By Sadé Powell | @supersaiyansade
When listening to Joyce Wrice’s debut LP Overgrown for the first time, your ear is guided along a delicate flow of soulful lyrics that lay comfortably over a bed of 90s R&B nostalgia. The California-born singer/songwriter finds wings on this project as she delivers parts of her journey in a way that’s dazzling, yet fierce. Wrice gets candid about the ups and downs of falling in love, the lessons from love that’s passed and the insecurities that many of us face on the daily. Alongside her production team, which includes Executive Producer and songwriter D’Mile, Wrice fuses old-school nuances and her own unique steeze to create R&B records with a new age twang that resonates across generations.
The project nabs features from artists such as Grammy-nominated rapper Freddie Gibbs, musician/singer Masego, acclaimed Canadian producer Kaytranda, the divine energy of songstress Umi and many more. Speaking with Wrice, she shares what it feels like to find her voice as an artist, working with her favourite talents in the music industry and how she maintains a level head through it all.
“I’m very proud of this journey because it’s been a long one filled with many obstacles, but also filled with great moments and experiences. I’m just super grateful and excited for what the future holds.”
Overgrown hits streaming services on March 19th 2021.
Photos by Breyona Holt
I think we can all agree that 2020 was a year of self-reflection and growth as the world came to a stop and we no longer had the excuse of not having enough time. What are some key differences between the artist you were in past projects like Stay Around and Rocket Science and the artist you’ve become on Overgrown? How has the last year impacted that growth?
When I first started making music I was a little timid. I cared too much about how people were going to receive my ideas and my songs. I was really seeking validation, but now I’m really owning who I am and embracing all of me. I’m open to mistakes and failures and doing my best to just have fun and enjoy, tell my story, be as creative as possible, collaborate and learn from as many people as possible. That’s how I’ll grow and be better at whatever it is that I’m trying to do.
I just feel really grounded now. I think in the past I was unsure and it’s okay to be unsure and uncomfortable in the uncomfortable. I feel more at peace and at ease despite the uncertainties. During 2020 with the pandemic, no one knew that was going to happen. I’m really just trying to find value in it no matter what.
One of the most hyped tracks off the album is “On One” featuring rapper Freddie Gibbs, which came paired with an old-school vibe music video that dropped earlier this month. We got ladies with braids and bubbles in their hair, homies playing poker at the cookout and you even use Scrabble for the opening title shot. Giving us 90s/early 00s feels. How did this song go from scribbles on a piece of paper to you doing the two-step under palm trees with one of your idols? What was the vision there?
This song is very dear to me because it’s literally a passage out of my journal. It’s what I was going through, how I was feeling. When I made the song with D’Mile the Executive Producer for my album and DC Rider that I work closely with, I just opened up to them about how I was feeling and I’m so glad that we were still able to make a fun record out of it. I love making visuals, I love choreography; I’ve been a dancer since I was in junior high school. To be able to have the music and now get creative with how we wanted to execute it visually; I love to go big and I love to incorporate choreography. I knew this song would feel like a backyard BBQ or a block party record. It’s very atmospheric so I knew I needed to bring back the dancers from “So So Sick” and my team recommended that we add male dancers.
I felt like the record had such a great bounce to it that a rapper hopping on would be even more fly. We were able to get Freddie Gibbs on it because he loved the record when I played it for him. Having him in the video made it even stronger. It’s the type of summer I hope we can have this year. That’s the fun that I like to have so I really wanted to showcase that with the video.
What was the most memorable part about working with Freddie Gibbs?
My most memorable moment with him was his suggestion to film his scene at the Cheesecake Factory parking lot. He told me that we could pull up to his house and shoot his scene from there and as I’m pulling up he calls me and tells me to meet him at the Cheesecake Factory parking lot. I don’t know why [laughs], but it didn’t end up working out because the Cheesecake Factory parking lot was full. We decided to go to the Macy’s parking lot upstairs, which was empty and fortunately we were able to shoot the scene there and it looks like we’re on the beach so it worked it.
That was my most memorable experience with him because he’s just so chill and so funny. Even when he suggested it he didn’t laugh, it’s just what he thought would work and I love how open he is to work with an emerging artist like myself. I’m still so new, I’m independent, and he’s with a major record label. It’s usually really difficult to make those collaborations come to life. For him to be open and down, that just made me so happy and so grateful. I really appreciate him, I really respect him and I’ve just been such a huge fan of him since I was in high school/college so having him on my song is huge.
