Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
Joy Elizabeth Williams initially planned on a career in journalism or family therapy. Instead, the California resident signed with Reunion Records at the age of 17 and released her debut project in July 2001. Mixing elements of contemporary Christian music into an intimate form of pop music, she enjoyed a successful CCM career during the early 2000s, earning multiple nominations at the Dove Awards and selling over 250,000 copies of her first three albums. Williams eventually expanded beyond the sacred world, serving as a songwriter for Warner/Chappell Music and founding her own company, Sensibility Music, with husband Nate Yetton. She also formed an acclaimed acoustic folk duo, the Civil Wars, with fellow songwriter John Paul White.
Joy Williams grew up in the Santa Cruz Mountains on the central coast of California, where her father, Roger Williams, served as the executive director of Mt. Hermon Christian Conference Center. In interviews, Williams would later state that living in an environment that hosted prominent spiritual leaders led her to become "a learned extrovert." During high school, she excelled and was often labeled a super-achiever, maintaining a 4.0 GPA while also filling the roles of varsity athlete and student body president. At the age of 14, Williams was offered a recording contract, but she turned down the opportunity to pursue a normal childhood. When a second recording contract was presented to her three years later, however, she signed. Her debut album was recorded during her final years in high school, and Williams followed it with 2002's By Surprise and 2005's Genesis.
After Genesis' release, Williams ended her relationship with Reunion Records and began writing songs for other artists. She returned to her solo career in 2009, releasing a series of EPs under her Sensibility Music label. That same year, she also released Live at Eddie's Attic, which marked her debut with the Civil Wars. After issuing an EP later that year, the Civil Wars began working with CCM producer Charlie Peacock on a full-length record, Barton Hollow. The album was nationally released in early 2011, topping the digital charts and cracking the Billboard Top 40 in the process.