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Vance Joy

Vance+Joy+2+MEDThe ‘Tide That Binds

With the single, Riptide, still ringing in ears all around the globe, Vance Joy supports Bernard Fanning this weekend at the Astor Theatre (sold out) and headlines his own show at the Fly By Night Club on Friday, August 23. BOB GORDON reports.
James Keogh, aka Vance Joy, has enjoyed a great year thus far. Riptide, the lead track from his debut EP, God Loves You When You’re Dancing, has opened door upon door, being featured on Offspring, Home & Away and Neighbours on the very same night, gaining airplay all ‘round and helping to ink in a deal with Atlantic Records (US).

It’s a postcard on a mission.

Even so, a songsmith must keep writing and that’s exactly what Keogh has been doing recently, penning tunes in Seattle.

“It was awesome,” he reflects. “I was at Bear Creek Studio, which is minutes out of Seattle, a beautiful old building, in a beautiful location. They’ve done some great records there. You can actually live in the studio, my drummer and I stayed there and it was very homely.

“The guy we were working with, Ryan Hadlock (The Lumineers, Ed Harcourt, Soko), he grew up on the property. It’s like this bubble, this isolated little place where you can let your creative juices flow and shares ideas and be in this supportive, relaxed environment.”

Times have changed for the young songwriter, who creative pursuits and inclinations have mainly been around Melbourne, but whose music now puts him on planes to go off and write more songs elsewhere.

“It’s amazing that I’ve got the opportunity to go over there and record with such an amazing producer,” Keogh says, “and to go over there to work with someone who has such an amazing body of work.

“I was just so surprised at how enthusiastic he was. He was so engaged in it and totally open-minded. In terms of finding the right thing he’d listen to everyone’s input, in finding the right path, the right progression for the song.

“In that sense it’s like, ‘what a special moment, to be over here’, but all the ingredients are the same. You carry over the song, it’s with you in your head. For the people who are connecting over music the language is the same, whether you’re in Melbourne or America.”

Ultimately, it seems, one must be in the moment.

“Absolutely,” he agrees. “That’s a good point, it’s like, ‘I’ve got an idea of what the songs should be, I’ve done a few demos, but I’m just gonna show Ryan the raw skeleton of the song and let the song go from there. Try not to restrict the song, let us have our ideas and see what can come out of that chemistry’.”

The irony in that process is that songs themselves are emotional entities, but sometimes the last thing a songwriter can afford to be is too emotional with them.

“You have to let the song go and be its own thing. You want to defend it and protect it, but at a certain point you have to let go and say, ‘this didn’t sound like I thought it was going to sound, it sounds better’, or maybe it sounds different, but you can’t have control over some of those things. You just have to let it go.”

“You have to let it go,” Keogh notes. “You have to let it go and be its own thing. You want to defend it and protect it, but at a certain point you have to let go and say, ‘this didn’t sound like I thought it was going to sound, it sounds better’, or maybe it sounds different, but you can’t have control over some of those things. You just have to let it go.”

Keogh has been chipping away at songs for an album, due for release in early 2014. The move these days for emerging artists often seems to be for two EP releases then a debut LP but the momentum for Vance Joy perhaps suggests otherwise.

“I think so. You think about an album, you’re writing for an album. It’s a challenge, as opposed to just writing songs and saying, ‘how many songs do you need for an EP? Three to five? Sweet, let’s do these’. So it’s a different mentality and a different challenge.”

Only three years ago Keogh was performing at open mic nights in Melbourne. Unsurprisingly with all that’s happened, it feels longer than that.

“It feels like ages,” he notes. “I had two songs and first played them at this open mic night at the end of 2010. I felt like that was a massive step, getting out there and playing my new songs. It was an empty room, basically, at a pub in Melbourne.

“That’s three years ago, it does feel like ages. So much has happened in that time; I was still in the thick of uni, my performing wasn’t there. Obviously you have ways you can improve, but my voice was way weaker and the songs were being played at like 10 times the normal speed. I still get nervous before gigs, but that would have been one of the more nerve-wracking moments, playing those first few open mic nights. My mouth was so dry, racing through those songs. It was like a rite of passage, you have to do it… and I felt so good after doing it.”

Meanwhile, Riptide continues to melt hearts all around, one of those universal songs that connects to people like an old friend.

“I’m so grateful to have written that song because really everything has started from it,” Keogh says. “I think it’s a special song, it’s catchy, but for whatever reason it feels familiar  to people or sticks to people in some way. I think that’s pretty lucky and a rare thing. It’s like I’ve gone fishing and caught a really big fish.”

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