Did you guys end up having cheesecake afterward?
No, I actually don’t like cheesecake and I’m not really crazy about The Cheesecake Factory. But we shot the scene, laughed, joked and I taught him the two-step so it was fun.
Another standout feature on Overgrown is “That’s On You” with singer/songwriter Umi who, like yourself, is also part Japanese. The song incorporates both Japanese and English lyrics and even the video for “So So Sick” opens with you cussing someone off in Japanese over the phone. How does your heritage impact your music and what was it like working with Umi on “That’s On You”?
In Japanese culture, they take pride in who they are, how they move as a community and they are very strict on mastering whatever passion they have. Growing up, I was an only child so I spent a lot of time by myself. I was obsessing over music. I would print off lyrics, learn songs and just try to sing it as good as the artist. I think that really helped me become a great singer. It helped me develop an ear and just really figure it out without getting a vocal coach or going to music school. I’ve been fortunate enough to figure it out on my own, but now I have a vocal coach and I’ve been working with so many talented people and learning from them. I think my Japanese culture has helped me with that.
Music and all these great ideas that come from Black people…I’m just so fortunate to have that embedded in me as well. Everything that’s trending, everything that’s cool, a majority of it comes from Black culture. I’m very proud to have both cultures within me. For Umi and I making the song was so seamless. Everything really wrote itself and I’m so happy she was down to do it. She speaks more Japanese than me and she can read and write so she really helped me translate and figure out how to say things in the best way possible. I hope we can perform it live and I would have loved to make a music video for it, but it just didn’t work out. I’m happy we were able to make that especially during quarantine, during a time that we were really limited.
You posted a video in December 2020 of you in the car listening to your record “So So Sick” on Power 106, the first time you’ve been played on the radio. What was that moment like for you and who did you share it with?
I was with my best friend who’s also my manager. Actually the way that happened was that DJ Sourmilk who is a DJ on Power 106, saw the cover of “So So Sick” on Twitter and he said “this cover already tells me that the song is going to be great” and I was like oh my god let me send it to you. I sent it to him, he loved the record and he said “I can relate to this, I’m going to play it on the radio 10pm tonight”.
So it’s happening the night that it comes out and it’s happening so organically. You know it’s very difficult to be on the radio, especially as an independent artist. Labels run that shit. I told Jasmine [Manager/best friend] and she was like “oh my god we need to be in the car, I need to film your reaction; this is huge”. Hearing it play, hearing the DJ talk on the record, that was so surreal and so crazy. Such a great, great moment.
If you could play any of the songs on your album to your younger self, which one would it be and why?
It would be “Overgrown” because that song is really about my garden, my thoughts, emotions, everything. It’s full with a variety of colorful flowers, but those things were just overrun by weeds. My garden was over grown and needed tending. For me that song is about tending your garden, trusting the process, acknowledging how you feel, feeling how you feel, but still taking action and not giving up. [It’s about] still reminding yourself of your purpose, reminding yourself that it’s bigger than whatever you’re struggling with at that moment and choosing hope.
As you speak about nurturing your garden, thoughts and emotions, can you share what daily practices you incorporate into your routine in order to tend to your mental health?
I practice Nichiren Buddhism with the SGI (The Sokka Gakkai International), which is a Buddhist organization that’s all over the world. With that practice I chant morning and night and I really use that time to reflect, show gratitude for everything and to really manifest things that I want to come to fruition. I share affirmations with myself and because of that I’m staying grounded, I can set the tone of my day with that energy because shit will hit the fan. But because I’ve already planned in that morning, I’ve already set the tone for how I want things to be so it’s necessary for me to do that morning and night as well as journaling right when I wake up. I do morning pages where you write three pages in your journal before you do anything.
And I love getting atleast 20 minutes of vitamin D from the sun, I love walking in my front lawn barefoot so I can ground myself and drinking lots of water. I have a hot tea and apple cider vinegar water that I take. That’s a part of my morning routine and throughout the day I carry a little journal for my thoughts or things that I want to write down…I love writing, it brings me so much joy.
How are you going to celebrate with your team when the album drops on March 19th?
We want to go to an island, somewhere tropical and warm by the water. We did already celebrate by taking some producers and writers to dinner, but I also want to do a virtual release party. I think that would be fun. We’ll figure it out.