When Ken Mueller of Inkling Media tells you to check out the music of someone, well, you really should do it. He’s never steered me wrong, and most recently, he steered me more than right by suggesting I check out the music of Joy Ike, a Pittsburgh songwriter with a great smooth voice, excellent sense of lyricism, and an ability to write music that makes me want to both dance and think. Her new album Rumors will be released on May 12th, and it’s one you should all pick up.

Here’s what Joy had to say when I sent her some questions just before her visit to Lancaster, PA during the Launch Music Conference last week.

1. What got you started in music? When did you know this is what you wanted to do?

Well, I’d always been around music. Growing up in an African family (Nigerian), music was just always around. And ever since I can remember, I’ve been singing non-stop – like when I brush my teeth, or when I’m cooking. There’s always a song in my head and lately its been that McDonald theme: “Ba-da-da-da-da I’m lovin’ it!” I’m not sure why. To answer your second question, I think I knew I couldn’t be happy sitting behind a desk. Three years into working a full-time job out of college, I became extremely restless and realized that there were a number of things changing in my life that pointed me directly towards making music a career. I’m still surprised that this is what I’m doing with my life. I’m probably the most unlikely person actually. I mean, as much as I love meeting new people and performing, I’m also a home body. I like my couch, a nice movie, and the company of a few good people. That would make me so happy.

2. What else have you done to support yourself? What did you do before you were a regularly touring musician?
Out of college, I worked as a publicist at a book publishing company. That was my bread and butter and helped support me as I played out in Pittsburgh and built my fanbase. At this point, I’ve been performing and traveling full-time since June ’08. In fact, it’ll be 2 years at the end of May. Yeah!

3. What is the most beautiful thing you have ever experienced? How has that experience influenced you?
Ooooh that’s a tough question. This may sound wierd, but I like to witness love. I like to see a guy go out of his way to bring his girl a glass of water, a mom speak to her child gracefully, or a boy hold his kid sister’s hand as they cross the street. So while I can’t think of a specific incident, that’s the type of stuff that really gets me.

4. Because a lot of my blog’s readers are bibliophiles, what three books could you recommend and why those?
Sadly, I don’t read as much as I should. But if I could recommend one book to your readers, it would be Blue Like Jazz. This book has truly, profoundly affected me. Donald Miller is a writer who captures the human condition in a very relate-able way.

5. If you were a spice, what spice would you be and why?
Probably Dash. Well Dash is more like a brand, but I’d be one of Dash’s spices.

6. If you could alleviate one cause of suffering in the world, what would you use to end and why?

I would alleviate hunger. I would put in order some type of system to monetize the amount of food Americans waste each month. Then that amount would be taken out of their paycheck for the following month and donated to various world aid groups. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), if just 5 percent of Americans’ food scraps were recovered it would represent one day’s worth of food for 4 million people.” This statistic has always startled me. Can you believe it!?

7. What advice would you give to artists? Practical wisdom? Esoteric insight?
Tell people you exist! You could be the best there is, but if you don’t tell people, they’ll never know and you’ll stay hidden forever. That’s a tragedy. I strongly urge your readers to check out my blog, Grassrootsy (www.grassrootsy.com). It’s everything I’ve ever thought about grassroots marketing in the form of 150+ blogs.

8. If you could pick an animal to represent you, what animal would you choose and why?

Probably a cat b/c I’m a fairly quiet person who likes to observe and I’m usually hard to read.

9. Who are your musical influences? What songs of theirs do you know by heart? Why those songs?
Sara Groves. Love her to death. I became a huge fan of hers when her CD “Add to the Beauty” came out. There was something about the Album that made me want to be a better person and to create beauty that would change others. The Album is also about relationships and how tough they can be. It just hit me real hard. That’s the album I know by heart.

10. If you could make a mixtape of ten songs, what ten songs would you include?
I can tell you what artists I’d include. Sara Groves, Brooke Waggonner, Aqualung, Death Cab For Cutie, Sufjan Stevens, B.Reith, and a few independent folk artists including Josh Garrells. My favorite songs change on a weekly basis.

Definitely take a minute and visit Joy’s MySpace page to listen to her great tunes and take a look at this amazing list by the interns at NPR that Joy was a part of. You’ll be bopping along at your desk.

Joy Ike