An artist’s work is essentially her diary – often reflective, most times vulnerable, but always honest. In her 3rd full-length album, independent artist Joy Ike offers her most realized work yet - All or Nothing – 10 songs about giving up everything you have in exchange for everything you need.
Not yet a veteran, but more than a newcomer, Ike is and always has been an anomaly. As a singer/songwriter who purposefully refuses to be pigeon-holed into any one specific genre, Ike’s path has consistently taken an “anywhere for anyone” approach. Theaters, house shows, coffeehouses, churches, colleges, “…any opportunity where there is a chance to cultivate a relationship with the audience and know that I’ve spent my time well is where I want to be,” she says.
Leaving her career as a publicist in 2008, Ike has since played over 400 shows and has had the opportunity to share the stage with artist Deas Vail, Butterfly Boucher, Dwele, Chrisette Michele, Tyrone Wells, Najee, and Jeffrey Gaines to name a few. Her songs have been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered and Relevant Magazine’s The Drop; and her unique style has afforded her the opportunity to play such festivals as Lilith Fair and Purple Door.
Born to Nigerian immigrants, Joy Ike’s music, voice, and writing has drawn comparisons to female musicians such as Corinne Bailey Rae, Regina Spektor, Norah Jones, and Fiona Apple. But her percussive piano-playing and soaring vocals give homage to her African upbringing. “Some of my earliest memories involve sitting in the living room with my family singing Nigerian choruses and finding ways to harmonize with my father’s booming voice and my mother’s soprano harmonies,” Ike says of her formative years. “I also remember listening to a lot of DC Talk and Steven Curtis Chapman as a teenager…and then discovering Gwen Stefani and Vertical Horizon in high school. There were so many options!”
With so many influences, perhaps the voice that Ike has found for herself comes as a surprise to many. It is not Christian Contemporary, Alternative, R&B or Gospel, but a genre she affectionately refers to as Soulfolk – a soulful approach to a style of music that has often been reserved for guitar and banjo players.
Every album has a story of how it came to be. All or Nothing’s main character’s are Ike’s fans who fully funded its production with over $12,000 in donations through a 2012 Kickstarter campaign. “Without their commitment and devotion, the project could not have happened,” she says. It’s other main character was “time” - wading through a fairly stagnant 2011, searching endlessly for the right producer to work with, and waiting patiently for various aspects of the project to fall into place.
Ike’s search settled on New York producer Saul Simon MacWilliams. Having met through a mutual acquaintance, it was soon discovered that MacWilliams is a member of Ingrid Michaelson’s band, accompanying her on tour and offering auxiliary vocals, percussion, and keyboard. He has also spent time working on various soundtracks including Fox Searchlight’s recent Beasts of a Southern Wild. Knowing that MacWilliams’ background and experience perfectly complimented Ike’s style, the decision to work together was made easily.
With that Ike & MacWilliams embarked on a 4 month adventure to create a studio album that far surpasses any of her earlier releases. “After 8 years of songwriting, touring, and archiving plenty of half-finished songs, I feel like this album is the most realized, most complete piece of work I have ever been a part of,” says Ike. “I feel like I can finally show people what I’ve been hearing in my head all these years.”
Joy Ike has spent the last 8 years cultivating what she would call a slow, but steady-burning flame. All or Nothing is more or less the culmination of her hard years of work and a clear articulation of feelings, beliefs and convictions that were once inexpressible. It is a deep dive into the unknown - a definitive statement on life and how one chooses to spend it.
All or Nothing is ultimately a phrase reflective of the life Joy Ike hopes to live both on and off stage.