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Joy Downer Interview

Interview With Joy Downer – Debut Album Paper Moon

I love finding new music and emerging artists! Especially ones as talented at Joy Downer, who – with her husband – recorded her debut album Paper Moon in their home studio. It’s modern and vintage at the same time, something this child of the 70s appreciates for sure. Plus, right off the bat, her cover of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” has been used in a Honda ad, and her song, “In The Water” is the theme song for the Netflix series Spinning Out.

It was lovely to chat with Joy, to talk about the album, her family, and, of course, life during quarantine – because what else does any of us talk about these days anyway? She was very kind and has a knockout voice – so I can’t wait till she is able to tour and show off all those talents in person.


Joy Downer Interview


Aimee:

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. I’m loving the music that I’ve heard so far, so congrats on just putting together a great album.

Joy:

Awe, thank you so much. I really appreciate that.

Aimee:

Sure. So, I’ve read your bio, but tell me a little bit about yourself so people can get to know you.

Joy:

Yeah, I made this album at my home in Los Angeles with my husband, Jeffrey Downer, which is where the Downer name comes in. It’s not just a clever name (laughs). We mostly learned how to produce really out of necessity.

Aimee:

Because of COVID or just…

Joy:

No, it was before that, and it was … It’s really expensive to make an album, and it’s all self funded. So, we just figured, let’s try to get the songs to a point where they sound like good demos, and then we could take them to a producer. But in that process, we realized actually the songs sound pretty good. And if we keep honing in on learning more and getting stronger at this craft, there’s no reason why we can’t do this ourselves, and then just go get it mixed once it went to the final stages.

Aimee:

So, just the two of you recording and doing everything, or…

Joy:

Yeah, I mean if you saw our little place, it’s a little bit laughable because to call it a “home studio” is really complimentary. It’s so minimal, and we don’t record probably the most proper way. I think any engineer would be scrutinizing us, but that’s the thing that I love about the way that we approached it, is that I feel like it resonates all the same, despite having a bad vocal channel and all these things.

Aimee:

It’s funny because it does have kind of a vintage feel to it, but definitely modern. So I don’t know if that’s partly your style that you’re going for, or partly the recording.

Joy:

I think what happened when we were realizing the quality of vocals was kind of sounding a little, it was already going to that realm. I love, the eighties, seventies, sixties music – love it so much. So I was like, let’s just lean into this kind of a lo-fi sound that we have going on.

Aimee:

Yeah. That’s great. And what kind of artists did you love growing up?

Joy:

I listened to a lot of, well, my dad loves the Beatles, and T. Rex, and David Bowie, and the Kinks, and the Cure, all that stuff. My mom listened to a lot of musicals and a lot of classical music and different composers. So there was always various influences around. And I had brothers that were very into punk music, so yeah.

Aimee:

So lots of different styles.

Joy:

Yeah, just a lot of different hodgepodge of influences, which is great. I can’t get enough of music. It’s all good to me.

Aimee:

Right. I find I’ll go exploring on Spotify and all of a sudden I find some person who has been around for a while, but I just didn’t know who they were. There’s just so much great music out there.

Joy:

I’ve discovered stuff in during quarantine too, that like you said, where it’s been around and only now I’m hearing it because I had the time to dig in, in a way I haven’t had before. I was listening to so much music that I already knew and I was comfortable in that. I really haven’t tried to discover new music until recently.

Aimee:

Well, and do you have any favorites that you found recently that you like?

Joy:

Well, so I discovered Tim Buckley.

Aimee:

Really??

Joy:

Right? Jeff Buckley’s dad, and I went down a deep discovery journey because he’s so prolific and amazing and charming, and talented, and… I’d never heard of him. I couldn’t believe it because he’s up there with like Simon and Garfunkel and like a Tom Waits, and people that I love, that are kind of in that same vein of poetry and music.

Aimee:

And isn’t it almost like you find a vein in a gold mine or something, and all of a sudden you’ve got a bunch of new music that you love and that you listen to. I love it when that happens.

Joy:

Yeah. It was very cool. And I’ve always listened to Jeff Buckley, and so I wasn’t sure how I didn’t know that his dad was.

Joy Downer Interview

Aimee:

So here’s kind of an obvious question, but how is quarantine and COVID going for you?

Joy:

I am already naturally a homebody and I really like being home. I like being in my space and I don’t really go out much. So this has been something that I think for anyone, it might be really difficult, but for someone like me, it’s kind of, I don’t notice too much of a difference.

Aimee:

Are you based in LA?

Joy:

I am, yeah.

Aimee:

I guess to me, I live in downtown Denver and I’m used to walking around and going out all the time and it’s just been really difficult for me.

Joy:

Oh yeah. I can totally imagine. It’s so nice to have places to go and walk around, but when the sight looks like post apocalyptic…

Aimee:

Right, ya it doesn’t make it as fun.

Joy:

You’re only reminded. Oh yeah, we’re in a pandemic.

Aimee:

So, have you always collaborated with your husband or is this kind of a new thing?

Joy:

It was a new thing. Like I said, just kind of out of necessity because he, by his first thing is being an engineer. So I knew he could record me, but once we dove in and we realized we could, we could do a lot more than that and just get creative and use what was at our disposal.

Aimee:

That’s really smart. And then you have more time probably. Rather than feeling the pressure of the studio.

Joy:

Yeah, it’s a catch 22 on that, because when you’re paying for a studio, you feel like you have to push ideas out quicker and you don’t hang on to things as long. When you’re at home, you can keep adding to it, and the song never feels done. When you have the freedom to say, we can revisit this in a month or we can spend 12 hours a day on it and it doesn’t matter.

