After we whet your appetite yesterday with special sneak clips of “Kingdom Come” and “Sour Times,” the full episode of VH1 Unplugged: The Civil Wars is now available for you to watch online! (You can do so by clicking play above.)
The Civil Wars made history with their Unplugged show, as singer Joy Williams became the first artist in the 22-year history of the program to perform while pregnant. Of course, this reminded us of when M.I.A. sang on The Grammys back in 2009 while she was 9 months pregnant. So, naturally, we asked Joy (who is due in June) about it.
“Dude! M.I.A. on the Grammys was so amazing with that bullseye awesomeness and spandex!,” she explained (video below). “Well, I was going to wear that, but she totally bogarted the awesome spandex idea.”
“So I’m going to,” John Paul White jumped in. “A strategic bullseye.”
Well, dear readers, we can all be thankful that didn’t happen.
As The Civil Wars joked during the taping of their VH1 Unplugged set a few weeks back, they’re a duo that already performs “unplugged” most of the time, generally using an acoustic guitar or piano to deliver their songs. Knowing that, you wouldn’t necessarily think that the duo would gravitate towards performing a cover of a 1993 trip-hop classic, but once you hear their take on “Sour Times” (as originally performed by Portishead), you immediately understand how this fits into the band’s repetoire of seemingly offbeat covers.
“We’re lovers of all kinds of different music,” Joy Williams told us when we sat down with her before the show taped a few weeks back. “If we’re able to pick something out of the lexicon where we both go, ‘You listened to that, too?’, it’s really fun for us to say ‘Ok, what can we do with it as a duo?’ The lyrics themselves, to Portishead, I sat down to read them and they’re so mysterious. I still don’t even quite know what we’re actually singing about, but I’m kind of into it. It’s such a moody song!” (VIDEO BELOW.)
The profile of The Civil Wars has been raised considerably over the course of the last year. In fact, it was one year ago when the band was named our You Oughta Know artist and performed an intimate set here in our lobby on the 20th floor of VH1 headquarters here in New York City. Since that fateful day, the band has exploded in popularity, taking home two Grammys and recording not one but TWO songs for the wildly popular soundtrack to The Hunger Games. Their full VH1 Unplugged set (brought to you by State Farm) will premiere here on VH1 Tuner tomorrow, but until then, we have this sneak peak of their song from said soundtrack, “Kingdom Come,” for you above.
When we attended the taping, we asked them about the refrain of the song, which goes “Don’t you fret, my dear / It’ll all be over soon / I’ll be waiting here for you.” Clearly, this line can be read a couple of different ways, from the very optimistic to the, well, sorta haunting. What was it that inspired this particular line?
“The first thing that came to mind was this overwhelming sense of ‘survival mode,’” John Paul White explained to us. “We knew that we wanted that to be the overlying theme of what we did. We didn’t want to be completely specific as to who we’re singing about, or who is singing to whom. And that’s the way we went about it.” (Video of this moment below.)
It’s been a little bit over a year since The Civil Wars were named VH1′s You Oughta Know artist, and what a year it’s been! The duo, made up of John Paul White and Joy Williams, went from being virtual unknowns to two-time Grammy winners thanks to the outstanding batch of songs that appears on their debut LP, Barton Hollow. Still riding high after their Grammy success back in February, they’re on a bit of a victory lap at the moment: They have not one but TWO songs on the super successful soundtrack for The Hunger Games, they’re in the early phases of writing for their follow-up, and they just taped a brand new episode of VH1 Unplugged, which is scheduled to make its online debut on May 1.
As a means of whetting your appetite in advance of next Tuesday’s Unplugged premiere, we’d like to present to you the latest installment of our exclusive photographic series here on VH1 Tuner, Music Seen. A lot has changed since Joy and John Paul shot their last Music Seen here at our VH1 headquarters in Times Square last May, and we’re not just talking about the critical and industry acclaim. Joy and her husband, Nate Yetton, are expecting their first child in June, which makes Joy the first person to perform an Unplugged set while pregnant in the show’s 22 year history. She definitely had the radiant glow that you always hear about, which you can see in our set of amazing photographs that Colin Gray shot in Harlem’s Metropolis Studios last week.
