Not too long ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Lisa Joyce, a local alt-country artist who performs under the name Joyce Island. It was a typical Vancouver morning in a coffee shop off Main & Broadway, but what ensued was an illuminating conversation about tapping into the Canadiana music scene in a city known for its indie folk, as well as the exciting future for Lisa who is quickly becoming a noteworthy name out of her hometown.
Lisa grew up in Vancouver within a family of musicians and music lovers, religiously listening to musical greats such as Patsy Cline. That love really shines through Lisa’s work, as her laid-back, easy-going sound is coupled with a true understanding of the musicality involved in her genre. Her self-titled debut EP was released in the spring of 2013, but you wouldn’t know that from listening to the maturity of sound that Lisa exhibits on her records. “We started recording in the winter of 2009, and then it took until April 2013 to release it…people kind of gave me a hard time about that. There were a lot of speed bumps along the way and it didn’t really feel right to release it until 2013…things happen when they’re supposed to.” The timing certainly paid off.
Tunes from the release, like “Dry These Eyes”, have really resonated with audiences, but what’s interesting about that particular track is that it was almost an “afterthought” to her very much rock ‘n’ roll oriented EP, even receiving airtime on CBC Radio. “It’s funny…that song was put on unexpectedly as a hidden track, and none of us guessed that it would be the song everyone liked most, including the CBC…it’s been an unexpected surprise”. Another unexpected surprise for Lisa was the success of her first cross-country VIA Rail tour in the summer of 2013, a tour she plans on doing again this year. “It was incredible…meeting all the different people was unbelievable, seeing the country was amazing…I have to say the biggest take-away was getting to play different cities every night and getting my music out there in a way that was kind of unique.”
On the topic of her music, Lisa and I touched on the subject of difficulties navigating the relatively untracked terrain of the alt-country scene in Vancouver. “It’s been interesting”, she says, “it’s been a double-edged sword in the sense that it’s been easier to set a name for myself and get some recognition based on the fact that the sound is different and not something that’s prominent in the city. But at the same time, I think there are a lot of skeptical people that were thinking that this type of music wouldn’t catch on here because it’s not part of what’s hip and happening.”
But Lisa has a great response to those who doubt – “Thankfully, I’ve never really tried to do what’s been cool, I just do whatever feels right. I grew up playing that kind of music so it just came naturally. I stuck with the formula that worked and stayed true to my roots and the kind of music I love to play. Surprisingly, it’s caught on and it’s been really cool. People are really receptive of it and I feel really glad about that.”
Lisa is currently working on her second release, which she says will be much more in the style of her hidden gem, “Dry These Eyes”. She will also be on tour later this spring with VIA Rail as well as NXNE.
Photo Credits: Natasha Ali, Angela Hubbard