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Marvel Music

The Marvel Life: The Civil Wars

The indie-folk duo talks Cloak and Dagger, mind reading and Hasselhoff?

By Harry Go

Joy Williams and John Paul White, better known as the indie-folk duo The Civil Wars, would look good in tights. But where they really belong is on-stage, making ears shudder with delight and synapses explode in musical joy. Already featured in the Los Angeles Times and Boston Herald, as well as being named "Best of What's Next" in Paste Magazine and featured at South By Southwest, it's hard to believe that The Civil Wars released their first LP titled "Barton Hollow" only a month ago. But believe it, folks. They are just that good.

We caught up with Joy Williams and John Paul White to discuss music, super heroes and much more!  

Joy Williams and John Paul White of The Civil Wars

Marvel.com: First off, tell me about The Civil Wars. Where do you guys come from? How did you start making music together? And what is your music about?

Joy Williams: I grew up most of my life in Northern California, just south of San Francisco in Santa Cruz. I moved to Nashville right after graduating from high school to begin my solo music career. JP was born and currently resides in the Shoals in Alabama. We both had solo careers and then went on to be professional songwriters before meeting at a songwriter gathering in Nashville. With nearly 20-plus writers gathered in one studio, we basically drew straws to see who we’d end up writing with. JP and I were shoved into a writing room together, having had no prior knowledge of the other in any way. We got to know each other for about 45 minutes or so, and then he started playing like only he can on guitar. I started singing. We started harmonizing. And the connection was electric. Instant. Nothing either of us had ever experienced before, in all our years of singing or co-writing with other people. But neither of us let on that day. We met up several months later--I think to see if we’d caught lightning in a bottle that first day, or if there was really something there. The same magical connect happened, and we wrote our very first song called "Falling." The rest is history.

Joy Williams and John Paul White of The Civil Wars

Marvel.com: Are you guys Marvel comic book fans? If so, what are you into and what have you read/seen from Marvel recently that you like in particular? Looking forward to anything Marvel coming up?

John Paul White: Comics were a huge part of my childhood. My brother and I could debate for hours the possibilities of a showdown between two favorite characters. We resided in a world of mythology, Tolkien, Le Morte d’Arthur--the comic universe fit our obsessions perfectly. The Marvel characters in particular were royalty to me, so I cringe sometimes when the movies arrive. The pedestal I raised these guys and gals up on was and is so high that it’s not really fair to expect the big screen version to kill me. Although some have! At the risk of incriminating the others, I won’t list. I’d like to see a dedicated Nick Fury movie. It’d be fun to see the focus on a guy with no powers telling super heroes what to do. The Hasselhoff thing doesn’t count.

Joy Williams: I’ve seen some Marvel movies in theaters, but I didn’t really grow up with comic books. I actually discovered them more recently through a dear friend of ours, Allan Heinberg. Not only is he a kindred spirit, but he is a masterful writer who has penned the YOUNG AVENGERS series, among other things. We would catch up over the phone, and I would get to hear him in-process as he worked on each book. Marvel has a rich history, and an intricate one. You have to know it like the back of your hand to write a new series like that. I listened, dumbstruck,as Allan would recount complex and often inter-weaving histories within the Marvel universe. Then I’d watch later in awe as a well-crafted storyline that Allan toiled over came to life in an even more vibrant way through jaw-dropping artwork. I have to say that I’m a fan of the craft, and the series now.

Marvel.com: Are you aware that one of the most popular Marvel comic storylines is called “Civil War”?

John Paul White: We are now since we chose our band name. We've been guilty of Googling ourselves...and I for one really want to read the series. I’ve been out of touch with the genre a bit (other than the movies and the YOUNG AVENGERS series Joy mentioned).

Marvel.com: If you can compare The Civil Wars to any Marvel super hero/villain duo, which one would it be? Cloak & Dagger, Hawkeye and Mockingbird, Cyclops & Jean Grey, etc.

John Paul White: Cloak and Dagger is a great comparison! The whole light/dark thing--they complement each other in ways that keep them "alive." I love the fact that they depend on each other so much to survive. That seems apropos.

The Civil Wars

Marvel.com: Now this concept of a team-up happens in the comic world when two heroes are needed to overcome a terrible threat. Can you talk about why John and Joy work so well together? You both had your own solo careers before The Civil Wars, but we know from seeing you guys in concert a few weeks back that together, you’re definitely a force to be reckoned with.

Joy Williams: You are too kind. I often joke that JP and I have a strange yin and yang dynamic. Yes, we both grew up listening to very different music. But within our differences, we also have just enough similarities between us to make it all fit somehow. We draw from each other's backgrounds--I draw upon JP’s grasp on bluegrass, folk, rock and the yesteryear era of country music. And JP has told me that he draws from my history with the pop, melodic, harmony-laced music that I was raised on. We need each other to make the music of The Civil Wars, because there is no way either of us could create this sound without the other. As far as fighting villains goes, we have no real life ones to contend with...but I do think we chase down some of our demons when we write songs together.

Marvel.com: What do you like the most about music? Why is that what you do?

John Paul White: It’s our lifeblood. I can’t imagine my world without it. Somehow it has weaved its way into every aspect of our lives. I’m so much more articulate in song form. I feel like I can get across emotions, wants, needs, likes and dislikes in a way that actually seems close to the actual feeling. It’s my one way I feel like I’m competently communicating with the world around me.

Joy Williams: Here here, JP. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Marvel.com: Let’s talk about what’s coming up for The Civil Wars. You just came out with your first full-length album “Barton Hollow” which went #1 on iTunes and is getting amazing reviews from all the critics and music blogs. So what’s next after this?

Joy Williams: Tour. Tour. Tour. Did I mention tour? We are set to be on the road as often, and in as many cities, as is possible over the next year or so. We’re also set on writing more songs as we go. We have some exciting things coming up the pike regarding TV, film and even some European adventures, but we’re told it’s mum’s the word on some of that as of yet. We could tell you, but then we’d have to go all brain eraser on you. Who could do that...Professor X?

The Civil Wars' "Barton Hollow" Album Cover

Marvel.com: For the last question, lets take it to another super-geeky level, because...why not? This is Marvel! If you could have any super-power what would it be? And what would your super hero or super villain names be?

Joy Williams: There are too many good ones to choose from. The power of flight, time travel, healing, etc. Off the top of my head, I’ll go with mind control--used only for good, of course. My name would inevitably have to be Yes Girl. [winks]

John Paul White: If I only get one [power], give me something like Green Lantern's ring. It conjures up whatever you can imagine. And I have a GREAT imagination. [smiles] My name would be Satisfied Man.

Joy Williams: That’s not a very good one, JP...

John Paul White: You’re right. Thank you, Yes Girl.

Want to learn more about The Civil Wars? Check out their website, MySpace page and follow them on Twitter!
Get The Civil Wars first LP "Barton Hollow" on Amazon.com or iTunes.
Catch The Civil Wars on tour this April! View tour dates here.

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