Faces of Bushwick: Joy Mills
July 30, 2021
To celebrate our longtime partnership with Bushwick Book Club Seattle, we’re speaking with local musicians who have composed and performed songs inspired by the written works of SAL speakers. Learn about these hometown talents and discover their music in our Faces of Bushwick interview series.
In this installment, we talk with singer, songwriter, and guitarist Joy Mills.
What SAL event did you write a song for? What book inspired your song?
I wrote the song “The Lonely and the Lean” for Ann Patchett’s book Commonwealth, and performed it live at Benaroya Hall on September 19, 2016. I was joined by Wes Weddell on mandolin and Geoff Larsen on upright bass.
Where can people find this song online?
What surprised you about the song that emerged from the process?
Reading this book seemed to open up memories of childhood, cousins, family affairs, and how it feels looking back as an adult, which feels so distant from that time and place. I was sensing the reverberations of family dynamics in my family tree and the larger gestalt of our experiences. My lyrics tried to capture that in both minute and abstract ways. I like how the music has a buoyant drive yet with a tugging from beneath the surface.
What do you love about writing music inspired by literature in general? Is it different from how you write songs otherwise?
Writing songs inspired by literature pulls from a different well than my other songs do. There is more structure to my approach. Most of the time, I arrive at a place that only seems possible with that kind of parameter. The process remains a mystery, but it pulls me out of a narrower perspective to find an empathic connection to the story.
What are you reading right now? Or, what book have you recently enjoyed?
I’ve usually got stacks of books around me on various subjects ranging from permaculture and herbalism to astrology and philosophy. I jump around a lot!
Thank you, Joy! To learn more about Joy’s work, visit her website.