Los Angeles, CA native Joyce Wrice grew up listening to Mariah Carey, Missy Elliott, and Aaliyah and took to their respective blendings of rap, R&B, and soul as a vehicle for her own bouncy sound. What started as a series of covers of artists like Miguel and Jhené Aiko eventually gave way to linking with producers like Mndsgn and songwriters like SiR, who went on to help Wrice hone her songcraft.
“Covers just gave me an opportunity to make my attempt to sound as good as the artist. It just made me feel good; it made me feel happy,” she explains to Audiomack via Zoom. “When I sing, especially songs I love, it gives me joy that I don’t really find everywhere. It’s a rare feeling. That’s how I would play as a kid.”
Wrice’s time behind the curtain of California’s budding music scene in the 2010s gave her the confidence to strike out on her own. She independently dropped two EPs in 2016 before using her connections and a growing relationship with superproducer D’Mile to spend the next five years crafting her debut album Overgrown, out now via The Orchard. The album is a modern twist on an established formula, blending Wrice’s foundational genres into a sunny concoction.
“There’s a lot of songs you hear on the radio that are inspired by the ‘90s and 2000s, but it’s not refreshing or new,” Wrice says. “I wanted to make sure that what I was coming with was new and refreshing but also nostalgic, in a way.”
How did you build up the confidence to do original songs?
I met this producer who goes by Son of The Underground, who went by SOTU. He was the son of one of the members of Digital Underground. He found my covers on YouTube, and he introduced me to a producer he was working with at the time named Polyester The Saint. I started making songs with them, and they saw my potential and liked my style. We made some songs together, and they tried their best to develop me.
Polyester and I started working at Truth Studios in LA, which was a spot a lot of independent artists would work at, and he linked me with Dom Kennedy, and I did a hook for him and some background [vocals]. Being in that environment made me want to work on my voice and what stories I wanted to tell. That’s where I first gained the confidence and curiosity to make music on my own.
That’s also around the time I met this producer, Mndsgn. His girlfriend at the time wanted to take photos of me, and she introduced me to him. When he sent me his beats, that was the first time I could really connect to production. Before, I was having a hard time [learning] how to approach certain production, but when Mndsgn started sending me beats, I’d start having melodies and open GarageBand and learn how to freestyle. It felt right for the first time. That’s what really helped me find my lane to be my own solo artist.
You’ve worked with a grip of producers over the years, but you chose the now Oscar-winning producer D’Mile to executive produce your debut album Overgrown. What initially attracted you to D’Mile’s music?
I met this amazing A&R Eddie Fourcell, who also A&Rs for Mary J. Blige, and he introduced me to D’Mile about three to four years ago. I looked him up because I didn’t know who he was at the time. When I saw he produced for Janet Jackson and Mary J. Blige, I was just like, “Oh my god. He’s produced songs I love to this day. This could be a really good match.”
He’s pretty quiet, so it took time for us to find our rhythm [in the studio]. Once we found it, it really just came together. I needed to live some life at that point, and D’Mile was so patient and just down. We always have conversations when we’re making a song, and it starts with: “How’re you feeling today, Joyce? What’s going on?” and then me sharing and us having a dialogue to figure out how to put it in the music.
The music on Overgrown sits neatly at the intersection of rap, R&B, and soul. What do you think makes these three genres so compatible?
I’m a product of what I grew up listening to, and I’m so happy that I grew up during a time where I could witness such legendary true artists. I’ve always loved working with rappers and incorporating gritty, hard-hitting beats with soulful samples or chords. It’s just natural and second nature for me to do that.
Some of my favorite producers like Mndsgn, Madlib, Alchemist, and 9th Wonder all mix those genres together. I intentionally thought about it in the sense that I knew I wanted multiple rappers on the project, but overall, it was just D’Mile putting a beat together and me going over it.
When I first moved to LA and started making music, I was with Dom Kennedy and Overdoz. Because I have that history and LA is such a great place to do music, I was able to hear songs and say, “This sounds like Freddie [Gibbs] could be on it; this sounds perfect for Gunn.” Masego just popped in the studio; he wasn’t originally supposed to be on [“Must Be Nice”], but he came to the studio session and ended up connecting with what we were working on and decided to throw a verse in.
It was just me having fun piecing things together and having the opportunity and the fortune to do that. And the best part is that all of this happened because they connected with the music.
R&B and soul music, in particular, are in the midst of a renaissance. With your debut album out in the world, where does Joyce Wrice fit into the modern-day scene?
If someone were to say, “Hey, we’re going to see Joyce Wrice,” I would be the one coming with the dancers. I’m just trying to give people a good time and make people move. I’m just trying to entertain. It’s really just authentic to what I grew up listening to and my style, which is just a love for hip-hop and R&B.
There are artists these days that make vibey music and artists that are really vocalists, like Tiana Major9 and Cleo Sol. At this point in my life, and during such a hard time for everyone, how can I create value and just get through them as joyfully as possible? That’s where I fit in.