“Optimism and hope can be a really great tether, especially in the troubling times we’ve lived through,” says this modern-day siren. “And it’s not necessarily about putting a positive outcome on this future thing, but more about I can do something with the little good I have.”
The daughter of Nigerian immigrants, Joy Oladokun grew up in Casa Grande, Arizona where she received a steady stream of music from her father’s extensive record collection–think Johnny Cash, King Sunny Adé, and Phil Collins, and a strict religious indoctrination from the Christian church her family regularly attended.
It wasn’t until age ten when she saw Tracy Chapman play at Nelson Mandela’s 70th Tribute Concert that she believed a musical career could be possible for someone of her color. “Every time I’ve seen a guitar, it has been in the hands of a white person.” Joy recounts. “[When] I got to see Tracy and her guitar in a stadium of people— just listening to her thoughts, her feelings, how she saw the world— it changed my life.”
With a guitar that she got that Christmas, Joy started to write songs: the first inspired by Lord of the Rings and then many more she shared as a worship leader at her family church, a job she eventually realized was keeping her from happiness and achieving her goals.
“I quit the church and came out of the closet,” Joy recalls. “I got to a point where I was like, If God exists, he does not care that I’m gay. With all the things happening, he cannot give a shit.”
In 2019, she released her response to these experiences in a single titled ‘Sunday,’ stating, “‘This [Sunday] is the song that 12-year-old Joy, seated in the back of church youth group, needed to hear. She needed to hear that you can be queer and happy. Queer and healthy. Queer and holy. She needed to see married women kissing and playing with their kids.”
The video features LGBTQ couples as they grapple with the stigmas of their relationships in the face of religious doctrine. Joy sings, “Sunday, carry me, carry me down to the water/Wash me clean. I’m still struggling.” Her song asks the question, how long does it take to undo the stigmas of guilt and shame?
This modern-day siren has had to fight to fuel her dream, raising funds on Kickstarter in 2016 to be able to release her debut album, Carry Me. She wrote and recorded all of the songs in her Los Angeles apartment, playing the six different instruments heard on the album.
She has since relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, and released two critically acclaimed albums: In Defense of My Own Happiness (The Beginnings) which was a top 10 best LGBTQ album of 2020, and Defense of My Own Happiness released in July of 2021.
Joy’s music always centers around striking lyrics. “Words are such a powerful tool,” Joy states. “I love and respect the ability of words to touch on the physical realm. I’m very intentional with my words.”
Her latest single, “Keeping the Light On,” dropped this past January. The song itself is a lifeline for all those trying to see the positive in their current situations. “It’s not necessarily about putting a positive outcome on this future thing,” Joy shares, “but more about ‘I can do something with the little good I have.” Oladokun co-wrote the song with producers Mike Elizondo and Ian Fitchuk, and its down-to-earth lyrics offer practical advice: “Try to give a little/try to be a little/Try to see a light in the dark.”
“When you listen to me, I want you to feel like you’ve taken an emotional shower,” Joy shares on her website. “That’s what I’m trying to accomplish for myself. To me, music is a vehicle of catharsis.” She goes on to add. “I want you to be changed when you hear me, and not because I’m special, but because I make music with the intention to change myself.”
Joy Oladokun’s Spring 2022 North American Tour kickstarts in Austin, Texas on April 7. Visit Jam Base for a complete list of concerts. This modern-day siren is not shy about her mission: “I feel like it’s not an accident I’m a queer black woman writing and making music,” and her growing fan base whole-heartedly agrees.