The Civil Wars: The Power of Music and the Hope of Restoration

The last few months have been a roller coaster for the Grammy-winning acoustic folk-country-pop duo The Civil Wars. In November, they announced a temporary hiatus due to “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition.” Though they recorded a second album, members Joy Williams and John Paul White are currently not on speaking terms. That second, self-titled album debuted at number one on The Billboard 200 album chart.


While White is also not speaking to the media, Williams sat down with the Huffington Post, where she talked about the duo’s relationship, her own family, and what music means to her. Interviewer Mike Ragogna asked her point blank about the band’s hiatus, which Williams addressed carefully:

It was a true bump and it was a series of difficult situations that John Paul and I kept trying to make the best out of and then, at a certain point, the reality is that we’ve always really worked well together professionally. But you spend a lot of time on the road and those hours get long and you’re in close quarters, and friction and tension is bound to happen. It’s as age-old as time, bands having disagreements and finding themselves not on the same page all the time. The reality is we are working with some very real tension and a bit of a breakdown at the moment–and I say “at the moment” intentionally–and it’s something that we’re navigating. …I still hold out hope that there’s a possibility that John Paul and I could mend our fences and come back even stronger as a duo.

Williams talked about how proud she is of the new album and how the pain brought about more honest music:

It was born out of some strife and pain, but I feel like in the midst of all of that, it made for an even more raw and, in my opinion, moving body of work than we even did on Barton Hollow… That’s maybe some of the good that comes out of the difficulty that John Paul and I have found ourselves in as of late.


Yet she is quick to point out that The Civil Wars is not a document of the band’s split:

The record is not a ripped out journal page, there’s still a lot of art and metaphor used in the record, but there is also real life woven into it, so it’s all strung throughout and I think you can hear the authenticity within that.

At the end of the interview, Ragogna asks Williams where she wants to see herself and the band in a year’s time:

It’s so hard to forecast the future, so I won’t try to. But I will say that in my heart of hearts, I believe in the power of forgiveness, but it takes two. John Paul and I both burnt the bridges between us, so there’s no finger-pointing in what I’m saying right now. I really do hope there can be a chance to have a dialog that might allow for the band to really reconnect and set about to what we really do best, which is make music. So I would love to see that happen in the next year and in the mean time, I’m still playing my husband’s grandmother’s piano out in the back half of our home and I think being creative will also be a part of my next year, so I can keep that muscle strong. I hope in the next year that my son learns to speak in full sentences and I’ll be chasing him around parks and that my husband and I will be stronger for having gone through another year of living life together and being co-parents together and navigating this adventure known as life together. So I guess what I’m saying is restoration and family. That’s probably what I would say I hope for in the next year.


Restoration. As a fan of The Civil Wars, I can’t help but be encouraged by hearing Williams’ desire to reunite with White. I know I’m not alone in hoping and praying that these two will overcome their differences and make beautiful music for years to come.


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