Interview with Vance Joy at ACL Festival: His Next Album, Skate Crew, and Savage Garden

 Photography by  Austin Roa

Photography by Austin Roa

James Gabriel Wanderson Keogh also known as Vance Joy, the artist behind the top of the chart song Riptide, talked to us about his time at ACL, touring for the last few years since the release of his first album and what’s to expect from his new music.

Teal Magazine: Since the release of Dream Your Life Away in 2014 to just releasing Lay It On Me and Like Gold this year, how would you describe your journey as a musician within the time period of these last three years?

Vance Joy: I think it’s been a busy three years. There was a lot of touring straight off of the release of Dream Your Life Away, and I was lucky enough to do a three-month tour off that album. After that, for most of 2015 I went on the road supporting Taylor Swift, so that took me to the end of 2015. And then for the first 3 months of 2016, I was again doing my own tour. So I was touring for that time and I guess I was compiling ideas as they would come along, but I didn’t really have the space and time to complete them and put the finishing touches on them. So, at the end of that tour in 2016, I spent a week songwriting and I went into a session with Dan Wilson.

I had an idea for a song which ended up being Like Gold - I just had a melody and a basic idea and we ended up writing that song in that day. So I feel like I came off touring with one or two songs and that was it, and then some ideas. And then I spent the next, I guess all of 2016 floating between Australia and America. Every time I wrote one or two songs I’d just go straight to America and record them.

My goal was to have enough songs for a second album and to really keep my head down and work towards that. I just didn’t know when those songs would arrive so every time that a song came along – even if I really had only one song and then kind of half a song, like an idea that kind of felt close but wasn’t maybe completely a vision, I would still go over and record those songs because I guess I just wanted to keep chipping away. It felt like a big kind of job and a big enterprise to complete and write enough songs for a second album. It was just slow and steady and it’s nice to be kind of just putting the finishing touches now on a couple of songs. I think it’s going to be a relief when that whole kind of hard slog and recording process is all done.

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Teal Magazine: How was it like being back in Austin, Texas and performing at Austin City Limits Music Festival, and other festivals this past year? Do you prefer being in much smaller intimate concert settings or large festival crowds?

Vance Joy: I like both settings. I was just in London at a place called the OMEARA which is about a 300 person venue and I played solo. Those two nights were really fun because I didn’t have my in-ear monitors, it was just very raw; me just standing in front of the crowd. I think as a result of that, the conversation was really fun and it felt like a good interaction and energy.

But the Austin City Limits shows were always so fun. I loved that crowd. We played two years before and the crowd was really good, and then we came back this year and I was hoping that the crowd would be good because you never know for sure and even like 15 minutes before you play you still don’t know. So it’s kind of scary because when you play your own show, you can sell it out and know there’s going to be people there. Or at least you know that like 70% of the room will be filled, or whatever the amount of tickets you sold. But you don’t know at a festival how many people will actually come over to your set. And it was good, it is a very welcome and encouraging thing when you walk out and you see that there’s people at the front and you have a good crowd, so it was very nice.

Teal Magazine: With the rush of tour and constantly busy schedule this fall, what do you do in your free time when given the chance? Do you explore the cities that you tour in, like visiting local places to eat at, coffee shops, museums?

Vance Joy: On the days off while we’re on tour, we’ve done a bit of hiking and we’ve got a bit of a skate crew happening in the band, which is led by the trumpet player Nick. He’s a good skater, and I like to skate but I’m mediocre. And then our saxophone player and our bass player just bought skateboards. I think all you really have to do is just walk into a skateboard shop, and I feel like skateboarding has an appeal where you can’t really walk into the shop and not buy something. So we just led them in there, and they ended up walking out with skateboards. So there’s the four of us, and we’re a very non-intimidating skate crew. So that’s kind of the way we’ve been spending our off days.

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"I like to have a book on the go, always."

Teal Magazine: You said that Who Am I was inspired by a poem, do you look to other inspirations for your music as in reading books or anything other than listening to different types of music?

Vance Joy: Yeah, I like to. I like to have a book on the go, always. And there’s likely always going to be something good in that book or even if it’s a film or something. And I just like to write down a line or a sentence from the book into my phone. Or even when I haven’t done that, sometimes I will be writing a song and I will think of the book or maybe like a scene out of the book that I remember really clearly, and I just try and write from that place. I’ve done that a couple times. It’s nice because even if it didn’t happen to me, when the author has really sculpted an image and made it beautiful, it can still be powerful.

Teal Magazine: What are your fans to expect with the new music expecting to be released soon?

Vance Joy: I think it’s going to be similar to my first album in terms of the way it sounds, that kind of intimacy and acoustic-sounding stuff. And hopefully the storytelling is on the same kind of wavelength. But I’ve kind of experimented a bit, or at least discovered a couple of different ways of playing my guitar, so there’s a couple slightly different rhythms that are on there as well.

Teal Magazine: Lastly, what is the first physical CD you have ever bought?

Vance Joy: It might’ve been with my mom’s money but it would’ve most probably been The Savage Garden album in 1997 or ‘96.