One of our favorite You Oughta Know artists, The Civil Wars, have made it to the cover of Billboard magazine, and while they say you should never judge a book by it’s cover, you can expect the accompanying story inside the publication to be every bit as enticing as the formidable couple staring down the camera on the front. Here is a band who, as relative unknowns three odd years ago, are now one of the most talked about, and not to mention talented young bands catching the attention of everyone from Taylor Swift to Hollywood. The Civil Wars (Joy Williams and John Paul White) met in 2008, at a meeting that both parties tried to cancel (it can only be described as intensely fortuitous that neither succeeded); shortly after they began writing music and White asked Williams to start a band, which she says was, “Like being asked to prom.”
Everything since has been somewhat of a fairytale, with the band catching the ear of super star Taylor Swift. “We were doing a West Coast run and Taylor got in touch with us to say she was working with Burnett on The Hunger Games” says Williams. The Civil Wars then joined Taylor in the studio and, “We wrote ["Safe & Sound"] within two-and-a-half hours, got in the studio and recorded vocals and the temp version in another two hours. Less than a month later it was up on iTunes. We had no idea an afternoon would culminate in a thing like that. She had great ideas-everything was really easygoing with her. Walking into the studio with Taylor and T Bone felt like the most natural thing in the world.” The band also opened for Swift at the Grammys with a brief one minute performance that attracted the attention of critics, and was largely touted as one of the best performances of the night, leading to a 178% spike in sales for the band the following week. The Civil Wars’ manager, Nate Yetton says, “The Grammy stage and performing almost a trailer for the song was kind of the next natural step in the progression of the band, being exposed to a much broader audience.”
The band describe Swift’s support as “surreal,” but we imagine the blink-you’ll-miss-it rise to fame might be described the same way. Williams reflects on the bands success: “If John Paul and I had met at a different time I think we would’ve had an afternoon of a co-write and maybe missed something that could have been special… It set the tone surprisingly at an early stage. We said, ‘Let’s just do what we love and write music that we’re proud of and throw everything else to the wind.” White shares a similar sentiment, “I don’t want to paint us as so forward-thinking in this… There was a bit of naivety on our part. We didn’t have a label so we didn’t have anyone stopping us. It was just us following our noses.” The interview is intriguing, as are The Civil Wars; you can read more at Billboard.com.
The DIY Story of the Year, Two Grammys, A Dose of Taylor and the Biggest Soundtrack You’ve Yet to Hear [Billboard]
There’s no doubt that 2011 was the year of the “doof doof”. From the rise of David Guetta and LMFAO to the euro-club beats adopted in an overwhelming majority pop songs from Rihanna‘s “We Found Love” to Britney Spears‘ “I Wanna Go”, there was no avoiding the thudding sound of the sub woofer and all the manic, Ibiza-esque dance-party vibes that went with it. But if you abide by the laws of physics, you’ll know that for all actions, there is an equal and opposing reaction — and we can see the specter of antithesis looming for 2012. While last year saw an almost completely unblemished carpet of techno beats upholster the music landscape, 2012 looks set to tear that carpet up and replace it with raw wood.
We’re talking about the new guard, a genre of new artists we’ve dubbed “realwave” (thanks to Carles for giving us the ability to invent genres with the simple suffix “wave”), who have been lurking on the sidelines but still managing to make some noise despite the deafening reverberations around them. It began with the ascent of Adele, Mumford & Sons and Bon Iver — artists, who are, for all intents and purposes, artists. In 2011, these artists represented “authenticity,” or the ability to make music that was not only chart topping and relateable, but that also relied on the strength of songwriting, real instruments and organic talent. Yep, that means no auto-tuned voices, synthetic bass lines or garish costuming.
