YAH Exclusive: Interview with Bethany Joy Lenz

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In a small coffee shop in Los Angeles, I sat down and spoke with Joy about her music career, including her new album Get Back to Gold, her fantastic blog Wish You Were Here and of course One Tree Hill.

bethany joy lenz get back to gold

Get Back to Gold, Joy’s latest album, features three songs that are all very different in their sound but yet distinctly Joy. The gap between her last release of music and this album was intentional, as she wasn’t sure yet what she was trying to say with her music. She wanted something that was new and fresh yet also reflective of where she was in life.

The album’s name had evolved after a friend had mentioned the word “gold” to her. As soon as that word came in, she liked it and felt there was something to be said of that feeling of getting back to yourself, getting back to your best. The word “gold” sort of became the anthem of the album and also her life right now, as the last few years of her life have been extraordinarily difficult but also full of gratitude and love. It’s very pertinent to where she is, getting back to a place that is better.

The first song on the album, “Call of the Wild” was written by Joy. She describes this as a very complicated song with electronic elements. A lot of people may not pick this up, but the song has a lot of references to musical theater. This song is about ‘men children,’ a term we laugh about and Joy further explains, “Every woman who’s ever been in a relationship understands what a man child is and what a relationship with a man child is like. When it’s good it’s amazing because they have this great sense of adventure and spontaneity, but then they don’t have the maturity to deal with things when they aren’t on a high. This song is about leaving a relationship like that.”

Joy also wrote “Start It Up” and this was another song she collaborated with her friend on, particularly due to her struggle with writing the chorus. Joy really has a difficult time with those choruses. She said that occasionally she can come up with an amazing idea for the chorus and it’s like, (excitedly) “ahhh! Chorus!” But most of the time she can easily write the story and then needs someone else to help with coming up with the catchy chorus for the song. “Start It Up” was a prime example of this.

“Start it Up” is about two lovers that find each other again after a long time. It’s like a big shipwreck. There’s a lot of visual imagery, it’s about finding each other when everything is falling apart. When reality starts to set in, and you think, “oh wait we actually are two totally different people and have two different sides. And you get two separate boats and go your separate ways.’

Joy grew up watching “The Twilight Zone” and has a super morbid take on humor and romance. The song “You Belong to Me” is reflective of this. It’s a happy, upbeat song but if you listen to the lyrics, there’s this dark undertone to it with lyrics like, “I belong to you, you belong to me, even if that place is make believe.” The song is also a nod to The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” which has similar lyrics, “Oh can’t you see, you belong to me.”

At a recent concert in Los Angeles, Joy also performed additional songs that have yet to be released on iTunes. One of these songs, “Dance With Me” is a song written about high school dances and that feeling one has when they want someone to dance with them. Another song she performed that has yet to be released is “Get Back to Gold,” a song that bares the same name as the album title and is about finding your way again and getting back to a place where you’re at your best.

Though Joy encompasses a charisma onstage that comes off as natural and effortless, Joy actually feels terrified and vulnerable on stage. This vulnerability comes from having to expose yourself in front of an entire audience. Acting, on the contrast, feels different she explains as you’re portraying a character. “If you put me into a character and put me on stage, I’m way better than when I’m on as me. I’m just so much more comfortable. I’m a very animated person so when I’m on TV or stage I can sing and go and it’s great,” Joy says. The vulnerability is gone when she doesn’t have to entertain an audience as herself. If she could, she would stay in the studio recording forever and never perform live, though she would love to do Broadway someday.

On One Tree Hill, Joy was fortunate enough to combine her love of both music and acting through her character’s musical career on the show. The music performed by the lovable and fan favorite Haley James Scott, came about in different ways. There wasn’t one process they used when coming up with Haley’s next hit. They would sometimes give her a CD of around 5 songs and say, ‘Here pick one,” which is how “Halo” happened. There were some songs that she wrote, some that her friend wrote and some she got from the producers. Music was such a character on the show, and Mark Schwahn (the creator of One Tree Hill) was extremely collaborative.

Yet another one of Joy’s talents in her endless list is writing. Joy has been blogging since 2005, and her most recent blog is titled Wish You Were Here. The name was inspired by her family history, as her grandfather George was a cast member in the original Broadway musical of the same name. The blog features sections on fashion, beauty, travel and living – all compiled by Joy. As a creative type, she is constantly looking to keep herself creatively stimulated, and since she wasn’t working a lot over the last year, the blog proved to be an excellent fit. She didn’t mind taking some time off during this time, mainly because the material she was reading didn’t inspire her. She wants to be someone where when people look up her name they go, “Oh that’s worth looking at because that’s quality.”

As for her future writing goals, she would love to one day write for a travel magazine. She explained, “Ever since I was old enough to write and recognize what different avenues writing can take you, I thought why wouldn’t anyone want to write for a travel magazine? They send you places, then you get to experience the most beautiful places in the world. You get to do two things you love. And travel and it’s all paid for. That’s no brainer, the best job on the planet. No brainer.” Can’t argue with her there.

Throughout our time together during the interview, one thing became clear: Joy has a heart of gold. She gives, loves and works with passion that is palpable. She’s down to earth and warm to people around her, making me feel welcome from the moment I met her. It’s no surprise that she’s someone who also dedicates a lot of time to causes that are close to her heart, most notably her work raising awareness for human trafficking. When she heard stories about how horrific human trafficking is, she could never shake the deep responsibility she felt to help. She said if she didn’t have her own daughter, wasn’t going through a divorce, etc. she would go to Cambodia in a heartbeat. There are several amazing organizations that not only work to stop human trafficking but also provide rehabilitation for the victims. “I get so angry. So disgusted of what human beings are capable of. And it’s confusing. The only thing you can do is try to help,” Joy said. Check out some of these fantastic charities here: Equality now, Stop the Traffik, Love 146, GirlRising.

CLICK HERE to get Joy’s album Get Back to Gold on iTunes!

Other fun facts about Joy:

  • Without hesitation, her dream collaboration would be with Billy Joel. Though she’s not sure she would be able to collaborate with him without completely fangirling (her words).
  • She and Hilarie Burton (from One Tree Hill) bonded early on over their mutual love of morbid things like Hilarie’s obsession with creepy looking antique dolls.
  • Joy packaged all 1,000 “Your Woman” albums herself at her house that she sold, turning her house into what looked like a UPS store temporarily.
  • Joy also sang a little opera at her recent Los Angeles concert. And she KILLED IT. Her voice truly knows no bounds.
  • Though she doesn’t seem it, Joy says she is an introvert and likes staying home.
  • Joy’s daughter loves being on set and calls the trailers “apartment on wheels.”

Links:

Get Back to Gold on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/get-back-to-gold-single/id953131809

Joy’s blog: http://wishyouwereherelife.com/

Joy’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/BethanyJoyLenz

Charities Joy supports: http://www.equalitynow.org/http://www.stopthetraffik.org/https://love146.org/http://girlrising.com/

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