Nashville. That familiarity and a renewed sense of confidence led her back into the studio where she has recently put the finishing touches on Front Porch, a new collection of songs that hearken back to the warmth of spirit reflected in a lot of her previous work.

“Since The Civil Wars split, there’s been a lot of journeying going on. So much has expanded in my life,” she cheerfully explains in a phone conversation with the Observer from her Nashville home. “While my career was somewhat contracting, my internal life and personal life was expanding. There are growing pains involved, but I needed these years to go inward and discover what was deeper. I’m grateful that while I did that, lightness, celebration and creativity came back to a degree that I didn’t know was possible.”

Her renewed spirit has translated to the stage, as well. Recently back from one leg of a tour, Williams and her band are hitting the road again to round out the year. Her final six dates start up at the end of the month and will arrive in Dallas for a Dec. 8 show at The Kessler Theater. She’s been using the tour to test out the new material, but she’s also conscious of her resume and understanding of audience expectations.

“I’m proud of all the music I’ve made. It’s part of the story and journey and I want to do all I can to incorporate that,” she says. “At the same time, I actually do see familiar faces and know that some people like to hear certain songs. I’m filled with gratitude to see them there singing along. It’s like seeing an old friend.”

As Williams preps for the album’s early 2019 release, she has had time to reflect on the processes and changes leading up to this point.

“I’ve said this before, but (songwriting) is like being a farmer,” she explains. “You have to let a field lay fallow after a certain amount of years in order for it to replenish itself. After The Civil Wars ended and I put out Venus, I felt as though I had given all I could. Some crops made it and some didn’t. I have a lot to celebrate and that’s reflected in the music on Front Porch.

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“I tried to simplify and told the songwriters in the room that if I can’t play it on the front porch, then it’s not for me. I’m not going to go out and try and prove anything. That’s really, really tiring. It’s all about finding a home within ourselves.”

It seems safe to say that Williams has found that home. 2019 is poised to be a big year for her, as she continues to tour and promote Front Porch. And, for now, she’ll have the family along for the ride to keep her company and watch her win over audiences from the side stage. It’s an arrangement that suits her just fine.

“Roseanne Cash told me years ago that they would put her in an open guitar case and that was her crib,” Williams recalls with a laugh. “And though I would never put myself in that category, if it was good enough for Johnny, then it’s good enough for me.”

Joy Williams will play at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8 at The Kessler Theater, 1230 W. Davis St. Tickets are $26.

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