From Adele’s beautiful, heartfelt lyricism and emotive live vocal to Mumford & Sons’ rootsy instrumentals and Bon Iver’s gently experimental, dynamic sound, these artists have provided a much needed sanctuary from banging beats and flashing lights. And perhaps now, after we’ve worn the soles of our dancing shoes right into our heels, we’re actively seeking more realwave. We went to the party, sure, and we had the time of our lives, but it’s morning now, the sun is shining through the cracks in the curtains, our heads are splitting and we’re groping at the bedside table for Advil and Gatorade.
The controversy surrounding Nicki Minaj’s and Chris Brown’s respective performances this weekend have dominated most of the post-Grammy conversation over the past few days. However, now that the hubbub surrounding those performances is starting to die down, we here at VH1 want to take a few minutes to congratulate The Civil Wars on their two Grammy wins this weekend. Our April 2011 You Oughta Know artists beat out some stiff competition in the Best Country Duo/Group Performance and Best Folk Album categories, and stunned everyone with their totally-awesome-yet-all-too-brief performance of “Barton Hollow” during the live telecast. Thanks to the magic of the internet, now we’re able to see their acceptance speeches for their two wins which, sadly, were not shown during the CBS broadcast. Above, watch them accept the Best Country Duo/Group performance Grammy for “Barton Hollow” and below, check out their performance of that song here in the VH1 offices last May.
If you’ve been in front of a computer with a working Internet connection today you’re probably aware that Bonnaroo has announced the line up for this year’s festival, and that everyone is getting a little breathy and excited about it. And why not — the lineup is absolutely out of this world, with huge names Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Phish, The Beach Boys, Grammy winners Bon Iver, The Avett Brothers and The Shins headlining the festival. While we’re a bit perplexed as to why the legendary Beach Boys are billed fourth (we can understand Radiohead as a firm first, but surely The Beach Boys have more clout on a lineup than Red Hot Chili Peppers or Phish, especially as they’ve reunited to tour this year?), it’s hard to maintain any kind of indignation with such a fun lineup.
The big names appear next to some pretty “of the moment” new comers, including our You Oughta Know artists Foster The People (could this be Grammys round 2, performing with The Beach Boys again perchance?), The Civil Wars, Dawes and Fitz & The Tantrums (we LOVE to say we told ya so!). There’s also the dub act that’s taken the USA by storm, Grammy winner Skrillex, oldies but goodies like The Roots, Alice Cooper, Ludacris and Ben Folds Five. And is anyone as excited about the Black Star comeback as we are?? Hype acts on the list include Childish Gambino, 2011′s lauded tUnE-yArDs, St. Vincent, SBTRKT, Kendrick Lamar, Kurt Vile, EMA and Das Racist to name but a few! Bonnaroo might just have the leg up on the other festivals — sure Coachella has a hype-led lineup with a smattering of superstar at the top of the bill and SXSW is ready to introduce us to the hottest new talent, but Bonnaroo seems to balance the classic and timeless with still relevant veterans and hyped new names across genres. Basically, Bonnaroo’s got something for everyone.
Bonnaroo tickets go on sale February 18th at 12 p.m. EST.
[Photos: Getty Images]
Taylor Swift and The Civil Wars have teamed up for The Hunger Games Soundtrack: Songs from District 12 and Beyond, and their collaborative track, “Safe And Sound” features a haunting video to go with the romantic vocal. The video sees Taylor walking barefoot in a whimsical, diaphanous gown through a harsh winter forest landscape, while bare trees throw up obtuse, magical shapes as she wanders between them. The scene flicks to The Civil Wars in stark contrast, sitting before a crackling fire in a cosy, domestic setting as their voices harmonize with Taylor’s.
The waifish Taylor continues to haunt the barren landscape while fires rage in the distance, almost spectral in her aimless meandering. With the mystical appearance of an apperating deer, the song takes on a fantastical, otherworldly import as Taylor roams, hopelessly hopeful that the dawn will bring her safety. As night falls there’s a sense of desperation as the deer turns to dust before Taylor’s eyes, but the soft crooning melodies remain a constant reminder that everything will be alright.