Joy Crookes is embracing her Irish roots

Words: Dylan Murphy
Photography: George Voronov

Words: Dylan Murphy
Photography: George Voronov

Ahead of her headline show in the Sound House in Dublin, Joy Crookes spoke to Dylan Murphy about intention, honest affirmations and writing from your subconscious.

On first impressions, there’s a soft and measured approach to the music of 20-year-old Joy Crookes. It’s relatable rather than overbearing and there’s an unwavering conviction in her words.

Undoubtedly one of the artists at the forefront of the UK’s current wave of neo-soul, Joy has gained plaudits for her impressive vocals and confident storytelling, displaying wisdom beyond her two decades on earth.

Now with three EPs under her belt and ambitions to release an album her artistry is coming to fruition.

Demonstrated by her medley of Kendrick Lamar’s ‘YAH’ and ‘ELEMENT’, Joy unashamedly wears her influences on her sleeve and subsequently nothing feels forced about her musical choices. Likewise her creative process mirrors the nature of her sound, feeling equally pure and devoid of any other motives.

“I don’t do that many things intentionally, my art and my work is very personal so it’s just whatever anyone perceives from it. I let people have their own take just as I have my own take on what I am doing,  I think that is the fairest thing because art is so subjective. I’m not trying to fucking impose anything on them.”

Joy Crookes for District Magazine by George Voronov.

These honest assertions function simultaneously as both an outlet and the cohesive glue that binds ideas and builds narratives. Occasionally it may ruffle a few feathers but that’s just the nature of self-expression.

“I find it easy [being honest], but it’s difficult sometimes when I am about to say something that I know someone won’t want to hear and they know exactly who it is about. I’ve written songs directed at people knowing full well they will know it is about them once they hear it. I think that’s fine, I may not have been able to say it out loud in real life so saying it through a song is just as honest but even fucking cooler. It’s shit for them but yeah.”

Candid as ever, Joy isn’t one to mince her words and coupled with her desire to understand her own emotions she uses the pen as her medium of expression. With songwriting long being a tool to grapple with past experiences she explains it can provide insight into what the future holds too.

“It is also a way of understanding what is going to happen next. Sometimes the things you write are from your subconscious so you tell yourself what is going on. You put things onto a page, actually things that you might not be conscious of, you become very aware of when you see it on a piece of paper. I’ve written songs where the things i’ve said haven’t just happened yet but then they end up happening, self-prophesying almost.”

“Break up songs for example, so many break up songs are written in the heat of the moment, but they often talk about the future but how do they know what is going to happen next? It is just your gut comes out, that is all.”

It’s not just the innate feelings and emotions that help shape her art. Joy’s heritage has a huge part to play in her music, with her first visit in years to her mother’s birth country of Bangladesh heavily influencing her recent music, most clearly in the video for ‘Don’t Let Me Down‘.

Her father, an Irishman always reminded her of her roots in the emerald isle and the South London born songstress notes with the same conviction present in her music that identity is self-determined and part of a fluid spectrum.

“At the end of the day it is your decision about who you are and who you want to be so I definitely have a huge affiliation with Ireland both in and out of my control.”

“I feel massively associated with Ireland sometimes more so than England. I am a London girl, but England is a very different place and London is like its own country. So it is difficult for a lot of people from here to understand that. Particularly a lot of kids in London affiliate themselves more to back home than they might do England.”

“My best friends grew up in a Ghanian family or an Algerian household and you really live in that household. I lived in an Irish household, with an Irish dad the same way any kid in Ireland would. I just also happen to have a brown mum and then grow up in a brown household.”

“You are the one that makes your own identity and identifies yourself with whatever, whether it be race or sexuality, it’s a part of who I am and it has definitely been my decision. It’s in my blood.”

The connections to Ireland don’t end with family ties, Joy recently linked up with one of the country’s most promising artists in Jafaris for the single ‘Early‘.

On the collaboration she said, “He’s a good friend of mine now and he is also super talented, I really love his work and what he does. Everything has been totally natural between us and we’ve ended up being good friends.”

The track contributes to an already impressive discography and inevitably a question regarding a potential album followed.

“I am definitely going to regurgitate songs from the EPs into the album, but I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of albums and its just a goal for me. As a child I used to buy albums in HMV and now I want to do my own one.”