Joseph: Learning to Love Again

What happens when you achieve your dream? The immediate assumption is that it’s all gravy, that life couldn’t be sweeter. But the reality is often much more difficult. Do you rest on your laurels? Do you get up and try to do more—and, if so, at what cost? The trio of sisters who comprise the harmony-driven Portland, Oregon-born band Joseph are finding out the answers to those questions today. 

Videos by American Songwriter

Founded by eldest sister Natalie Closner and including twins Allison Closner and Meegan Closner, Joseph has known high highs and rocky lows. To date, the group has released four acclaimed LPs and three EPs, with their latest, The Sun, set to drop on April 28. But the new album’s title represents something of a breakthrough. It’s the thesis for the band as its members try and figure out who they are and what they want to do after achieving big tours and millions of song streams.

“I think all of us started therapy maybe a year or two before the pandemic,” Meegan tells American Songwriter. “And we really followed through with that over the last couple of years. A lot of what’s on the album, we owe to our therapists.”

Meegan adds that she, like her sisters, has been going through a lot, from rebuilding her self-esteem to gaining comfort with who she is as a person and what she wants to do in the near and distant future. Sometimes it can seem like the only choice is darkness. But they all know that’s not the real option at hand. 

Indeed, Natalie offers a simple yet important analogy: If they want to be a source of light, then what if they are more than, say, a bulb shining in a room? Yes, what if they could be the sun

“What if we’re more than we think we are?” Natalie asks. 

Now, they are learning what being the sun means as individuals and as a collective. Formed in earnest in 2014, the band began with just Natalie, solo. Then, one day, she asked if her sisters would like to join a performance. When the three came together, the proverbial clouds parted, and Natalie knew they were onto something. At the time, Meegan and Allison hadn’t thought about becoming professional artists, despite moments in the choir and harmonizing in the car. But they dug in, and success followed. As did arguments, confusion, and exhaustion. To become a well-known band takes immense effort. That weighed on them. 

“I personally feel replenished right now,” Natalie says. “We had depleted ourselves to build this thing. But since then, we’ve circled our wagons between the three of us, and we said, ‘OK, how do we do this?’ Because it’s so meaningful to all of us.”

The trio put a lot of thought into how not to run themselves ragged while also working to achieve lofty dreams on top of lofty dreams. Since those early days, they’ve been chasing the musical bliss that they can only achieve together, as a unit, as sisters. As they prepare for the release of their new LP and the ensuing tour and press and everything that comes with it, the trio feels more prepared than ever. 

“I feel so fortunate that we get to do this,” Allison says. “It’s been a wild time, but I feel really lucky.” 

[RELATED: Sister Trio Joseph Announces New LP ‘The Sun’]

To create their new LP, the women created something of a sonic mood board where they made a playlist of tracks that exhibited artful aspects they wanted to emulate. They created skeletons of songs, and later in the recording studio, they tried on various “outfits” for them. Natalie likens it to putting different clothes or looks on their songs.

“These particular songs,” Natalie says, “took a lot of effort to really try on a lot of different sounds to see exactly who they wanted to be and what they needed to look like. We’re happy where everything landed.” 

Indeed, there is much on the LP about emotional breakthroughs, leaving bad relationships, and letting good ones in. Standouts include “Nervous System,” which gives inspiration to get past the “storm.” The album’s final song, “Love Is Flowing,” highlights the need for emotion, with the lyric, Love is flowing, and I want to get in it. Another notable bit from the album’s title track, “The Sun,” includes the idea, Feeling good doesn’t feel bad anymore

In the end, doing the work to make this album has brought the sisters closer together. At the top of their list is the aim to remain close and never feel they are merely business partners. To stay friends and cherish their familial bonds, even as tours commence and more work comes on the horizon.  

“I love that feeling of connection,” Natalie says.

“I love harmonizing,” says Meegan. “And getting to sing with my sisters.”

“It can feel so therapeutic to belt things out at the top of your lungs,” Allison says.

Photo by Shervin Lanez

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