Vance Joy interview: 'Riptide' singer talks football, Brandon Flowers and his debut album

Jess Denham speaks to the Australian singer-songwriter

Jess Denham
Friday 12 September 2014 17:41
Australian singer-songwriter Vance Joy
Australian singer-songwriter Vance Joy

Vance Joy is riding a wave of 'man and his guitar' success. From Paulo Nutini to Ed Sheeran and Ben Howard, it seems many are fans of the revived stripped-down playing style.

But this Australian singer-songwriter, whose hit “Riptide” reached number 10 in the UK earlier this year, almost ditched music for the football pitch.

“For a period of time I was super focussed on footie, I played a step below professional level,” he says. “I had opportunities to play for a couple of teams but my heart wasn't completely in it. I guess I was just doing something in the meantime before writing my first songs.”

Joy, real name James Keogh, began writing songs after experimenting with covers. “I would play Green Day's 'Time Of My Life' and sing silly lyrics over it. I guess that was my first creative stab at music,” he laughs, adding that he soon realised the tracks he was penning were “crap”.

So how did he know when he finally struck gold? “It's the feeling you get when you've cracked it - it falls together and makes sense,” he says. “It's cool to create something that stands up on its own two feet and is coherent, rather than a dull and diluted version of music you like.”

The 26-year-old's chilled, summery sound is flavoured both by his Melbourne upbringing and the Australian music he grew up listening to. But Joy's inspirations are wide-ranging, and he reveals his slight man crush on a certain Las Vegas frontman.

“I love The Killers,” he says. “I think Brandon Flowers is amazing. I saw him at V Festival. I'd collaborate with him for sure, he can take the big, soaring moments.”

Joy's debut album, Dream Your Life Away, comes out today and is sure to appeal to acoustic fans. “When people hear a song, they want to hear personality and fragility, which I think can come through when a song is stripped down to a guitar and a voice,” he says, in defence of his often maligned genre.

But Joy does not confine himself to folk music, explaining that he enjoys electronic acts who mix technological sounds with natural elements “simmering below the surface”. “I like Bonobo and those kind of creative, organic-sounding dance acts,” he says.

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Joy's musical future remains “vague”, but he has signed a five album deal with Atlantic Records. “I like the idea of experimenting, picking up some weird instruments on the road,” he says.

“I'm just touring and compiling more songs at the moment, but I'll be following my intuition and going with my feelings, seeing what happens.”

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