Aimee:

Wow. Well, you mentioned your family. I know that you were raised Mormon. I mean, do you feel like that had an effect on your music or your point of view? I don’t believe that you’re Mormon anymore. Right?

Joy:

I’m not, but I definitely have a lot of love for parts of the church. I love the community aspect and that still feels like a big part of how I gravitate to people and how I have friendships. It’s a big thing to treat people how you want to be treated and just show up for people and more thoughtful ways and focus less on yourself and more on, what can I do today that is going to positively help somebody else.

Aimee:

That’s lovely. And are any of your family on the tracks or anything then?

Joy:

Yeah, Paper Moon… So the last song that I did was that one, and it was really important to me to include some family that kind of helped me to be able to write songs and to do what I do. So, I had my mom play the piano and I had my brother play the guitar and do some vocals. And my sister played the harmonium, which is a really beautiful, warm, yummy instrument. So that’s in there as well.

Aimee:

Amazing.

Joy:

My daughter’s in there, but kind of tucked away. She was pretty shy about singing.

Aimee:

I love that, that’s wonderful. And then, do you play any instruments?

Joy:

I play piano, and synth and things like that, anything key related? I’m not great with guitar. I can manage to get a little bit out, but piano is definitely more of a preferred instrument.

Aimee:

Were you touring before and do you plan to do that when you’re able to again?

Joy:

We weren’t touring before and that’s something that I’m hoping that I can do someday, because that’s been a dream to be able to do that and get to meet different people and travel, all of that.

Aimee:

Right. Have you done any live streams for during lockdown or anything like that?

Joy:

I have with Spin magazine, and on Twitch, and one with Bands in Town.

Aimee:

Oh great, that’s awesome. I’ll have to look those up.

Joy:

It was fun. It’s fun to do. It’s weird to do, but it’s fun. It’s weird to be in your space and there’s a phone. And you just, you know you’re trying to connect through a phone through people, with people you can’t see, but see you.

Aimee:

Right. Yeah, it’s kind of a brave new world of trying to figure out how to connect when you can’t touch each other.

Joy:

Yeah, and I don’t know that on the other side, I don’t know if the music even translates in the same way when you’re not hearing it live.

Aimee:

I’ve watched a bunch of livestreams and it’s been hit or miss. It depends on, I mean again it’s a different kind of skill, so, you know, some people will do it better than others, but I’ll take what I can get.

Joy:

Yeah, exactly, and likewise on this end.

Aimee:

One thing I was looking through your YouTube channel and I really loved the videos for Paper Moon and Plastic Wrap. Really beautiful. Is video a medium that you like to experiment with, or how was the process of making them?

Joy:

Well, the Plastic Wrap video is one that we collaborated with Darren Le Gallo and he’s an amazing artist and he also did the keys on that song.

Aimee:

Oh wow.

Joy:

He had offered to do that video and we kind of wanted to have something where you could stop it at any frame and it would almost look like a piece of art. No matter where you stopped it, you know it would just translate as something that’s still said something, even out of context. He crushed that video – he directed it and he also edited it and then actually drew on top of the video in post as well. And when he sent that back, I was blown away because we had a crew of only three people. It was him and his brother in law, and then a DP.

Aimee:

Wow. You’re like the queen of DIY. I mean, really, truly, it’s great to have all those creative people around you to be able to pull that off.

Joy:

Oh, for sure. Thank you.

Aimee:

Do you have any hobbies outside of music?

Joy:

I, Hmm… I enjoy making slime with my daughter. It’s become a new thing.

Aimee:

How old is she?

Joy:

She’s 10.

Aimee:

10, such a lovely age. My son just graduated high school and is going to college in a month.

Joy:

That must be a real trip, cause I have a 10 year old and it blows my mind.

Aimee:

So, what’s the best advice you’ve been given as you’re doing music for a career?

Joy:

I would say one of the biggest things is owning your masters. Never sign those away, which is something I’m happy that I haven’t done. I own everything. It’s great, it’s a wonderful feeling.

And then, when making a song don’t worry about what will someone think when they hear it. Just be very true to yourself in that time and not thinking, will this be on the radio, or is this a tempo people can dance to? Just kind of forgetting all that and coming from a better place.

Aimee:

That’s smart. Also, I’m sure it feels more real to do it your way.

Joy:

Yeah, exactly. Cause for me, music hasn’t been something where I think, I want to do it to be famous. I want to do it because I have to do it. And it’s my way to kind of work through feelings and to express myself and that’s all it is for me. And if anyone likes it, I’m also so happy about that. But at the end of the day, when I do a song, I want it to be something that *I* would want to listen to.

Aimee:

I did notice that the proceeds from purchases of the album on Bandcamp are going to Black Lives Matter.

Joy:

Yes, that’s something that I believe in. Everybody should be treated equally and it’s been so disproportionately violent, and we’ve been so awful, not we, I mean, you know, most white people. I know I had my own biases that I had to check once I was really diving into, to face what I own in contribution to it. And I was really shocked and disappointed at how many biases I had that it wasn’t recognizing.

Aimee:

Yeah. It’s hard to describe the feeling that you thought you were one way and then you start listening to people and you realize that you still have a whole lot of work to do.

Joy:

Exactly that, and I think they also just having the willingness to say I’ve messed up and I was wrong. A lot of people have a really hard time because it’s really uncomfortable when you’re trying to be a good person. You don’t want to hear that you’ve actually kind of fallen short in big way. And you think you’re an advocate, but really you could be doing much more.



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