Joy Autumn is an L.A. based indie singer-songwriter speaking and singing out about the misogyny in the Hollywood music scene.
Her new EP, Midnight addresses both her disillusionment with the city’s culture, but also her hope for progress for women in the industry. I had the privilege of talking to Joy about Midnight and her experience in the toxic Hollywood culture.
How did the EP come together? What were the steps leading up to your “this is it” moment?
I’m from a small town and I moved to LA super naive. I had an indie record contract and got dropped right away. I found myself participating in what a lot of artists do — thinking oh crap this isn’t what I thought it would be. I found myself going to these industry parties and meeting these men offspring of celebrities, etc. — thinking they would start my career and ended up in this really sexist, toxic culture. That is when I wrote the first song, "Searching for You" which is really about searching for myself in that Toxic Hollywood culture. From there, it came together really quickly. I called it Midnight, alluding to the Hollywood club culture.
What is this environment — the parties and club scene — like for women?
These parties were filled with a lot of young aspiring singers and actresses and people in the entertainment industry with no resources trying to meet people in the industry, with this idea that if you suck up to these men that don’t care about you and treat you poorly, they will help you make it when that isn’t their intention. I wrote Midnight before the #MeToo movement and now all of that is going on which is an exciting change, but I don’t really see those changes in the music community here in L.A., partly because there aren’t enough female producers.
You write about your disillusionment with Hollywood as a young female artist and being surrounded by men. What would you say are some of the main challenges you faced thus far?
I think the main challenge is being taken seriously. All my female friends agree it is our biggest concern. I’ve probably worked with at least 25 male producers — most of that music never saw the light of day. They would talk down to me. “How many Grammys have you won, Joy?” The mistreatment of women is so normalized in LA, to be honest I didn’t realize some of the stuff that was said to me was problematic until the #MeToo movement, because before that it seems so normal. I thought I had to put up with it. Most of the time when I’m working on music I’m the only woman in the room — across the board, in all fields, you’re going to have a male producer, a male engineer, a male booker. The more women we can get involved in all aspects of the music industry the better the experience.
Even though the album has a sort of quiet melancholy about it, it ends on a hopeful note with “Brave”. What makes you hopeful about the industry? Are there changes happening that excite you?
You’re right, the album is dark, but I’m actually a very bubbly person. I use music as a sort of therapy. But the one thing that is so hopeful is that the dialogue is there. Even since I’ve moved to LA I’ve seen things changing — women are just really fed up. We did a women’s night on Wednesday with a moderator and we did it as a benefit for the Time's Up legal defense. It’s becoming way more okay for us to vocalize what we feel is wrong — it isn’t radical. I’m feeling positive about that, but also excited about the amount of female artists I’m meeting — I took a class in production and there were a lot of women in the class. I think we are going to see a change in who is creating music. I think the #MeToo movement will trickle into music. I don’t want the next generation to experience what me and my peers have, and we know we are having a better experience than the women before us. I see things getting better as women get more comfortable vocalizing.
Finally, who is a woman that is inspiring you right now?
My older sister. She has a chronic illness but she never gives up and speaks on behalf of people who go through so much, it really puts things in perspective. Talk about a community that doesn’t really have a voice!
It was a pleasure talking to Joy. She is a wise, confident, talented woman who people should be keeping their eye on. You can check Joy out on tour, and keep up with her as she works on new music. She is a force to be reckoned with, that is for sure.