Joy Williams and John Paul White — known as The Civil Wars — released “Barton Hallow” one year ago, almost to the day. Aside from making a lot of critics’ year-end lists, the album was also a springboard for dozens of other unique opportunities in the past months. And by “unique opportunities,” I mean they earned a couple of Grammy Award nominations, recorded with T Bone Burnett from some film soundtracks, toured extensively around the country, collaborated with the Chieftans and Taylor Swift, played Nashville’s Ryman, late night television shows and “Prairie Home Companion.” It’s sold healthfully. The year 2011 wasn’t just good: it was gangbusters.
“The sky’s the limit,” Williams said during our interview during the 2012 Sundance Film Festival last week. The Civil Wars were on hand to promote “Finding North,” the documentary film on hunger in America, with a score featuring T Bone Burnett.
Burnett — who also worked with “Finding North” talking head Jeff Bridges on “Crazy Heart” and the Dude’s solo debut — “was a fan. We had no idea,” Williams explained. “[Burnett] said ‘I have lots of stuff coming up.'” “Stuff” includes opening and end credits songs for “Finding North” plus scoring and two tracks for forthcoming movie “The Hunger Games” (one of which features Taylor Swift).
The Civil Wars don’t know yet if they’ll be producing their next album with Burnett, and posed that they may even produce it themselves. Regardless, they have about 10 new songs written, and they’re planning on dropping some previously unreleased tracks on their European fans when they tour overseas this spring.
Part of the appeal of The Civil Wars is their disassociation from any one genre. They are up for a country and folk award at the Grammys and earned nods at the Americana awards. No matter how their new set ends up, it’ll be the product of songs they dig on a personal level.
“The only criteria for making this music is that we love it,” White says. “What we love has been clicking.”
Check out the rest of the video interview, on collaborating with the Chieftans, their feelings on major labels and what reduces the band to drinking heavily and adult diapers.