Joyce Wrice has likened making her debut album, Overgrown, to tending a garden of her emotions: It has the potential to flourish, but it’s overrun with weeds, stunting growth, ultimately forcing her to pluck them out to thrive. The process required serious self-reflection and determination, Wrice says. “I kept going, I kept creating and developing myself. And even though it took years to do it, I finally got the product that I wanted.”
The California native dropped her first EP in 2016, breaking through with the soothing single “Rocket Science,” marking the first big steps into her music career, after posting YouTube covers in high school and moving to L.A. post-college. She continued to grow as an artist with the help of her A&R, Eddie Fourcell, who connected her with more writers and producers, and her manager, Jasmine Collier, who opened her eyes to her potential. “She just really had to push me to be more open to own who I am, not be afraid to promote myself, and shine my light,” says Wrice. After three years in the making, Overgrown was released last Friday.
The album, partly a manifesto for self-love, is a collection of downright bops, made with features from Kaytranada, Westside Gunn, and Freddie Gibbs. Visuals for songs like “On One” and “So So Sick” feel like a party, with dance numbers in the street and bright West Coast wardrobes. Inspired by Aaliyah, Missy Elliott, Beyoncé, Usher, Ciara, and Mariah Carey, Wrice hopes to turn her performances into bigger dance productions.
Wrice’s wish with Overgrown is that it inspires listeners to create or get in touch with their emotions—just like it did for her. “I hope that people can at least just feel something from the album,” she says. “And I hope that it can bring you some sort of peace, ease, or joy.”
Shortly before the album’s release, Wrice talked to BAZAAR.com about idolizing Mariah Carey, finding herself, and her childhood crush on Jay-Z.
When did you know wanted to pursue music?
I feel like it came about when I was doing YouTube covers and people were responding positively. It can be very discouraging being in this industry, but I have the patience for it now. There’s a lot of sacrifices you have to make, a lot of risks you have to take. This industry is a mess. It’s nasty, it’s dominated by white men who just have a whole other agenda that unfortunately is not about the music. But I have the drive to break barriers. I think when I realized I don’t care, like I want to make it and I want to help others by being transparent about my journey, I knew that I was made for this. Not everyone wants to make that sacrifice; not everyone has the energy or drive to do it. And I don’t fucking blame them.
You mentioned how, over the years, you’ve been able to embrace some of your insecurities and grow as a person and as a creator. That’s also what you’re embracing with the album Overgrown, right? I’d love to hear about that journey.
My tendency is to get in my own way and worry a lot. I don’t know what it is, but I have a tendency to create the most ridiculous scenarios in my head when, probably, it’s never going to happen. So I truly feel like that part of me has stopped me from being the best version of myself. It has stopped me from shining my light. It has stopped me from making the best music and allowing opportunities and miracles to happen. I realized that through my Buddhist practice. I’ve been chanting and praying to get wisdom and clarity on how to move and go about this journey. And once I really realized those things about myself—with the help of my manager, who’s also my best friend, Jasmine Collier—I was reminded of my purpose, my mission with being an artist and musician for peace, and to just enjoy the journey and the process and do my best. It was just a lot of self-work and self-awareness, holding myself accountable, taking responsibility for my happiness, taking responsibility for my goals, and just really putting in the work.
I read that you looked to Mariah Carey, at least when it came to collaborating with rappers or artists, for this album.
Growing up, I was obsessed with Mariah Carey. She naturally collaborated with male and female rappers. I guess I just became a product of the music that I grew up listening to, a product of the artists that I’m inspired by. When I was doing YouTube covers, I was covering songs by Nate Dogg, Dom Kennedy, Pac Div. And when those L.A. artists saw my YouTube covers, they asked me to come to the studio and to sing hooks on their records. I built organic relationships with rappers, and because I’m such a hip-hop lover, I had to incorporate that into my album and the music that I make. Westside Gunn has the interlude on my album, and I’m on his previous album. I’m also on the Free Nationals album with him and Conway. It’s just artists who are fans of each other.
The song that you have with Lucky Daye is also on his Table for Two EP. I interviewed him a little while ago, and he talked about how easily that song came together.
Yeah. Actually, that song was a demo for Mary J. Blige.
Oh, no way.
Prior to Lucky really transitioning to [being] an artist, he was a songwriter. He wrote that song for Mary J. Blige, and Mary J. Blige and I have the same A&R, Eddie Fourcell. Mary had passed on the record, and Eddie, who knows my taste and the kind of music I love, knew that I would like it. So he shared it with me, and I fell in love with it.
I wrote my verse to it and showed it to Lucky, and he loved it and tweaked his parts, and then we were able to solidify the record. I love the song so much. D’Mile produced the record and is also Lucky’s main producer and the executive producer from my album. I love that he incorporates his vocals into the beat. The vocals in the beginning of the record, that’s all D’Mile.
I also wanted to talk about your collab with Umi, the “That’s on You” remix. Tell me about how that came together.
So 2020, the pandemic happened, and I had “That’s on You” that I wanted to release. I felt like it was the perfect record for that time because it’s very comforting regardless of what the lyrics are, just the sound. Then I thought about how that song would sound really cool if I incorporated Japanese lyrics into it. So me and my managers decided to do a Japanese remix of it. We felt like Umi would be really great, because her voice would sound so good on it. And through social media, she’d expressed that she loved that record so much.
I reached out to her, and she was a hundred percent down to be on it and make a Japanese version of it. We went into the studio, and we were able to just naturally write to it, and then change the hook, lyrics, and some of my lyrics into Japanese. It just worked out so well. I’m so happy that I was able to do that, because I’ve been wanting to make music in Japanese. I grew up listening to Japanese music and songs that had English and Japanese in it.
You’ve already linked up with so many impressive people on this album. Who else would you love to work with in the future?
James Fauntleroy, amazing writer. Frank Ocean. I’d love to work with Jazmine Sullivan. I love her. There’s this artist, Tiwa Savage, that I really love. I want to work with Madlib. I really like Smino and Missy Elliott. The Neptunes, Pharrell, that would be amazing.
What was the one album you couldn’t stop listening to growing up?
Brandy, Full Moon.
Who was your first celebrity crush?
Jay-Z! During which era?
[Sighs.] Oh, man, I think “H to the Izzo.”
What has been the best career advice you’ve ever gotten?
My friend Fam [Rothstein] manages Donald Glover, and he told me to enjoy the process. The process is, like, the biggest benefit. And if you get a product, you’re lucky, but to really enjoy the process, to be present, and really cherish those moments that will probably bring you so much joy when you look back on them at any point of your life.
How will you know if you’ve made it?
Oh, my God. If I’m doing a duet with Mariah Carey, that’s how I know I’ve made it. ‘Cause she’s a tough person to please. Cosmopolitan magazine did this thing with Mariah Carey on YouTube where she watched people cover her songs. I covered her song “Heartbreaker,” and they chose my video. And she watched it. She gave constructive criticism and feedback about it, and she was very nice. Actually her feedback was pretty cool. So that was dope. But, you know, she’s the shade queen, so if I can impress her, I’ve won.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Photos courtesy of Breyona Halt, Logan Williamson, and Yavez Anthonio. Design by Ingrid Frahm.
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