MANCHESTER, Tenn. — What's up next for The Civil Wars after a tour de force at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival? Maternity leave.
The acoustic duo of Joy Williams and John Paul White played in front of a few thousand respectful but enthusiastic fans Sunday night, helping close down the four-day festival with a goosebump-raising performance that had Williams' unborn baby dancing around. Her due date is 10 days away.
"There's just no sweeter way to sort of bow-tie (the last 18 months) than with Bonnaroo," Williams said in her trailer after the show. "It was so fun. And the baby was just kicking like crazy. I think all that noise from the crowd in between the songs, there was no time for napping in the tummy. And the adrenaline, as well. I'm sure kept the baby up. It's bittersweet, as well. I'm kind of emotional about it. I blame the hormones."
Williams put together a 75-minute set with White as her husband and the duo's manager Nate Yetten watched with a beaming smile from the side of the stage.
The crowd hung quietly on each song, then responded with overwhelming cheers that continually surprised the duo. The two-time Grammy winners played a selection of their most popular songs, leading a boy-girl sing-along on "I've Got This Friend" and took a request for their popular "Billie Jean" cover.
Unsure what to expect with their first child, Williams and Yetten have been taking it easy. They hired backup midwifes for their last five tour stops and had their doula on hand Sunday while watching Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie and during their performance.
"She got to meet Lionel Richie, so she was completely happy to spend the day at Bonnaroo," Williams said with a smile.
She's also got White to lean on. While it's a first child for Yetten and Williams, White is a father of four and a good source of information.
"Most of the time I'll say just have your child and strap in and hold on," White said. "You're going to try to keep them from dying, especially with boys. Round all edges off of (furniture). It's just such an instant thing and so you can read about everything and that's great, but honestly: Just know your instincts are going to be right."
The duo expects to be on hiatus through the summer and could return to the road in the fall. They'll play it by ear, though, after the baby arrives. They hope to write new material and begin recording. The duo told the Associated Press they recently decided to work with Nashville producer Charlie Peacock again after the breakthrough success of their debut album, "Barton Hollow."
After touring ceaselessly as they gained popularity, the duo is nervous about the downtime. They really don't know what to expect when they return. White called it "a crossroads" and hopes they can pick up where they left off – with baby in tow.
"But much like your parenting advice," Williams said, turning to White, "I think you just strap in and hold on and hang on for the adventure."
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