Photo by Nkechi Chibueze (kechicaptures)
Meet Joy Clark, Singer, Songwriter, Guitarist, Touring Artist, Black Opry Artist, and a member of Color Me Country’s Class of 2022! In December 2021, the Black Opry, which Joy Clark is a part of, played a show at the legendary Exit/In in Nashville, Tennessee with special guest Allison Russell. It was when Joy got back to New Orleans that she got the email of a lifetime. “I had just got back from the Nashville show and I got an email from the producer of (Rissi Palmer’s Apple Music Radio Show) Color Me Country and informed me I was a member of the 2022 class”. In addition to Clark, artists Madeline Edwards, Julia Cannon, Michael B. Whit, Tony Evans Jr., and Tae Lewis were named to the 2022 class as well. “I was introduced to Rissi’s music in 2020. I hadn't known about her, and when I heard her voice and songwriting I was blown away. So It was very surreal to meet her at AmericanaFest a year later." While Clark is overjoyed about the honor, it has a deeper meaning to her. Rissi Palmer was recently featured on Guitar Girl magazine, a publication similar to those Clark used to see as a kid growing up. " When I was a kid I used to skim through guitar magazines, and I never saw myself represented in those magazines. I'd even have people say that a guitar is a country person's instrument (inferring that I can't be country) or a white instrument. I always got the message that “Black people don’t do this…black people don’t do that…” Seeing Rissi and all the phenomenal women listed on that cover was powerful for me. I hope that when kids see me playing guitar they'll be encouraged to pick it up. I really believe it will be different for the next generation.
Joy Clark grew up in Harvey, Louisiana. Her dad is a pastor and she was homeschooled. She is the youngest of 5 kids. “Growing up, music was everywhere in terms of church. We went to church multiple times a week and that was the place where I first got turned onto the guitar and singing melodies and harmonies”. Clark graduated from the University of New Orleans with a degree in Interdisciplinary studies, but was always drawn to the music department. She performed at open mics in college where she began writing music. “I really enjoyed performing at open mics but I had no real models or aspirations that early on. I just played what I loved and what moved me. Music happened pretty organically, and so did making it a career. I believe kids always know what they want to do, but as we grow, we receive discouraging messages and opinions that say follow your dreams, but you need a plan B”. Clark grew up in the church, and was not exposed to secular music until her sister bought her Tracy Chapman's debut album. "I studied Tracy's first album!" I also loved Sade, Boyz II Men and Sheryl Crow. I remember hearing “If It Makes You Happy” for the first time. It wasn’t gospel but I loved it”.
Joy took on many roles as a musician and played as much as she could, wherever she could. In addition to busking, and contributing to various projects, she got to tour the world with music legend Cyril Neville as a lead guitarist. In 2020 Clark was set to debut at the iconic New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival “March 2020 was a strange time. Everything stopped, and I was just home dealing with all of the uncertainty. I realized I took performing and sharing songs with audiences for granted and that I felt like I was losing an important piece of myself”. While it was hard for Joy to stop playing live, she turned to social media to further her career at a time when performing was not a possibility. She got connected with Country Soul Songbook through artist Lilli Lewis and was featured by them. In 2021, Clark attended Cutting Edge, a conference for music industry professionals. It was at that conference where she met Holly G, the creator of the Black Opry. “Holly and I met, and she told me about this Airbnb idea with artists meeting up at Americana Fest in Nashville. I didn’t know what to expect, but the idea was genius because the Black Opry House created a space for us to share our songs with each other and form a community of support, and just get to know one another. It was so healing to be in a house with other black artists all playing our guitars and singing our truth." Since AmericanaFest, the Black Opry has announced an extensive tour schedule. You can see the cities and dates and buy tickets here. Joy has played in a number of the cities. "Each Black Opry Revue has been absolutely magical and I'm excited to see what's next"
Clark has been in the studio recently and will be releasing her song “Good Thing” on March 4th 2022. “I’m really excited to release “Good Thing” into the world. I’m very proud of the work we’ve put into this track. It’s really something special” On May 5th, Joy will be taking the stage at the 2022 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. She is featured on the bill alongside some of the best musicians and guitarists in the world including Stevie Nicks, Willie Nelson, The Who, Foo Fighters, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Luke Combs, Erykah Badu, and many more. You can see the full lineup and purchase tickets for Jazz Fest here. “ I am very honored to be on the Jazz Fest line-up this year, and It is a blessing to be able to reflect on where I was in 2020 to now. It's almost sweeter because Jazz Fest is happening at a time when I get to be part of a larger community of artists and I can clearly see the bigger picture. After these last couple years, my advice to any artist is to just keep going."
You can follow Joy on Instagram at @joyclarkmusic and find more information on her website here.