If nothing else, the title of Joy Ike's third album should tell you something about where she is as an artist. After the innocuous debut Good Morning and the more intriguing Rumors, Ike is laying it all on the line with a full-length called All or Nothing.
"There's kind of this recurring theme of not wanting to give up, wanting to push through and do everything you can, as hard as you can and as well as you can," she explains.
While there are plenty of ways to interpret the title, Ike admits it means a lot to her in terms of her professional life.
"I don't know if the title came out of that, or if now I've embodied the title," she says with a laugh.
It's clear that Joy Ike is all in. The new album, recorded with Saul Simon MacWilliams (who tours with Ingrid Michaelson, and did sound engineering for the movie Beasts of the Southern Wild), combines the basics of Ike's songwriting with some next-level instrumentation and production. It's without a doubt her most engaging work to date — thematic, interesting, dynamic.
In addition to her band of bassist Jason Rafalak, drummer Ryan Socrates and cellist Eleanor Graham, Ike got help from members of the Freye String Quartet to add depth to the recording. It was all made possible by a $12,000 haul from a Kickstarter funding project. While Ike had used Kickstarter for her previous album, this campaign was different.
"The campaign was five-and-a-half weeks long, and I think we were still at 40 percent of the goal at the four-week mark. I got really nervous, and was pretty sure it wasn't going to happen."
But then Kickstarter featured the campaign on its front page as a highlighted project — and things changed fast.
"I think that's really what the tipping point was," she recalls. "I don't even know what their process is — I guess they pick a type of project each day. There were several donors who had never heard my music before."
The songs on All or Nothing range from uplifting pop, like the opening cut "Everything You Have," to serious storytelling, like the song "Promised Land."
"That one is a mix of a personal story and the story of a girl I met a couple of years back," she says. "She was talking to me about someone who'd introduced her to my music — a guy she was really in love with. But she's Indian and he wasn't Indian, and her parents weren't going to allow her to marry him or see him because of that. She mentioned that her parents would most likely set up an arranged marriage for her. We kind of bonded over that — we talked about how I was Nigerian and my parents are always trying to hook me up with fellow Nigerians. It was a bonding moment, and it was a burst of song that was probably waiting to come out for a while."
It's that personal touch — and that gravity — that makes Ike such a strong lyricist and storyteller. And that makes All or Nothing so important to her.
"This is it," she says. "I've been working so hard over the last eight years or so, and it all culminates with this album. I don't know what that means exactly, but I'm hoping for big things."