The Los Angeles-based singer’s first full-length project boasts a confident R&B sound, vulnerable lyricism, and assists from D’Mile, Freddie Gibbs, KAYTRANADA, and more. We chatted with Joyce Wrice about the creative process behind Overgrown, the massive guest list on the album, and her hopes for live performances in the future.
Debut album – congratulations! How are you feeling?
I’m feeling very proud, very fortunate, and I guess fulfilled. It took me a long time to get this album together, so just to be at this point is just really amazing.
How long did it take to write and record Overgrown? What was the process like?
I met D’Mile through my A&R about two years ago, so we had to find a rhythm. He’s a legendary producer, and he can do it all, so after hearing a bunch of the things he’s done in the past, I was like, “We could really make something great.” The first record we made that I felt like could set the tone for my album was “On One,” and ever since that record we started making more and more up-tempo type records. I was able to make about 40 songs for the album and be at a place where I could pick and choose. From there, it was all about how we could make it cohesive and what we needed to add.
How did you narrow down that track list?
For this album, I had a little bit of strategy. I wanted to have songs that I could perform at festivals, and I wanted to have songs that showed the different styles I can do vocally and sonically. When we had that it mind, it was very easy to pick what could work, what wouldn’t be so refreshing or new, and also what didn’t need to be on the project for now but could work for the future.
Would you say Overgrown is a concept album?
When I made it, there was no particular theme in mind – I was just creating, doing what felt good and felt right. But I had gone through an unrequited love situation and it just was taking over my mind. It was hard for me to let go and not make a big deal out of it, so a lot of the songs have to do with that. I used these sessions as opportunities for me to create value from the heartache I was going through, from the fun that I was going through, from the confusion and all these different emotions. I used these sessions to make art from it.
When we were coming up with a name for the album, I felt like Overgrown was so fitting, because despite the topics of heartache and pain and confusion, this is my debut album, and it took me so long to get here. The reason why is because I was getting in my own way, and all my fears and anxieties started to take over. It got to a point where I was like, “If I don’t do something about this, I’m never going to get to the place that I want to be.” I think, organically, it kind of became a concept album.
What did you ‘outgrow,’ and what was that process of growth like?
I have an amazing team. My best friend who’s also my manager, Jasmine, I’ve known since junior high school. I’m so thankful to have someone like her who could be honest and just tell me, “Hey, you’ve got to do something about this, or you’re going to be unhappy. You’re going to be miserable.” When that started kicking in and my A&R just told me to stop overthinking, that really had me face myself and be honest, muster up the courage to just go for it. These sessions are really me just tending my garden and doing the gardening I need to blossom into the best version of myself. I think taking the step to do that for yourself is the best thing you can do for our society, for our community as a whole. If we can each do that, how beautiful would it be?
Has music always been that place for you to explore your feelings and learn more about yourself?
Yeah, I feel like music is my first love. I grew up an only child, so music was like my best friend, the best entertainment for me. There’s times where I just want to drive and listen to music – I don’t have to be going anywhere, I could do that for hours. I’d rather do that than a lot of other things. Music’s always been my therapy and my choice of healing. Even during COVID, I took a step back and I was like, “Wow, I’m so thankful for people working on their art, sharing their art.” I think during COVID, that’s the one thing that kept us feeling grounded and positive. It brought us comfort.
You’re from San Diego – how did growing up there, or just your childhood in general, affect your music?
For me, San Diego was very slow. It was very quiet and chill. To be honest, I was kind of sheltered growing up. My mom was pretty overprotective of me, so I didn’t really go out much, but I did love making friends. I loved meeting people and socializing, so for me, San Diego was fun, it was very safe and free. I was dancing a lot growing up and learning choreography, and that really exposed me to good music. I have a friend who would bring the ukulele to high school, so we started singing and doing covers on YouTube for that. It really inspired me to sing more and make people happy with my voice, and that kicked it off for me. I was so shocked and happy to see people enjoying the songs we were singing and my voice. That brought me validation to want to explore going into music
The guest list on Overgrown is huge, with features from Freddie Gibbs, KAYTRANADA, Lucky Daye, Westside Gunn, and others. How did they all get on board?
I’m independent, and to have these featured artists on my album is insane. I’ve been so fortunate to create organic relationships with people, especially being in LA. I think sometimes people have ulterior motives or they’re just clout-chasing and things like that. For me, I’ve just been at the right places at the right times. Sometimes it doesn’t even have to be about music, just meeting people human-to-human and then building this connection and being open to working on music.
I’d finished most of the songs with D’Mile, and we were trying to figure out what featured artists we would want for the album. I knew I wanted rappers because I grew up listening to a lot of R&B artists who would incorporate rap into their songs. Some of them, Masego for example, happened to just come to the studio, just to meet D’Mile and see what we were working on. He just happened to write a verse to what we had, and he just laid it down and we loved it.
I’d hit up Freddie about the song “On One,” and he told me to come by his studio the next day, so I played for him and he loved it. He didn’t even write his verse. Just came up with it in his head. I worked on Westside Gunn’s album a year ago, and I told him I’d love for him to be a part of my own stuff. When I had this interlude idea, we decided to have artists tell their own story, and that’s exactly what Westside Gunn felt inspired to do with ESTA’s beat.
I’ve been recently working with KAYTRANADA, and we have a song, but I didn’t think it was best to put it on this album. I asked him if he could also contribute an interlude to my album, just to give people a sneak peal of what we’d been working on. My manager suggested he could talk or put vocals on it, and initially he was shy about doing it, but after I sent him my vocals on the beat, he felt inspired by what I was talking about and decided to rap on the record.
For Lucky, the song I had with him was a Mary J. Blige that he wrote with Davion Farris, but she passed. Mary and I have the same A&R, and they showed me the record and knew it’d be something I would love to do. We kept Lucky’s part in it and added my second verse, and we decided to put it on both of our projects.
Is Overgrown an album you’re excited to perform live?
For sure. I love live instrumentation, and I love big production-type performances. I grew up listening to Missy Elliot, Aaliyah, Usher – at the time, they were doing full-on production performances. That’s what I want to do as well, I’m going to manifest that.
Thanks for chatting with us! Final question – what do you want fans to take away from this album?
I want them to walk away thinking that they have their own unique story to tell as well. The impact that artists I grew up listening to had on me, I want to have that impact on other people. I just want them to feel something, anything, and I want them to have something that can be the soundtrack to whatever situation they’re in or that they’re going through. I just want to inspire them to create their own art, because we’re all artists. We just have to tap into it.
Check out Overgrown below!