Interview: Joy Crookes at The Cambridge Union

Scarlet Rowe 4 March 2022
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Joy Crookes is an extremely talented singer-songwriter who released her debut album “Skin” last October, and she came to the Union this Wednesday to talk about her music. Before the talk, I had the chance to sit down with her and ask a few questions. When I meet Joy, she is friendly, modest and funny. She tells me that she travelled from London and that she spent most of the journey asleep.

My first question for Joy is about whether she always imagined herself being a singer-songwriter. Joy laughs at this and says “no” because she “never thought it was a real job”. She says that she always had “other jobs on her mind” including being a masseuse, a furniture designer and a photographer (quite a list!).

So I ask Joy what made her change her mind about singing and songwriting and she replies that it was the “natural flow” of her career. “It got to a point where I couldn’t avoid it… [so that] a hobby that I loved became my job”. While Joy’s journey to becoming a singer-songwriter was “natural”, she tells me that it “wasn’t an overnight thing” and that it “took a lot of time”. Joy’s efforts have not been in vain, as she is now a well-known singer with over 1. 9 million monthly Spotify listeners.

As many people look up to Joy who has an ever-growing influence and fanbase, I ask her if she has any advice for aspiring singer-songwriters. She begins by saying“trust your instinct, try and write good songs”. She continues; “that sounds stupid, but a lot of people are so invested in the semantics when in the end it comes down to the music”. She adds that “you should learn how to say no, and listen to your inner state”. As for advice for her younger self, Joy memorably says “stop fucking worrying”.

Joy’s music is a mixture of neo-soul and R & B, so I am intrigued by who she looks up to. She tells me that she looks up to many artists including Ai Wei Wei who spoke at the Union a few weeks ago, She likes Frieda Kahlo and her work on identity and culture as well as Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. “I also like Irish storytellers, my dad is Irish and I grew up listening to Van Morrison, The Pogues and people like that”.

I ask Joy if there is a song that she is most proud of making, and she responds that“I am really proud of my song ‘Skin’” which is the title track of the album. She found articulating what the song was about in real-life conversation “impossible”, but “managed to condense it into a three-minute song”. So Joy was, understandably, “really happy” that she was able to “articulate” herself in it. If you haven’t listened to it yet, it is a very powerful and moving song.

It took years for Joy to write the music for “Skin”, and then it took about three months to produce the album which was received very well. While we are on the topic of “Skin”, I ask Joy to explain what sort of messages she articulates in her album for people who may not have listened to it. She says that it is about how“someone who is struggling with their mental health or with the idea of being on this planet should be on this planet and belong in the skin that they’ve been given”. When I ask Joy if there are any key messages she would like people to take from the album, she says that people should take “whatever they want” from the album. “The beautiful and horrible thing about being an artist is that once your art is out, it is not yours to control, it becomes about how other people want to interpret the art”.

As we reach the end of the interview, I ask Joy what her favourite thing is about her job, and she says that“I get to do everything I’ve always wanted to do”. She says that when she was younger, people would ask her what job she wants, and she would reply that she wants a job whereby he can “earn enough money to have a roof over my head”, but also to be able to “help other people”, which she has definitely succeeded in.

Joy’s goal for the next year is to write a “really great second album”. Before that, fans can look forward to her tours in Europe, Australia and America this year. If this interview has interested you, then her talk at the Union will be uploaded on Youtube soon. In case it isn’t clear enough, it was really lovely to meet Joy and I know I am not alone in looking forward to following her artistic trajectory in her exceptionally bright future.