by Tracy Darlington
Joy Whitlock Interview
"I find it remarkable that God sings. I cannot even fathom what that sounds like! He is so different than us . . . but yet He sings. God doesn’t eat . . . but He sings. God doesn’t sleep . . . but He sings. Amazing!" --Joy Whitlock
Joy grew up in Mississippi. Her father was a minister, which was the reason for the Whitlock family’s pilgrimage through the Magnolia state one small town at a time moving from one flock to the next. If every flock needed a black sheep, Joy readily filled that role maybe too eagerly seeking to numb a pain that could only be healed by the One who created her. The good news is that for Joy, God was not content to watch his child aimlessly self-medicate her pain any longer and saw fit to write himself into her story.
musical journey started a little over ten years ago when as a teenager
she moved from the home of the blues to the birthplace of rock
and roll. Joy’s brand of gut-wrenching honesty in her life and in her
music has endeared her to so many, because after all as she states, “people
want to know that they are not alone, they want to know that they are not
the only one with hurts.”
Can you give us a little background on how you got started in music?
I had just moved to Memphis, TN with my sister. I was 17 years old. My older sister got invited to a LilithFair show in Nashville and I tagged along. I had never heard a word of Sarah McLachlan . . . had no clue who she was. She stepped out on stage as the last performer and I was instantly mesmerized. I always enjoyed music, but never had aspirations to actually be involved in it. She changed all of that. I was so taken by what I saw of her performance that the very next day I asked my parents to buy me a guitar and they did. And that’s how it all began.
How did you know God was calling you to pursue music as a career?
I knew when Ardent Records called me and asked me to be a part of their label. I had just accepted Christ months before and had no clue what I was supposed to do, but I quickly found out,
Why do you think music is such a powerful influence on people’s lives?
I have pondered that question so many times. It seems to me that music is almost wired into every human being. Throughout history, and even in the present, every culture has given importance to music. Music has been around since . . . well, since Moses, and even before that. Isaiah gives us a picture of the cherubim who worship God day and night and night and day. I don’t believe they just all of a sudden one day began to sing around God’s throne. I believe they always have. I find it remarkable that God sings. I cannot even fathom what that sounds like! He is so different than us . . . but yet He sings. God doesn’t eat . . . but He sings. God doesn’t sleep . . . but He sings. Amazing!
The movie The Passion of the Christ has made a big impact on your life. Tell us about that.
Basically, I was a pastor’s kid who wanted nothing to do with God. I knew He was real but did not want Him in my life. I lived that way for 24 years. Drugs, promiscuity, you name it, I did it. I was a horrible person on the inside, as well. Around 2004, I went to see the movie, for reasons I cannot explain, and I gave my life to Christ right there in the theater.
What was it about the movie that made you want to know more about the Lord?
I saw myself for the first time. My true self. I was devastated. My whole
life flashed before my eyes, everything that I had ever done. And for the
first time, I was ashamed. I was ashamed to be seen by such a beautiful,
perfect God. He opened my eyes that night and I saw myself for what I truly
was . . . a sinner.
Let me clarify that it wasn’t the “movie” that drew me to God. It was the word of God that was used in the movie. Mel Gibson used Scripture for his script and that is why I was able to hear the true gospel. The script was true to Scripture.
Do you have advice for someone who is trying to share their faith with their Non-Christian friends?
Pray for them consistently. Don’t go in with the attitude that you can change them. Only God can turn a heart towards Himself. Love them no matter what. Be honest. Be real. The non-Christian world views Christians as hypocritical. BE REAL! Build a relationship with this person. The last thing they want to feel is that they are just another person you are trying to convert.
Are there any steps you take to stay on track spiritually?
Stay in the Word. Always.
If you could say one thing to this generation what would you say?
One thing . . .hmmm . . .time is short. WAKE UP!
Is there a theme behind your album “God and a Girl”?
Almost every song on the album is a conversation that I have had with God.
They are written from the perspective of me to God and from God to me. They
chronicle the first four years of my knowing Christ. They are almost like
letters, in a way.
What’s your favorite song on the project and why?
I love all of them, but today I will choose “Beautiful”. I love the way it turned out musically, and I love the words. It’s just an honest song about being a sinner and how far Jesus had to go to save us. Sin is so serious that it took the life and death of a perfect human. Sin is so serious that it took the life and death of God in the flesh.
What message do you hope people will come away with when they listen to God and a Girl?
Ultimately, I just want people to know that God is real, and that you can have a real relationship with Him. I want people to know that God will go to the very depths to pull a person from sin. After all, that’s where He found me.
What was the biggest challenge you had when you recorded this album?
I had a difficult time knowing what was right for each song. You go in with songs that are so new and so bare---just your voice and a guitar---and you have to turn it into this piece with so many different parts. There are so many different roads you can take with a song. And that was the most difficult part of recording, because you have to start over with each song.
What’s the biggest obstacle in your life God’s helped you overcome?
He’s still working on that, actually.
What’s the best advice your mother ever gave you?
Don’t judge a book by its cover. Until you’ve walked in a person’s shoes, don’t assume.
What’s the most memorable place you have ever played?
I played last year at a festival in NY called Kingdom Bound. My slot was at noon, but another slot was made available for me that night at 7 when there would be more people present. The stage pastor informed me that I could sing as long I wanted. I felt that I was only supposed to sing one particular song and be done. I step up on stage and sing “Day of the Lord”, which is an apocalyptic song about Christ returning to judge the world---thunder, lightning, the whole shebang---the way Revelation describes it. I sing my last note, and the second I step off of the stage, it was like the sky split in two! Rain, lightning, thunder---it was a downpour out of nowhere! I’ve had, more than once, strange things happen while singing that song.
What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
I’m almost 30! Yikes. Most people peg me at 22 or 23. And I love basketball! I played all through my school years and now help coach my niece’s 1st grade basketball team.
When you’re not singing, what do you enjoy doing?
Being with Grace, Isaiah, and Olivia, my nieces and nephew. They are my life.
What did you have for breakfast this morning?
I’m not a big breakfast eater, at least not in the mornings. I usually jump right into lunch around 10 am!
Three things always found in your refrigerator:
Ketchup, Coca Cola, and milk
You’re next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?
I order one of three things at Starbucks. . . cinnamon dolce latte, dopio conpana, or tall coffee
What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?
Brandi Carlisle’s “The
Tracy Darlington is a freelance writer, and her work has appeared in Brio, Breakaway, YS, CCM Magazine, Insight, Susie Magazine, and other publications. She has interviewed countless Christian musicians including Rebecca St. James, Delirious, Newsboys, Leigh Nash, Barlowgirl, Krystal Meyers, Joy Williams, Pillar, Michelle Tumes, and many others. In her spare time she can be found riding horses or listening to music and sipping a Venti 3-shot sugar-free vanilla latte. Visit her online at her blog where she talks about Music, God, dogs and coffee. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.