Pop’s Newest and Most Exciting Face: An Interview with JOY.

It’s been all eyes on Brisbane’s Olivia McCarthy over the last 12 months. Working under the moniker JOY., she’s performed countless shows, dropped superb track after superb track, performed Peking Duk‘s Like A Version and also graduated high school. Not bad, right?

It was the 2014 release of Captured that really caught everyone’s attention. From there, she dropped her mini EP titled Stone, and sung her way into the hearts and ears of many. Now, this year is shaping up to be her biggest yet, with performances at Field Day and Laneway as well as a national tour with Flamingo already under her belt. She will also be supporting George Maple and Tkay Maidza in the coming months, as she continues her rapid rise to the top. We got to chat with the lovely artist recently, about a recent twitter war with her ex-manager, her secret love of Chris Brown and what we can still expect!

There’s been a bit of drama happening over in your camp lately! Can you explain in your own words what’s been happening, to clear any confusion?

There was some copyright claims filed for some of my YouTube videos. It was really frustrating because it was by my old manager. It was kind of frustrating but now I’m ready to just move on and keep making music.

Even though that’s totally awful, what I thought was really interesting was the response you got from your fans on Twitter! Everyone seemed to really rally together and get behind you! 

It was insane! It was really crazy that people were so passionate about it. I was like, “Okay, this is a big deal,” but they were more into it than I was! They really went all out. It was amazing! Of course my family would be totally behind this but it was so surprising to see people I’ve never met so passionate about making everything good for me. Reading through the comments I was just like, “What is happening?!” It was so incredible.

Your music is often described as pop, but it’s a different kind of pop isn’t it? Do you have any secret mainstream pop loves we don’t know about?

I actually do listen to a bit of pop. I like listening to it. The way that pop is done, it’s actually the hardest genre to write, it has to be so structured and everything has to be so on point. That’s kind of drilled into my head when I’m writing now, like the correct way to write it structure wise and chord wise and all that stuff. I listen to a lot of stuff… I wouldn’t say it’s “pop” pop, but I listen to Chris Brown and Justin Bieber.

That’s pretty pop!

It’s pretty pop, yeah. I love that stuff, that’s like all I have on my iPod.

Now, you have just wrapped up the Flamingo tour – how was that?

It was awesome! It was the first proper tour I had been on. I did a couple of shows which we called a mini-tour last year, but this was the first proper support tour where we went to a different state and played night after night after night. It was super fun, they’re the best guys ever! We spent most of the time just hanging out. It was really good to see how different cities reacted and what your fan base is around the country. I’ve only really played the East Coast until then so it was awesome to get over to Perth and Adelaide and see how things are over there.

Did Perth and Adelaide know you as well as you would have been known over this side?

Well, I mean I’ve done more shows in Sydney than I have anywhere so it was the best crowd. Brisbane was good, it was just kind of like high school fans. Perth was really awesome though, they have this crazy club scene so I did more of a DJ/singing set thing, and that was really fun. It made me want to start getting into DJ sets more. Adelaide was really fun too though, we played in this lane that they had turned into a bar and a stage. Everyone was very free spirited!

Back to what you said about the DJ set, so that’s something to consider in the future? I’m still yet to see you perform, so I take it you have a live set up?

Yeah, so I have my full live set up and I try to incorporate more live instruments. I have all my pre-produced tracks on my laptop and I trigger different parts of them with synths and stuff. I have keys and sometimes a guitar, and I sing. I also sometimes do a bit of drumming. That’s my live show. I guess my set is downtempo, so DJ sets are really fun because you can just play Chris Brown and Akon. You get a really good response from the crowd when you’re DJing, I think people get really into it. When you’re playing live, people are more likely to just take it in instead of getting into it. People are afraid to dance or they just sway and watch you. DJ sets are super fun because people don’t care and you can drop disgusting R&B and people lose it!

Well, now you’ve got shows with George Maple and Tkay Maidza who are both very different and probably have very different crowds – will you modify your set to suit those crowds? Maybe some bangers in the Tkay set?

That’s what I was thinking! I make a lot of EDM stuff as a joke… Not even as a side project, I just do that instead of making demos because I get bored, but I’m probably going to try and make my Tkay set more upbeat. I’m opening though so I guess my set eases people into UV Boi and then into Tkay. Everyone is saying not to change my set but I’ll probably try and chuck a few sneaky things in there. I kind of make my set up on the spot and see how people are responding. If people are looking super bored, you can just be like, “Here’s something I’ve never played live before woo!” and just do it.

Speaking of bangers, I wanted to talk to you about the Peking Duk Live A Version from last year. That was one of my favourites from last year and it had a lot to do with your vocals – how crazy was that for you? 

That was amazing. It was the best thing ever. I guess that’s where everything started kicking off for me. I’d been hanging around, but as soon as that took off, all the JOY. stuff just took off as well. It was super awesome and they’re the best guys. We hadn’t even rehearsed it that much, we just kind of went in and YOLO’d.

Didn’t Kylie Minogue contact you afterwards?

Yeah, and I lost my shit. I had to go to school the next day, and I was just sitting in class when she tweeted me. I just wanted to stand up and walk out, I was just like, “What the fuck?”

“I’m done. I’m out.”

*laughs* Yeah! “Goodbye forever, I don’t need school!”

Well I guess that’s fair when Kylie Minogue tweets you! Looking forward now, what else are you going to be up to this year?

I’m doing a LOT of touring. After this Tkay one there are a few more which haven’t been announced yet. I want to get a new single out around May I guess, and then follow that with a proper sized EP. It just kind of depends. There aren’t any set dates and stuff because you never know what will happen between now and then. It’s hard to set a date that it’s going out when it’s not close to being finished, but it would be ideal to have an EP coming. There are also a thousand collabs with people that have to be scheduled in with everything else, so there is a lot of music coming out too.

At the end of last year, you were featured on more than a few End of Year lists as one to watch – was that exciting for you or does it just heap the pressure on and you’re like “Well, fuck”?

The first couple of ones, I thought it was awesome. But then there was 12 or something, and I was like, “Oh no…” It was kind of like that weird thing because I don’t know if this will be my year, or if next year will be. I wanted this year to be the year preparing for 2016. It’s still super awesome to see that that many people believe in what you’re doing but now I actually have to do well! It’s still cool though.

Okay so this is like the year laying out the work for next year?

I guess so. You can never tell what’s going to happen, but that’s kind of like what I thought would happen but it depends!

Tkay Maidza w/ UV Boi and JOY. tour dates:

Friday, 17 April – Goodgod Small Club, Sydney
Saturday 18 April – Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane
Friday April 24 – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne