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Art Maker: Christa Joy, singer-songwriter

  • STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Singer-songwriter Christa Joy, seen here in her Easthampton home, has a new country-flavored live album, recorded in the Valley, due out next year. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Singer-songwriter Christa Joy, seen here in her Easthampton home, says she often finds herself “hovering a great deal in the country folk realm … it’s a place where I feel at home and enjoy myself.”  STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Singer-songwriter Christa Joy, seen here performing at the Luthier’s Co-op in Easthampton, says she often finds herself “hovering a great deal in the country folk realm … it’s a place where I feel at home and enjoy myself.”  Photo by Melissa McCabe/courtesy Christa Joy


Friday, November 02, 2018

Singer-songwriter Christa Joy has been steadily building a name for herself in the Valley, performing as part of the Woman Songwriter Collective of Western Massachusetts and playing The Iron Horse, The Parlor Room and venues further afield such as Club Passim in Cambridge. She’s released two albums of country-flavored, sometimes bittersweet songs that come in part, she says, from growing up in rural Sheffield in a “truck driving, teacher preacher kind of family.”

Today, Joy, of Easthampton, is a kindergarten teacher in Hatfield who’s also a “voracious reader” and a short story writer — all of which, she says, is part of the creative mix that feeds her songwriting.

Hampshire Life: Talk about the work you’re currently doing — what does it involve, and what are you trying to achieve?

Christa Joy: I’ve been working on an album of eleven original country songs recorded live in Easthampton this past summer, with a group of musicians that made the process easeful and fun: Amy Acker, Lexi Weege and Tom LeBeau, and Brian Marchese. It’s also the second album I've worked on with producer and engineer Grant Wicks.

This is a spectacularly talented and kind group of people — two main ingredients for unleashing creative awesomeness in collaboration. I am so excited to release this album in spring or summer of 2019.

HL: How do you know when your work is finished?

CJ: I don't. Becoming a parent has blessed me with the knowledge that no work is ever done and the beauty lies in the process, not the outcome. I used to hem and haw about each vocal recording and second guess lyrics that were more or less complete. I think I wasted a lot of time that way. Now, the precious nature of just making space to write and create is enough. 

HL: Have you ever had a "mistake" a project that seemed to be going south — turn into a wonderful discovery?

CJ: What's coming to mind is actually a project that emerged from a really difficult time in my life. My second full-length album, “Daughter of Your Lost Art,” was a contemplation of grief and my own experience with losing my Mom in 2013 from cancer. She lived with me during the last six months of her life. I needed to turn and face that loss by writing, seeking her out, placing my attention on that empty space that existed suddenly.

From a creative perspective, that project also helped me realize the power of writing in our lives. That album was like taking my new self out into the world so I could find the sunlight and let the world hold me upright again. I'm very thankful I had that opportunity to record those songs at that specific time in my life.

HL: If you weren't an artist, what do you think you'd be?

CJ: Choosing one modality of work or creativity has always been a challenge. My parents were so relieved when I could finally drive because I was always busying myself with music, theater and art. Today, my passions also find their way into my teaching. I've learned so much from the children I've taught and the experiences we've shared. 

And now that I'm also a mother, it's easiest for me to approach all areas of my life as opportunities to wake up and be with others in a meaningful way. Compartmentalizing one aspect as "work" and one aspect as "creativity" just doesn't make sense to me anymore.

HL: Dream dinner party: Who would you invite?

CJ: I'm terrified of actually meeting anyone I idolize. My sister works mainly in immigration law and since Trump was elected, I've barely seen or spoken with her. So I would like to have dinner with her.

HL: What do you do when you're stuck?

CJ: Keep writing. I'm a fan of practicing your craft daily. If possible, I write three pages of freehand a day, even if this is the most boring drivel. But something always emerges eventually: an idea for creative collaboration, a theme, sometimes an entire song in one fell swoop. The showing up is the most important part.

— Steve Pfarrer