Vance Joy

Vance Joy

Interviewed by
Natalie Finnigan
Monday 7th October, 2013 3:36PM

James Keogh - who records under the moniker Vance Joy - burst on to the scene in Australia earlier this year with his catchy folk-pop single ĎRiptideí. His debut EP God Loves You When Youíre Dancing was released last month and has been well-received worldwide, seeing him pick up a deal with Atlantic Records in the US. Now announced to be heading to New Zealand to play Laneway Festival, we caught up with Keogh to discuss his journey so far, his plans to record a debut album, and why he thinks heíll never use his law degree..

Youíve just released your EP which is available in New Zealand Ė itís a strong EP and your single is doing really well. Does that mean you have an album lined up to come out soon?

Yeah the plan is to release an album early next year, which is still to be recorded but ready to go.

You started out on the open mic scene at bars and pubs in Melbourne Ė how long have you been writing for?

Iíve been writing since I was about 11 and 12, but the first song I wrote for other people was in about 2009, so for about 4 or 5 years I was slogging away through that process.

Were you at uni at the time?

Yeah from 2006 to 2012, and so I wrote that song in 2009 while I was at uni, and from that point on songwriting was a big focus for me along side uni.

You studied law right?

Yeah, my focus is music now, but I finished my degree, and I donít really think Iíll end up doing it. Obviously Iím making music now, but no matter what happens I donít think Iíll end up doing law.

I know a fair few people who had the exact same experience, so what drew you to study that in the first place?

I think I just wanted to do it because you need a high score to get in, and I got it, and my older brother was doing it, and itís also one of those degrees you do when you want to have options Ė itís a good degree to have. I thought it would make me employable and it seemed like a smart thing to do. I enjoyed it Ė I learned a lot and it was an important period of life in terms of opening my mind.

Is there any way that experience was relevant to what you do creatively?

I think so, because youíre exposed to ideas, like for example through the philosophy and history elements of the course, and all this information sort of builds up like a back-log in your brain. Itís almost just a way of thinking so it has definitely influenced me.

The video for your single ĎRiptideí is really interesting Ė where did the concept come from?

I got a whole bunch of pictures and ideas from a range of people first, and then I got an email from Dimitri whoís the director and he said he wanted to do a literal film clip Ė I loved that idea and was like 'yeah, letís do it!' Heís done a lot of other great film clips and so I leaned towards him because he has a beautiful artistic vision and a great ability to set up beautiful shots. So I just let him do his thing. He went off and spent two weeks doing it and I was so happy with the end result.

The thing I like about it is that itís juxtaposed against some of the serious and weighty themes in your musicÖ

I agree Ė I think itís good to have the sad and the happy, the sweet and the sour all in the one mixed bag.

Is your approach to everything you do creatively sort of along those lines Ė are you constantly seeking a balance?

I donít know Ė I think it really just depends on the song. I follow my intuition and try to take every song on its own merits and go with what feels right. But I think personally, when I write music Iím looking to engage people emotionally. But, my personality is pretty upbeat, and Iíve got a pretty dry sense of humour, so itís not often Iíd be able to say Ďyeah this song is about my girlfriend who tore my heart outí or anything like that. Itís not like that at all.

Creating a musical persona seems like something youíve done quite intentionally Ė was that your decision?

Yeah I made that decision before anything serious happened because I thought it would be beneficial, and I donít know whether it has made a big difference to the way my music has been received really.

I went to school with Chet Faker whoís an artist doing really well in Australia, and he uses that alias, and itís definitely a trend in music. It adds a shine to what you do I guessÖ

Have you had a structured approach to the way youíve started to build a career, or are you just taking it as it comes?

I think in terms of the songwriting it was all in my bag before I got any managers or labels involved, which is good because Iíd developed my sound and tone before anything really got started.

I think a calculated approach is essential Ė but thatís why you get managers because they work all that stuff out.

You work with Liberation Music in Australia, and Atlantic in the States is a more recent partnership which must be exciting?

Yeah itís great. Theyíve got so many more resources at their disposal so it gives you a leg-up to get your music out there.

Does that mean youíll be heading over there soon to play some shows?

Yeah Iím gonna head over in a couple of days actually, to Canada and the States for about six weeks, and then Iím going to Seattle in November to record some songs.

Do you have a band?

Yeah Iím taking the band with me to the States and weíre opening for a guy called Tom Odell, and I think itís going to be really cool.

Do you think youíll expect to spend quite a lot of time away from Melbourne now, and does that depress you or excite you or both?

Yeah itís both. Iím looking forward to heading off on my own around the world, but obviously Iíve got friends and family here and I love it, but itís exciting to do new things. When you do go back home you treasure it, but itís hard if you only go back for a few days at a time because you canít get back into the swing of things and you feel sort of like youíre on borrowed time.

It would be nice to come back for a couple of weeks and chill out, and wait 'til I get sick of the place before I off again.

Also, people work pretty hard to build musical networks when theyíre starting out, so it must be kind of hard to leave all those relationships behind?

Iíve kind of gotta go wherever the work is and try to make the best of it I can. There may be a time when everything has gone cold and I can spend as much time in Melbourne as I want, but Iím enjoying the opportunities while Iíve got them.

Are there any major things youíd like to achieve or venues youíd like to play?

Not reallyÖ my main focus is to try and create a collection of songs that are strong and true to my vision, and as long as theyíre right, then everything else will fall into place.

When do you expect to have the album released?

Not 100% sure but it will be some time next year at some point.

And who will you be working with?

A guy called Ryan Hadlock whoís worked with Johnny Flynn, and the latest Lumineers album, and the Fleet Foxes.

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