To celebrate linking up with Fender to explore her Elephant & Castle upbringing, the neo-soul singer is taking over our Only Tracks You Need to Hear playlist.
If you don’t know Joy Crookes then, seriously, where have you been hiding? The Bangladeshi-Irish neo-soul singer has been everywhere over the past twelve months: placing fourth in the BBC’s Sound of 2020 poll and scooping up a nomination for Rising Star at the Brit Awards in February.
With her honest lyrics and husky tones, we were quick converts to her music but with her outspoken views on identity, gentrification and social injustice, she’s also one of our favourite people to follow on Twitter. Refreshingly, she’s just as honest in the music she puts out as she is on social media, pouring her personal struggles with mental health into one of our stand-out singles of this year, April’s “Anyone But Me”.
Joy makes no bones about how her fresh take on music is a reflection of her upbringing, having been profoundly inspired by the energy and multiculturalism of South London, where she was raised. These formative years in Elephant & Castle are the inspiration for a new video to celebrate Fender’s iconic American Professional II guitar, which sees Joy delve into her earliest musical memories and detail the experience of teaching herself to play the guitar.
To celebrate the collab, Joy tells us about her appreciation for rock pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe and making space for herself as a woman of colour in the male-dominated world of guitar music. If you want to learn more about South London’s booming music scene, Joy’s even curated a selection of her favourite South London musicians.
What’s 2020 been like for you?
Reflective, overwhelming and sad.
Did you learn anything new about yourself this year?
I learnt that I feel much better thinking collectively when I’m in a time of crisis, like a pandemic, than individually. Solace is so important to me and perspective makes a more compassionate world.
Tell us, what was it like growing up in South London? What makes it unique?
Everyone has a story here. Every culture you can think of, you’re surrounded by. Our community is so rich.
Who were your main musical influences growing up? Have they changed over the years?
Kate Nash, Nina Simone, The Clash, Metronomy, Marvin Gaye, Gregory Isaac’s, Burning Spear. They evolve but I always come back to my first musical influences.
What drew you to learn the guitar?
I was bored and needed something to accompany my writing.
Guitar music is pretty notorious for being dominated by white men – how did you first break through this preconception of what a guitar player looks like?
When I discovered that a Black woman called Sister Rosetta Tharpe invented rock and roll.
What do you want young women of colour to know about making it in music?
That they belong wherever they want to stand. Whichever instrument they pick up, whichever subject or genre they decide to take up is completely up to them and no one can tell them otherwise.
What’s next for you?
An album please God.
What are you most looking forward to about performing live again?
Honestly, I’m just looking forward to the intimacy between the crowd, my band and I.
Any hopes for 2021?
A more collective, compassionate world.
Check out Joy’s picks of the best musical artists from South London below, or over on Spotify.
17 December 2020