How She Floats – An Interview with Joy Ike
Back in 2010, in a cramped makeshift library coffeehouse in Pittsburgh known as the Cup & Chaucer, I was taken on a journey not unlike a star sifting through time and space. A voice that resonated with clarity and purity melted forth from a soul star-speckled and full of the same elation as her namesake. Joy Ike is a local performer, a musician whose talent strives to transcend college pop and take her artistry as far as the sunlight reaches.
Joy is an artist that manages to encapsulate the beauty of her surroundings with mellow grooves and positive lyricism. She’s the painter of her landscape and uses her music as a vessel in which she transports her listeners from their dreary existences (if for only an hour) to a sonic Utopia.
Now with her newest release, Rumors, Joy has propelled her sound to something more complete and fuller with the vibrancy of her previous efforts. I got a chance to catch up with my lovely friend and talk about what it is that makes her sound stand out from the crowd and where she sees her work taking her.
The first and most important question is what is that drives your sound?
My voice has played a huge part in determining my sound. It’s got a very smooth, sultry, soulful, and sometimes playful edge to it. And so, since my voice is my primary instrument (at least I consider it to be so), my music has, by default, turned into this mix of pop, soul, and folk. I usually just call it soul/folk.
If we’re talking about influences, I am really influenced and inspired by artists like Ingrid Michaelson, Yael Naim, and Regina Spektor. These are ladies I’ve been listening to a lot lately (thanks to Pandora). Their music is so natural, organic-sounding, and pure… and that’s what I hear in my head when I daydream about the kind of music I want to be known for.
For Black artists (particularly female) there seem to be two groups: sexy R&B or over-the-top diva. You break the mould. How did you manage to avoid becoming what’s common/expected?
That right there is a true statement. I guess I just don’t understand why playing my type of music is “odd” or out of the ordinary for a black girl. I just sing what comes out… and this feels natural. However, I’m sure I can blame this “oddity” on my upbringing. Growing up in a Nigerian family, I wasn’t really a part of American culture or African American culture. I was somewhere in the middle of (and outside of) both worlds. I grew up feeling too black for the white folk and too white for the black folk.
I could talk forever about this because it intrigues me. I could talk about how I play at a lot of coffeehouses and 90% of my audience is white. Do black people not go to these places? I seriously want to know. To me, everything, everywhere, everyone is fair game. I want to play for whoever wants to listen. I want diverse audiences. But very rarely do I have an opportunity to play for a racially, ethnically diverse audience. When I do, I am truly happy and at home.