During the past six months, the pop trio CANNONS has emerged as a talented group to watch. Consisting of lead singer Michelle Joy, Ryan Clapham (guitar) and Paul Davis (drums & keyboards), the group is reaching a new level of success due to their hit single, “Fire For You.” The trio, which started out as an indie band, has now signed with Columbia Records.
“Fire For You” is having an impact on several of Billboard’s charts. In January, the single reached #1 on the Alternative Airplay chart, and is currently #2 on the Adult Alternative Airplay (AAA) chart. In addition, the group is gaining exposure on YouTube, where their video of “Fire For You” has attracted over three million views.
The music of CANNONS combines unique pop songs with an electronic sound & vibe. The trio creates melodies that are appealing and well-crafted, and their arrangements have a warm, sensual feel to it. At the front of the band’s sound is the distinctive, expressive lead vocals by Michelle Joy, who is also their visual focal point. For their songwriting, all three members (Joy, Clapham & Davis) contributed to the writing of “Fire For You” and the other songs on their 2019 album, Shadows.
CANNONS is based in Los Angeles, and they formed in 2013 when Joy (who is from Florida) found Clapham and Davis when she posted a listing in the musicians section of Craigslist. The trio found out they had similar tastes in music, and they began writing & producing songs together. The group independently released their first EP (Up All Night) in 2014, and they released their first album (Night Drive) in 2017.
After releasing another EP (In a Heartbeat) in 2018, CANNONS began writing & producing their breakthrough second album (Shadows), which featured “Fire For You” and their catchy song, “Talk Talk.” Impressively, the songs from Shadows began getting millions of streams, and “Fire For You” received a key placement in the popular Netflix show, Never Have I Ever.
The success of “Fire For You” and Shadows led to CANNONS attracting interest from several major labels. Then in 2020, the band signed with Columbia Records, and they’ve released a new song, “Bad Dream.”
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Michelle Joy of CANNONS. She tells how she got started with music, and how she met Clapham & Davis after she moved to Los Angeles. She also tells how the trio wrote their songs, “Fire For You” and “Bad Dream.”
Here’s the video of CANNONS’ hit, “Fire For You.”
DK: I read that you’re from Florida and you live in Los Angeles now. How did you get started with music and writing songs?
Michelle Joy: When I was growing up, I had a passion for writing, and I kept a lot of journals. With singing, I kept it private and secretive for a long time. Then I took a couple of guitar classes, and in one class we had to sing as well, so I got more comfortable singing in front of other people. Then when I moved out to Los Angeles and met Paul (Davis) and Ryan (Clapham), I let my secret passion for singing and writing out in full force.
DK: Did you meet Paul and Ryan soon after you arrived in L.A.?
Joy: Yes, in the first year. At first, I didn’t really have any friends out here…I didn’t know anyone. So I met Paul and Ryan through Craigslist, in the musicians section (laughs).
DK: When you met Paul and Ryan, did you already envision that you wanted the band to have the pop and electronic sound that you have today?
Joy: Yes. When I made a post online looking for people to work with, I wrote down all of the bands I listened to and the artists that inspired me. [As it turns out], Ryan had listened to many of the same bands and he had the same inspirations, and Paul as well. Our influences naturally came out. On the first song we did, we hadn’t met up yet (laughs). We sent files back and forth online.
DK: Who were some of your musical favorites that inspired you and the band?
Joy: We all liked Prince, Motown, Curtis Mayfield and lot of soul and funk, and I was a big Sade fan. We’ve always had that in common. We all liked different stuff, but those were the artists we had in common.
DK: Early on with your band, what was your first big break, that made you feel like you were making progress?
Here’s the lyric video of CANNONS’ new song, “Bad Dream.”
Joy: Our first big break was when (NPR station) KCRW started playing our songs. I thought that was really cool, that KCRW picked up on our music in the first year that we started making music. And then HBO picked one of our songs for their show, Ballers, and we had other shows that played our music.
DK: In the past six months, your song “Fire For You” has become a hit on the Billboard charts. How did you, Ryan and Paul write that song?
Joy: We originally wrote “Fire For You” at the end of 2018. It was on our album Shadows, which came out in 2019. During the time we wrote it, I was going through probably one of the hardest breakups of my life (laughs). So that breakup came out through the lyrics of the song. It was quite a cathartic experience writing that. Then we put that out in 2019, and then the pandemic hit. But then “Fire For You” was picked up by the Netflix show, Never Have I Ever (watched by 40 million viewers), and they played it at the most important part of the show. And “Fire For You” shot up to number one on the TV music Billboard chart, and on the Shazam chart. It was super exciting and kind of a surreal experience for us.
DK: Did the success of “Fire For You” help you with signing a label deal with Columbia Records?
Joy: Yeah it did. After “Fire For You” was shooting up the charts, I remember when we checked our emails, we heard from every label we could imagine. Then we started talking to labels, and we really liked Columbia. Every single person that we talked to at the label was so cool, and we felt that they completely understood us and our goals. So we signed with them and it’s been a great experience.
DK: You’ve just released a new song called “Bad Dream.” How did you and the band wrote that song?
Joy: This is the second song we wrote after the pandemic started. I was feeling in a creative rut during that time, because so much was going on in the world that was very hard to digest. The song is about unrequited love, and it’s also about the uncertainty in the world that we’re all going through. During this time, I was being empathetic and feeling everyone’s feelings around me. And with “Bad Dream,” I felt like it was fine to write about how uncomfortable I was feeling, relatable to what everyone was experiencing.
Here’s the video of CANNONS’ song, “Talk Talk.”
DK: Yes, in the past year, it has been like a bad dream for all of us.
DK; Currently, are you working on a new EP or a full album?
Joy: Yes. We’re almost finished with our new album; it’s about 95% done. It should be coming out this summer.
DK: During the past year with Covid, bands haven’t been able to play shows and tour. When things open up, do you have plans to tour?
Joy: We do. We have a tour that we’re locking in right now, and there’s a couple festivals that we’ll be playing. We’ll be announcing these shows soon.