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Joely June: the irony of emotional vulnerability, Taylor Swift and saying goodbye to seventeen.

Joely June Not a Crier Music Video

I met with Joely June on one of the first blue skies days of the year, in a coffee shop which was unfortunately playing pop music that sounded just a little too AI generated. Despite the overstimulation, Joely greeted me with her trademark gentle demeanour, acoustic guitar in tow, like the best embodiment of a stereotype.


Joely June has everything you want in a modern folk artist. Scorching lyricism that feels like it was written with excerpts from your diary as inspiration. Beautifully mixed guitar. Delicate hazy vocals, like Lenker for the pop-trained ear, or Eilish for the folk cultist. I’ve been a fan of Joely for years now, and her recent rebrand and subsequent releases feel like her strongest yet, the same artistic hand as her old music, but bigger, bolder strokes, like a shift from watercolour to oil.


We started our conversation on her new single, ‘Not a Crier’, a beautifully heart-wrenching tribute to the times in life when all you can do is cry your heart out. You could see Joely’s face light up as she spoke about it – “it's like my baby. I think I’m more excited to release this than anything that came before it.


“I have a guard up with my emotions so much, which is ironic as someone who is an artist for a living. But talking about my feelings with people and being vulnerable in that way is something I really struggle with. This song really goes into that contrast.”


Alongside the single, ‘Not a Crier’ has a music video set in a downpour. And when it comes to the DIY nature of independent artistry, Joely had the film effects all in-hand - “We couldn’t just rely on the weather, so we just used a hosepipe. The thing with that was, I didn't really anticipate that it wouldn't feel like rain…it would feel like a shower. It was coming down super intensely and I got really ghastly.  You can see it in the video, I literally couldn't breathe. But it works for the song.”


And while maybe drowning for the vision is a little over-zealous, the song is truly soul-grabbing and raw – hard to achieve against the backdrop of Joely June’s years spanning introspective discography.


“I’m trying to not put any pressure on myself for this song to do what ‘Cool’ did…this is such an authentic song; it's playing out my feelings in this vulnerable way. I don't want to be stressing over the marketing, I just want it to be out and connect with people”


‘Cool’ is Joely June’s Spotify darling, an upbeat ode to infatuation with equal measures 90s energy and country sensibility.


“I'm very disillusioned by the idea of commercial success and fame…song-writing is the part of this I really love. Especially in a live context – playing intimate gigs and that feeling knowing that the audience are right there with you… everything else feels like complete window dressing.


It felt wrong to talk about the song with this much of a gut-punch and not ask Joely how she was doing now. “I wrote ‘Not a Crier’ like last January, and it just goes to show that you can be in a very dark place, and give it a year you'll be fine” she said with a genuine relaxed smile. I take comfort in knowing you can hit ‘Not a Crier’ type lows, and yet time still heals.


On the note of time, Joely has recently taken her first self-titled EP off of streaming services, much to the despair of long-time fans such as myself. “It wasn't an impulsive decision at all. I wrote those songs when I was 17, and it feels very much like I was experimenting and trying to figure out my sound. It definitely feels like a work in progress EP, and that doesn’t really reflect where I am now”


“I have been having conflicting thoughts about it because I know a lot of it is like an ego thing. I think most artists feel this about their old music - you're always gonna be like ‘oh that's not me anymore’ and cringe at it a bit, and you definitely shouldn't let that interfere too much. So, it was important for me to still make it accessible”


I do oftentimes think that it reaches a point where the artist’s opinion of their work is almost the least important. ‘deep cuts’ is available on Bandcamp if you, like me, want to own a little bit of Joely June’s music history.


This new era definitely has widened its scope, with big band instrumentation not just as decoration, but part of the music’s core. We got into a conversation about genre definition, and how she feels about the “sad-girl” label.


“The concept of womanhood is important to me, but I just hope that people don't see me as a ‘female’ artist, they just see me as an artist. I don’t want to be in a box - the “sad-girl” thing, I actually want to push against that a little bit. I'm not Phoebe Bridgers” she said with a slight chuckle.


I think at this point even Phoebe Bridger’s probably feels pretty trapped by the ‘Phoebe Bridgers sad-girl thing” that somehow became synonymous with the indie folk genre. Framing emotion as a feminine endeavour is nothing new, but when men write a sad folk song no-one feels the need to prerequisite it with a trendy, mildly condescending phrase – it’s just good music. It’s no surprise that artists like Joely June want to distance themselves from the label.


This being said, Joely feels absolutely no shame embracing female fandom – as both ardent long time Taylor Swift fans, I was interested to know how she felt about Swift’s complete cultural domination of late.


“I think what it’s done is create a really safe space for female fans come together. I feel like there can be a lot of like shame involved in owning the things you love, especially as a woman, and ‘Swiftie’s’ have no shame and I love that. I’m a Swiftie and unashamed! I'm going to the Eras tour and I'm probably gonna cry, but I'm gonna feel so safe there. I think it’s giving young women a place where they feel like they can completely be themselves and not have to worry about male validation.”


The feminine joy that can come from community is a powerful thing, and having an artist like Taylor Swift reach such heights while being so proud of her female fanbase can only help legitimise not only female artists, but female tastes (capitalism can at least respect what’s moving money).


Joely June is the ultimate professional, her thoughtfulness evident in every word. It is clear how much this means to her, which makes her successes even more deserved.


‘Not a Crier’ is available to stream in all the usual places, alongside the literally breathless music video. You can catch Joely June as the Friday headliner of Bristol’s brand-new music festival Solara – a jam packed weekend of live music situated in Walton Castle, where Joely June is bound to bring her trademark softness and unshakable presence to get the whole grounds swearing they’re normally not a crier.



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