Joy Williams and John Paul White began their careers as solo artists (as a Christian pop and a rock singer, respectively), before joining forces at a 2008 songwriting session and forming what would eventually become the country-folk duo the Civil Wars.
Three months after the release of their full-length debut, "Barton Hollow," the Civil Wars are unlikely stars in the making. Early single "Poison and Wine" scored prime placement on "Grey's Anatomy" and Taylor Swift later named it her favorite duet (this was a big deal). Add in a Tonight Show appearance, a #1 iTunes album and a sold-out tour with Adele (the Civil Wars play their own date at the Rams Head On Stage on Saturday, but that show is also sold-out), and the Civil Wars are one of 2011's unlikeliest success stories.
Click Track talked with Williams and White about their year of living (kind of, semi) famously.
Did you think even six months ago that any of this would ever happen?
Williams: No. We pinch ourselves often. We were asked before [all this happened] what our bucket list things would be, and some of them have been checked off much quicker than we ever thought, including to tour with Adele. So we need to expand our bucket list now.
It seems like a domino effect, everything that's happened to you. Like everything needed to happen for all the other things to happen. Does it feel that way to you?
White: It definitely does. It feels like everything was evenly spaced and fell out of the sky when it needed to….We're very fortunate people, but we're busting our [butts], too.
Has it been an adjustment to write [and perform] together when you're used to your separate careers?
White: That is a lot of the reason Joy and I are together doing this. From day one it's been effortless. We're not saying everything we're doing is great but it always feels real good to us. It feels like home. Every time we have a writing appointment something comes out that we're proud of, and that's not the way it's always been. Writing songs the past ten years, I've had lots of co-writes-some good ones, some bad ones. But I've never been part of a writing relationship where every time we sit down the muse is there. And we'll just keep following that as long as we can.
Was it just a one-off when you started, or did you [mean to make a career out of it]?
Williams: No. Honestly, it wasn't even "Do you want to make a record together?" It was, "Hey, how about we co-write again?" And then after that we decided, hey, let's demo this. After demoing it, it was maybe let's do a writers night and play out and see how it goes. But our second show ever was recorded in full [for] "Live at Eddie's Attic," which has been a free download, a way to start a conversation with people who had never heard of us. It was a bit of a litmus test, and looking back it was another one of those breadcrumbs along the way to people gaining interest in what we were doing.
So it was definitely a long, platonic courtship.
Williams: Well said!
White: [It's been said that] we're married to the music.
But you're also married to other people, and you tour together and spend lots of time together. Even understanding spouses might not like that idea.
Williams: We both have amazing and wonderful understanding spouses. My husband travels with us because he's also our manager…and he and John Paul and I are also really great friends, so that works out well.
Are you very stuck up now? Do you go around demanding exotic mustards on [your tour rider]?
Williams: I think we went from two bottles of water to "Can we have 12 bottles of water?"
White: Yeah. That's how big time we are.