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Q&A: Joseph shares on sisterly bond, staying sane

When Natalie Closner invited her younger twin sisters, Meegan and Allison, to join her music act, none of them knew just what was in store. Now, following a tour with James Bay, multiple television appearances a number one song on the Billboard Adult Alternative songs chart and being named a Spotify Spotlight Artist, Joseph shows no signs of slowing down. The sisters hail from Portland, Oregon and their most recent album “I’m Alone, No You’re Not, was released Aug. 26. It has since gained recognition by reaching number one on the Billboard’s Heatseekers Albums chart.

Joseph performed at Newport Music Hall Wednesday night to a crowd of loyal fans who sang along to the band’s alternative songs. With a sound that is both pure and raw, the group effuses honesty in both performance and personality. Singing, phrases such as “I will love you anyway with all your demons in the way,” the weight of their words seems to spark a fire in the audience.

The Lantern spoke with the women before their show about who they are, where they’ve come from and what they hope to bring to the world.

The Lantern: Natalie, can you tell me about what made you realize you wanted to change your solo artist act into a band with your sisters?

Natalie Closner: I was doing music by myself for awhile and it just became a little bit lackluster. I was just writing songs that were like other songs.

Someone else pointed out to me, he was like “What’re you doing? The songs that you’ve written doesn’t seem like you even like them. You’re just waiting to see if someone else likes them but you don’t care. You should be so passionate about your own music. You should just want to like race it into other people’s hands and love it so much. I don’t think you actually believe in this.” That was on the second tour I had ever done as a solo artist and so he was just like, “What do you need to do to make this compelling to you?” So that’s when I had the idea.

Allison Closner: We had just quit college and stuff. We were kind of in a floating zone of trying to figure out what the next thing was and so I think it was just meant to be.

TL: Did you guys always sing together as kids or did it come about more when you were older?

NC: I was really loud as a child and needed a lot of attention so I was more overbearing and was the singer of the family and it wasn’t till later (we sang together). I realized they could sing, I just didn’t know to what extent.

AC: We had sworn — or I had sworn — to never sing, or both of us had.

Meegan Closner: You did.

AC: I had, I was like, ‘Never going to do that, it’s not my thing’.

TL: Do you have any mentors inside or outside the industry that you seek advice form?

MC: Dad and Andrew.

MC, AC and NC: Amos (Lee) and James (Bay).

AC: Musician wise James Lee and James Bay have been taking us under their wings in massive ways. Our dad and this other guy who co-writes most of our songs, he’s basically the fourth member but just doesn’t sing with us, his name is Andrew Stonestreet and he’s a dream. He’s like family to us. Probably those four people.

There’ve been plenty of other musicians along the way too that have been steps ahead of us that have really helped us understand what the next step is or what the future could look like and have taken us into their zones for a bit, which has been really cool.

TL: What do you guys see in the future, in the next five years or after that even?

AC: We’re taking this year right now and just focusing on this year. Anything past that I think we’ll start looking at as this year ends.

The foundation of what we’re doing is making sure each of us is individually healthy and surviving on the road. That’s been a big thing during this winter break, just figuring out how we can set ourselves up for the most success so into this next year we can be the strongest, best versions of ourselves. We have so much more to offer people because in this industry you’re giving a lot of yourself to people, which is the best thing, but you can’t give when you’re empty so we’ve been figuring that out and figuring out how to kind of fill ourselves up which has been really hard and really good to partner with each other on that.

TL: What do you get out of this the most? What is the thing that keeps you going? This is why I do what I do.

NC: For me, it’s just anybody else relating to the music. It’s just like when we hear stories what a song meant to somebody else, that to me is just like woah. Like we’re a part of something in someone else’s life, you know? That is extremely powerful and makes me feel really reverent that we get to be a part of this thing that makes (and) moves something in someone else’s world in a way that we’ll never know the half of it.

MC: Probably the relationships has been a huge thing that we’ve made. Just like the family and friends and everything.

NC: We’ve met really amazing people.

AC: I think it was cool, when we first started we were doing a lot of house shows. It was like that thing where you go to somebody’s house and they bring all of their friends and you basically just have a party. I felt like during that season there was so many magical moments where it was like, “Woah, we’re all human and we’re all here together.”

TL: What inspires your music and the way you live your lives?

NC: I think that there’s a lot happening in the greater world at the moment that feels like it’s full of fire and ice and tension and push and pull. There’s a lot in general that I’m near processing and the world is processing at the moment.

I think artists are really important right now to say something about it and give voice to the rolling feelings that are going on. I would say that a lot of the inspiration happens from just the world outside. There’s a lot that comes from the everyday tensions… As far as the lifestyle goes, we find a lot of inspiration from other people living it. Like a band called Penny and Sparrow are good friends of ours. We really admire how they do it.

TL: Do you guys have any advice for people who are trying to do what you’re doing and getting that relevance in music and pursuing your dreams?

NC: So much.

AC: I’d say keep your friends close and keep in touch with them. I think it’s easy in the beginning to isolate yourself and be like, ‘Wow this is the best thing’ and only pay mind to the road and what you’re doing there.

NC: They’re the people you’re going to need in 30 years.

AC: Yeah, they’re the people you’re going to need … Keep your friends and your foundation of people really strong because you will need them and they will be there for you and even if you don’t think that they understand, they’re probably trying or they probably don’t know the right questions to ask about it and also (you should) continue to be curious about them even though you’re living a different thing.

NC: That’s so good. I would say too, also when you’re starting out a thing like this, you just naturally very much think, and I think we all do this anyways regardless of our profession, you naturally ask the question, ‘What do people want from me? What do I think someone wants to hear from me?’

The someone will change all the time, whether that’s your local music community, or this venue or this other band and then it grows and now this random person who cares about my music, what does she want? Then it becomes what does my manager want from me and what does my label want from me? All of these things.

As you’re trying to grow and develop, the most compelling art comes from the person who listens to themselves and listens to what’s true for them and not just what they think someone wants them to say. Spend so much time listening, being still and letting your insides tell you stuff. You’re going to hear a lot from the outside, so stillness and listening is super important.

Editor’s note: This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Joseph performs at Newport Music Hall on Dec. 8. Credit: Elizabeth Tzagournis | Lantern reporter

Joseph performs at Newport Music Hall on Dec. 8. Credit: Elizabeth Tzagournis | Lantern reporter

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