- by Variance Staff
- January 25, 2011
It seems everywhere you look these days there’s a reason to lose hope. One day the economy is improving, the next day it’s spiraling downward. From bookseller giants to the post office, many are cutting back or doing less. And the music industry is no exception.
On the heels of what was a sluggish year in music sales worldwide, it's exciting to see a duo that met a couple years ago at songwriting camp rising to the top.
Last June I had the honor of speaking with the Civil Wars (comprised of Joy Williams and John Paul White) for the inaugural issue of Variance. Eight months later, everyone from USA Today to Vanity Fair is raving about the Civil Wars. One publication called them "the best of what's next." Adding them to her iTunes playlist, Taylor Swift said, "I think this is my favorite duet." And earlier this month, Jay Leno welcomed the pair to the Tonight Show for a bone-chilling debut performance that sent Twitter abuzz.
As Williams and White prepare to light up the Sundance Festival this weekend, I can't help but think of how inspiring a story these two have become. In an industry marked recently by a stream of bad news and increasing obstacles for "do-it-yourself" musicians, the Civil Wars are a breath of fresh air.
From the beginning, they have functioned outside of the box. Having previously fostered solo careers, they know how the industry works (or how it used to work). White admitted, "we’re trying to approach this differently—not being afraid to take chances."
Instead of going the traditional routes, they recorded a live EP (of their second performance ever) at Eddie's Attic in Nashville and gave it away for free online. They made a connection that resulted in having their music on ABC's Grey's Anatomy. They quietly built up a devoted fan base through unconventional means. And by the time their debut--that's right, their first--album drops on Tuesday, February 1, thousands of fans will be eagerly waiting to click "buy" or open up their vinyl record of Barton Hollow.
Yes, the Civil Wars are a melting pot of music styles and brilliantly-blended vocals that send chills down your spine. And yes, they embody everything great about the spirit of Nashville and the power of the American dream. But in my opinion, Joy Williams and John Paul White are even greater examples of something truly rare among their peers--a great work ethic and a commitment to doing the right thing.
"You don’t make relationships so you can ingratiate yourself to get something," said Williams. "But if you treat people right, you never know what can happen."
Speaking with the duo last summer, those words stood out to me. And less than a year later, it's evident those words--those values--are the cornerstone of the Civil Wars' career.
As the music industry struggles to figure out what comes next, music sales won't sustain careers. If you're not performing live (over and over again), building genuine relationships, and working hard for yourself, it's going to be tough. But if you need any amount of inspiration, look to the Civil Wars. And keep your eye on them this year, because they--along with others, of course--are the future. And the future looks very bright.
Make sure to get the debut album "Barton Hallow" Tuesday and check out our original interview with the Civil Wars.