Professor weighs in on musical war

By Christy Ulmet

The Civil Wars disbanded over the summer, and a music faculty member has some ideas about why.

Dean Diehl, director of the music business program, signed Joy Williams, the female half of the Civil Wars, for her first solo record through Reunion Records when she was 16 years old. Diehl worked with her on three solo records throughout the course of six years.

Diehl has remained in contact with Williams and her husband, Nate, over the years. Although he hasn’t spoken with her directly about the breakup, he has some ideas about why the well-loved duo of Williams and John Paul White won’t be performing together anymore.

The story the duo is telling is that there have been “artistic differences” between the two, but Diehl believes a little differently about that. Diehl said he believes it is more about differences in ambition than artistic differences.

“Artists become artists for different reasons,” Diehl said. “I believe that John Paul views the act of creating music as an end in itself. I believe Joy is a performer. She loves to get up on stage and perform for audiences.”

Diehl also said that the conflict between the duo is that, when the two have written a song and recorded it, White is done and ready to go onto the next song. However, Williams is a performer; recording the song is just getting started.

At that point, Williams is ready to go tour around the world and perform, while White wants to be with his family, Diehl said. He feels successful in just writing a good song, while Joy needs to have millions of people tell her she’s written a good song.

“When you put a group together that has those differing artistic goals, there is a conflict,” Diehl said. “It’s very hard to maintain chemistry on stage when there is that offstage tension where one of the artists doesn’t want to be there.”

Though their most recent self-titled album, “The Civil Wars,” hit the charts when it came out last month, the group won’t be playing together anymore.

The duo took a hiatus last November, cancelling a European tour with a statement citing “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition.” Interviews in both local and national news outlets show that White has done nothing to promote the new album and has not spoken with reporters on the break up.

The two have not spoken since cutting the new record over a two-week session last September.

In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Williams spoke with a hopeful tone on the band’s future. When asked if The Civil Wars will ever have a third act, Williams answered that at this point she’s not sure.

“If John Paul and I can find a place to meet in the middle, I believe that there could be a future for the band,” Williams said.

“It would be much easier if it was just one particular circumstance that caused the hiatus, [but] it was a multitude of things; it was small hinges on a very large door,” Williams said. “And to me, I think that’s also a place where I can have hope — that it wasn’t this one massive breach.”

“I really do feel like we brought out the best in each other musically,” she went on. “But you only make music X amount of hours in the day, and then you’re spending a lot of life together. And over time, creative tension can breed personal tension and then personal tension can breed creative tension. In my opinion, that’s sort of how we found ourselves in (this) conundrum.”

Diehl said he feels that the two won’t find themselves getting back together, even though the two have enjoyed much success.

“Joy will always be a performer and John Paul will always be an artist,” Diehl said.

*This article originally appeared in the September 2013 TrevEchoes.

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