Joy Williams' Public Breakup and Private Grief
Before singer-songwriter Joy Williams became one half of the Grammy-winning duo The Civil Wars, she was a fledgling Christian artist in Nashville without much romantic experience. “Pure as the driven snow would have been the moniker at that point,” Williams jokes. She met her husband, Nate, when he waited on her table at an Italian restaurant, and they got married soon afterward -- she was 21, and he was 23.
When Williams met John Paul White a few years later, "it was like meeting somebody that I had known for a really long time," she told me. The two formed The Civil Wars. Their powerful creative connection led to gold records and four Grammys in three years. But there was also tension about the direction of the band. When the two finally broke up, rumors started flying that it was more than a professional split. Williams admits that it was hard being in an artistic partnership with one person while being married to another. "Saying yes to something means saying no to something else. Saying no to something means saying yes to something else," she said. "You have to weigh those questions very deeply."
I spoke with Williams about going through a public breakup while she was also privately dealing with miscarriages, her father's terminal cancer diagnosis and a rough patch in her marriage.
Below, Williams performs "Before I Sleep," from her latest album, VENUS, on KCRW: