Joyce Wrice might be based in Los Angeles, but she journeyed across the R&B multi-verse for her latest EP, ‘Motive’.
“With ‘Motive’, I intended to make people dance and feel good,” Joyce Wrice tells me on a balmy Tuesday afternoon. The LA based singer-songwriter is currently capping off the press tour for her latest EP, ‘Motive’ – an Afrobeat and dance-tinged R&B pleaser that revels in self-affirmation, flirty stanzas and audacious production, fronted by beat whiz Kaytranada.
Joyce’s success with “Ice Tea” and “That’s On You” wasn’t overnight. If we cast our minds back to 2015 – an era rife with SoundCloud hits, Instagram grid collages and TikTok’s older brother, Vine – the singer was experimenting with her music paintbrush. Some of her embryonic cuts include the swanky, downtempo rendition of Jodeci’s “Freak’n You”, aptly re-titled after the group’s leader “DeVante Swing”, as well as the loop-heavy, pitch-altered “Call Me / Home Alone”. Key standouts from Joyce’s early discography include the luscious, sample-driven “Take It Easy”, which saw her flip the 1995 title-sharing track by Somethin’ For The People. Equally, the COLORSxSTUDIO-approved “Good Morning” was a jazzy romantic ballad, home to syrupy saxophone components and polished vocals.
For her 2016 EP ‘Stay Around’, the vocalist scribbled raw emotions across the six-track diary entry. Balancing vulnerability and sensuality, ‘Stay Around’ saw Joyce give a sneak peek into the kind of emotional translucence they could expect from her full-length album. After a handful of one-off singles such as 2018’s “I Want You” and “Blurred Lines”, she bookended her five-year project hiatus with her debut album: 2021’s ‘Overgrown’.
Fast-forward to the present, and we’re back where our story started. Swapping retro soundscapes for a more forward-facing, danceable body of work, ‘Motive’ is in a lane of its own. With a beloved NPR Tiny Desk Concert, sold-out shows and critical adulation under her belt, Joyce Wrice is hurdling closer towards the R&B crown jewels with each passing day. To celebrate ‘Motive’ and her creative journey thus far, we linked up with Joyce to chat about ‘Motive’, the art of sampling and singing in Japanese.
Congratulations on ‘Motive’! How do you feel now it’s out?
I feel so grateful. I’ve been doing a lot of shows and adjusting to this new lifestyle. For me, creating a ‘Motive’ was challenging as I made it whilst I was juggling so many other things. The EP was supposed to drop closer to the release of “Iced Tea”, but as the year went along, I said to myself I’d only put the project out if it felt right. Working with Kaytra[nada], Mack Keane and Osinachi was liberating. This EP and all of my wonderful collaborators allowed me to gift all the fans something to hold them over until my sophomore album.
You briefly mentioned working with Kaytranada, let’s expound upon that. How did Kayadanda’s creative process on ‘Motive compare to ‘Overgrown’ with D’Mile’s production?
Surprisingly, the creative process was very similar, my mindset for the two projects was different, though. Both ‘Overgrown’ and ‘Motive’ came about very organically. ‘Overgrown’ was a special, first-person story for me. That album reflected a lot of what I was going through at the time.
That’s a great way of framing things.
With ‘Motive’, I intended to make people dance and feel good, while also weaving in a bit of my own story too. Overall, I’d say I worked with more writers on ‘Motive’ to establish a different feel altogether. Even when Kaytra and I weren’t in the studio, his presence was felt.
How many songs did you record for ‘Motive’ overall?
Probably about 15-20 songs. With certain tracks, they were great, they just didn’t fit the theme of the EP.
Will we ever get a chance to hear what didn’t make the tracklist?
You might hear them, that’s all I can say. Who knows…
Let’s talk art direction. What inspired ‘Motive’?
Definitely ‘90s and 2000s fashion. We wanted the cover to be clean and sleek, playing with warm and cool colour tones, especially orange and blue. It’s funny you ask this, because the “Ice Tea” cover was shot at the same time, and we were inspired by photoshoots in Japanese magazines. The wet look of my hair on the “Iced Tea” cover was definitely inspired by my mood board. It was slightly wet – I wanted it to have a sexy, glowy look.
You’re an R&B nerd of sorts, reinventing some hidden gems of yesteryear. Is there any other track you’d love to sample?
You know what? It’s not something at the forefront of my mind when I’m creating. “Take It Easy” was great, but it’s so hard to get it on streaming services with the sample and my independent status. I flipped Jon B.’s “They Don’t Know” for “So So Sick”, which was pretty fun. To be honest, I think I just want to create a nostalgic feeling in general with my music – sample or no sample. Originality is key for me right now.
You’ve performed in London a couple of times now. What’s your favourite thing about the city?
There’s so many great things about London, it’s always love when I’m out there. My UK shows were sold out. What I love about London most is probably the people. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming over there. You guys also have some great artists out there. I love Miraa May and Demae [formerly of Hawk House] so much. You know what, though? London has some great Nigerian food; it’s something I’m looking forward to when I’m over next.
Let’s play a game. Real simple, you’ve got two options to choose from and I want you to tell me which of the two choices you prefer. You get one ‘get out of jail free card’ if you can’t decide.
Usher’s ‘My Way’ or ‘8071’?
‘8701’. ‘My Way’ is great, but ‘8701’ has so many different moods.
Sade’s ‘Love Deluxe’ or Janet Jackson’s ‘Janet’?
I’m a Janet girl. Let’s go with Janet!
Monica or Brandy?
I love me some Monica, but I’m gonna have to go with Brandy: she’s the vocal bible.
DJ Quik or Madlib?
DJ Quik all day, legend!
Sweet or savoury food?
Savoury, I’ll have a steak over a dessert any day.
iPod or Walkman?
CD or vinyl?
Vinyl. The sound quality is just different on a vinyl record.
Babyface or Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins?
They’re both iconic producers of course. I’ll have to go with Babyface because we wouldn’t have Rodney Jerkins without Babyface.
“Tell Me” by Groove Theory or “After Party” by Koffee Brown?
I’ll go with “Tell Me”. [Groove Theory’s lead singer] Amel Larrieux is like my mother. No, but for real, she’s amazing.
Netflix or the cinema?
Oh my gosh, movie theatres.
Finally, it’s the battle of the EPs. ‘Stay Around’ by Joyce Wrice or ‘Motive’ by Joyce Wrice?
Why would you do this to me? I love my babies equally. It’s a fair match-up – we’re pitting “Do You Love Me” and “Home Alone” against “Iced Tea” and “Bittersweet Goodbyes”. I’ll have to use my one free pass because I love both projects equally. ‘Stay Around’ is my first, which is very nostalgic for me, but ‘Motive’ is so fire. It’s a tie!
Coming from an African-American and Japanese household, you’re a walking culture clash. We heard you sing in Japanese with UMI on the “That’s On You” remix; is singing in Japanese something we can expect from you in the future?
Most definitely. I grew up listening to Japanese music and a lot of it had English lyrics too, so that was something I worked into “That’s On You”. Artists like M-Flo, Crystal Kay and BoA were always on repeat for me. Going forward I deffo I want to hit up some Japanese songwriters because even though I speak it really well, writing songs in Japanese is a whole ‘nother ball game.
What can we expect from your second album?
I wanna keep experimenting. Expect more high-energy bold, flirty fun from me. That’s really where my head’s at right now. On the other hand, I also think I thrive executing ballads too, so I’ll be definitely tapping into those too. ‘Motive’ is a taste of what’s to come: my second album will be the full meal.
What’s next for you?
You’ll just have to wait and see.