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Joy Williams Opens Up About the Civil Wars’ Separate Marriages: ‘It Was Like Playing With Fire’

Civil Wars
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

One of the great surprises to fans of folk duo the Civil Wars is this: they aren’t married to each other. It was their yearning and emotional lyrics — along with obvious onstage chemistry — which created a myth of a love story that wasn’t really there. And according to Joy Williams, that aspect was sometimes like playing with fire. 

“So many people assumed that we were married, which is not the case,” she shares, speaking on NPR‘s All Things Considered. “We are married, but to other people.” Williams adds, “…That myth was also something that, you know, had to be dealt with and treated very carefully, because we are happily married to other people.”

When asked it if was dangerous, she responds honestly: “Yeah, that’s playing with fire. Looking back, there was so much power in that, and that’s where a lot of the inspiration for the music came from, within that tension. But you do have to treat that with a great deal of respect; if you don’t, then other things start falling by the wayside.”

Williams is forthright about her commitment to her husband, saying, “Family has always mattered so much to me, and my relationship with my husband has always mattered so much to me, and while I can’t speak for John Paul, I know his family matters so much to him. He’s at home with them right now, and that’s where he wants to be. But I do think that that was something that could be confusing, both for the audience and for me at times.”

The songstress half of the duo has gone through a lot of change over the past year, with a new baby and her wildly successful band that suddenly (and unfortunately) halted. While the Civil Wars haven’t been touring — or even speaking — the painful turmoil between the two has brewed something to be proud of: an incredibly successful self-titled album.

Here’s to the aptly-named Civil Wars — and most importantly, to their respective marriages.

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