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Jun 1, 2013


I can distinctly remember the first time I heard JOY KILLS SORROW.  I was at my family’s house in Pennsylvania early in the new year, bundled up on my bed, reading; my thin California blood barely able to handle the winter storm barreling outside my window.  The local NPR station was playing Mountain Stage, when an unfamiliar sound wafted to my ears.  I stopped what I was doing, put down my book, and just listened, waiting with anticipation to hear name of the artist (you can listen to that original Mountain Stage performance here).

As it turned out, the band was Joy Kills Sorrow, a Boston based string-band whose influences range from bluegrass to jazz to classical.  It wasn’t until this year’s Telluride Bluegrass Festival when I got to see them perform live and finally meet them in person that my suspicions were confirmed: this was a group to watch.  Prior to their arrival in LA for a Sunday night appearance at the Bootleg Bar, JKS lead singer Emma Beaton spoke to The Sitch.  Take a moment to listen to some of their music and discover just why Joy Kills Sorrow is our ARTIST OF THE MONTH.


I started playing Scottish music on cello at age 11.  All of my family is from Scotland and my mom is a fiddle player, so it’s really something I’ve grown up around.  When I was about 17 I started taking vocal lessons.  I had met Matt [Arcara, guitarist] and Wes [Corbett, banjo] a few years before, and they called me up to join a tour during my last year of high school.  I was already headed to Boston for college (at Berklee), but after a year of studying cello, I knew i’d rather be doing the band full time.

The band has been a bit o f an evolutioin.  When I joined, Wes had just come on right before, and our original mando player left right after.  That’s when we brought on Jake [Jolliff, mandolin] to form our current lineup.  [EDITOR’S NOTE: rounding out the band is bass player, singer, and songwriter Bridget Kearney]


For me, personally as a singer, it’s Bonnie Raitt, Patty Griffin.  There are a lot of people I’ve been listening to lately — I go through distinct phases — but right now it’s Rufus Wainright.  I’ve taken vocal lessons from Aoife O’Donovan [of Crooked Still], and you can probably hear a lot of her influence in our sound.

As a band, I’d say anything from the Beatles, to Fleet Foxes, to Dirty Projectors.  We’ve been listening to Josh Ritter a lot.  But overall we have very different taste in music.  And it’s those personal tastes that we bring together, and that’s what I love about our sound — it’s undefinable.  It’s a big mix and there are some things that overlap, but somehow it works.


Right now we’re on a tour that’s taking us down the west coast.  Really looking forward to LA….. love hanging out there, and I’m getting so excited about getting Korean BBQ.  Eventually we’re headed to Germany for a couple of weeks in October.  And we’re going to be recording something in December.  We just want to keep this momentum we’ve had rolling…


Join us this Sunday at 7pm as The Bluegrass Situation presents JOY KILLS SORROW live at the Bootleg Bar (2220 Beverly Blvd, LA), along with THE WELL PENNIES.  Tickets are available here.

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