Hometowns, Influences, and Power: An Interview With Joy Crookes

Written by Jack Andrew Cribb

We at Frequency 21 are all about 18 year old Londoner Joy Crookes at the moment. Her sweet and intricate multi-faceted sound, which conveys a very subtle emotionality at every syncopation, melody, or lyric, is incredibly well-thought-out. She’s got all of us groovin’. We caught up with Joy to talk about her work, her inspirations, and her new single Power.


Now for new listeners, how, in your own words, would you describe your music?

JC: “A reflection of the many sides of my personality.”

And how many sides is that?

JC: “I’m like a shape, there’s like a thousand different sides to me. Hmm, I think that’s pretty basic. Maybe I’d be an octagon? Or I’d be a hexagon. Wait, what’s that in 3D, a hexacuboid?”

How long have you been writing music for?

JC: “I’ve been writing music since I was… I dunno. You know how some people say ‘I wrote my first song when I was four’? I’m like no you didn’t, no you fucking didn’t. I think I wrote my first song when I was eleven or twelve. I sat down and I thought about it, and I used to do these really dumb metaphors like, ok, clouds are a symbol of sadness. It’s so deep. You just feel like your Bob Dylan. Or Oscar Wilde, at like, eleven.”

What kind of music influences you in your songwriting? Any favourite artists?

JC: “I’m pretty eclectic. At the moment I’ve only been listening to The Clash. Basically, I want to be The Clash. If you think about them, they dabbled in every genre. They were influenced by every genre, because of their surroundings. They’re a London band. Paul Simonon, the bass player, was from Brixton, so he was around a little reggae, and Mick Jones played rock n’ roll, and then Topper Headon, the drummer, was a jazz drummer, and people sometimes say that Joe Strummer was a bit of a rapper, the way he approached songs and the way he approached matters, he’d be very direct.

I get called Lana Del Ray, and I get called all these different comparisons when actually, I’m literally the united colours of Benetton. I grew up around every culture, so I use that as like, a palette.

So you grew up in Elephant and Castle, right? I think an environment has a decided influence on an artist’s sound – how do you think this place has influenced your work?

JC: “The bigger picture is London, which is so multicultural, and then you get Elephant. You’ve got west-African, Jamaican, Irish, Portuguese. And then in my house, my mum is Bengali and my dad is Irish, and my dad moved to London back in the day, and he was around a lot of Caribbean music.”

Tell me about your recent single Bad Feeling – what inspired that track?

JC: “I wouldn’t say it was calculated, but we went in with a concept. I was at a writing camp, and the guy who was working that day, he’d heard some of my stuff during the week, and clocked that I’d probably like Nina Simone, just by the way I sing and the things I write about, and he said to me ‘Do you like Nina Simone?’ and I was like, ‘Are you dumb?’. He then said ‘Do you like ‘Feeling Good’?’ It’s a classic, I’ve heard it too many times on Britain’s Got Talent, but I can deal with the song. ‘But what about feeling bad?’ he asked me, as a spin on it, and I thought ‘Hmmm, alright, that’s interesting, I’ll work with that.’

I was in a bit of a situation at that time, I’ve been in a relationship for three years, and there is always going to be one person that pops up and tries to hit on you or whatever, but instead of saying, I’m with someone, I wanted to be like, listen, stay away from me, I’ve got a bad feeling. I added a bit more exaggeration to the story. The song is very universal, and a lot of people can relate to it.

People know me as a cheeky and flirtatious character, so I thought maybe I’d play on that part of my personality. All my other stuff was orchestral, more melodramatic. I wanted to show another side. I think for upbeat songs, it is about being cheeky, which is surface level, but it’s coming from me.

What was it like filming the video?

JC: “It was really intense. I’d directed a previous video, but this was my first co-direct with a really big team. It was a brilliant experience, Remi (Remi Laudat), is like a brother to me now, he’s amazing to work with. And Kojey (Kojey Radical) was a legend in it as well, he was just happy that he could be around beautiful women all day.”

How do you feel about the growing number of contemporary soul artists that are breaking out onto the music scene today?

JC: “I think it’s brilliant. Personally, when you say soul, I think of more, soulful music. Soul for me is Marvin Gaye and Gil Scott. I don’t really think that’s what I do. But I’d say it is soulful because it comes from a certain place. It’s really nice to see people mixing the classic with the new.”

You have an EP coming out soon, which is called Influence, what can you tell me about that?

JC: “I’m 18, I’m a sponge. All of the songs on there were influenced by a situation. The spin on that then is, that my goal, doing this, is to influence people. I want people to be influenced, music is the thing that makes people get up and go ‘Yeah shit, I do feel this way. Yeah shit, I could do this.’ If you’re a musician at 18, influence is such a strong theme. Not even 18, I think for every age. I’m reading James Baldwin at the moment, and he’s clearly influenced by his surroundings and by situations that would only ever happen to a man like him. Influence is, if you’re a creative, it’s like food. It’s what gets you going.”

Who would be your dream collaboration?

JC: “At the moment? Kendrick Lamar. He’s the first person I think of. He appreciates all types of music. ‘Humble’ was almost like a rock single.”

If you weren’t making music – what do you think you would be doing?

JC: “I think I’d be studying, If you want the boring answer. If you don’t want the boring answer, I’d probably be an Irish dancer. Competitive Irish dancing. Or a pool player, I love pool.”

Are you good at pool?

JC: “I’m alright actually, when I have a couple of drinks, I can really mash up the place. When I have too many I get really competitive, and I think I scare my opponent, and that’s how I win.”

Finally, you’re headlining a show at Corsica Studios on the 26th July – how can people get tickets?

JC: “Tickets are on Live Nation’s website, in partnership with ticketmaster, and they are £7.70.”

You can find tickets for Joy’s Corsica event here.

On Friday,  Joy released her latest single, Power, in which she sounds decidedly older than her 18 years. It’s subtly aggressive, displaying a don’t-mess-with-me attitude, which is downplayed by the relatively soft and downtempo timbre to the song.

On the song, Joy stated “I think it’s the perfect time to put it out. I was deeply deeply affected by Grenfell tower. It really got my heart, and felt like it could have been anyone of my friends, and when my mum moved her, she moved into a tower block herself. So I think it’s the perfect time to put a song out about power, or the abuse of power. I think it’s a really important subject matter, it can relate to anyone, yourself, women, people of all ages, colour, size. Everyone has felt powerless before. I think it’s a really important time to make that message, with what’s going on in London, and the world.”

Melanin is not your enemy‘ she sings in a track imbued with poignancy. You can check Power out here.

Credit: Joy Crookes


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