Joy Downer (aka Joy née Bishop) is an illustrious singer-songwriter who’s music has been featured everywhere — from network television ads (yes, that lovely voice singing here, that’s Joy), to MTV’s Siesta Key highlighting “Weapons Down” and Netflix Original Series Spinning Out — not only is Joy a radiant talent, but she’s also an incredible mother to her adorable 10-year-old daughter Hazel.
Together with her husband Jeffrey Downer, the two make infectious and eclectic indie pop that you just can’t get enough. There’s a reason why we’ve been hooked on Joy Downer ever since she turned our heads in 2017 with “Caught In Your Spell” and “Goddammit.” With the recent release of her very cool debut album Paper Moon — which shimmers with all that retro dreaminess — Joy is an inspiration to all womxn, including those of us that hold the heroic title of mama.
We’re thrilled to have Joy Downer as our first music mama for our Sonic Motherhood column. Her journey through motherhood is one that many mothers know all too well. Her experience as a mother and a music artist is one that needs to be shared and heard so that all womxn in the music, entertainment and creative industries know that they are not alone in their struggles. We hope that her story and those to come serve as a sort of ‘what to expect‘ for artists looking to become mothers and parents.
How do you juggle motherhood with your career in music? Especially during those early days of becoming a mama
Joy Downer: Juggling is a very accurate picture to paint. Most days that’s exactly what it feels like. Just trying to keep things rolling – and getting anxiety about dropping the ball. It feels like a selfish gamble sometimes. I wonder if I’m jeopardizing a stable future for my daughter. It’s these kinds of doubts that creep in and cripple me sometimes. But when I’m actually creating music, all of the doubts melt away and I feel like I’m doing precisely what I’m meant to.
I’m also really fortunate to have a core group of family and friends that offer continuous support and encouragement. And of course, people like yourself that have continually supported me in this path.
What was the biggest challenge for you in becoming a mother and juggling your music career?
Joy Downer: I did have to wait a few years until I was able to get back into following my dream of making music my living. I was working 3 jobs to pay bills when we moved to LA. It wasn’t something I had set out to do, but quickly realized the reality of moving to LA. For years I worked these jobs and realized it left me with very little time to be creative. I was too exhausted at the end of the day. Eventually I saved enough to be able to quit all my jobs and set a 6-month window for myself to really give music all my attention. I doubted what I was doing even back then. But ultimately, I knew I wanted to show Hazel by example that taking chances and possibly failing, is better then living with the regret of never having tried.
It can feel like an impossible feat to find a balance. And maybe that’s part of the difficulty – that there is not a balance, but a constant shifting of weight. Especially as we get older as women and it feels like the hour glass is running out of sand. I feel like we have to remind ourselves we can flip it over and begin again and keep reinventing ourselves (so to speak).
What advice do you have for other artists / musicians becoming mothers for the first time?
Joy Downer: I would say to an artist wanting to become a mother, you won’t be giving up anything – you’ll only be gaining. Being a mother is actually what gives me a lot of my drive … [and to] any mother wanting set sail on the creative path to absolutely go for it. There’s always going to be a lot of what ifs and worst case scenarios, but I have seen first hand – where there’s a will there’s a way. Even if it means carving out your own way. Because there’s no “right way.”
What are some activities you love to do with your daughter?
Joy Downer: We play a lot of Zelda. We watch a lot of the British bake off and just any baking show really. At night, we crack eachother up at bedtime with our bad accents. She’s one of the funniest people I know. Full of great stories – her imagination is incredible. We do a weekly art project, she’s constantly drawing. She’s very into anime style art.
What kind of future do you want for your daughter?
Joy Downer: My hope is that Hazel and Victoria (Victoria is my daughter ~ Sandra) grow up in this world where they are shown more and more that being a mother and also being a creative is not an either or. I want Hazel to see a world in which age and looks take a backseat to talent and drive. And possibilities are limitless.
Interview by Sandra B. Olinger
Catch Joy Downer performing on the Late Show with James Corden on March 22!