Ten years after releasing his debut album Memories and Dust, Josh Pyke is revisiting his seminal work with a special tour across Australia performing the record from beginning to end for the first time in his career. The tour hits Western Australia in August with performances at the Prince of Wales, Bunbury on Friday, August 18 and Amplifier Capitol on Saturday, August 19. With five albums and four ARIA Awards to his name, Josh Pyke has taken stock of his journey to date releasing a Best of Josh Pyke album, complete with B Sides and Rarities that offer fans a collection of his finest material showcasing his development and maturity as a songwriter over that time.
Longevity in music is rare, but for Josh Pyke there is an endless supply of inspiration and ideas to draw from that enable his prolific output as songwriter and artist. Every song takes him back to the time and place he wrote it and some of his best work has been inspired by his travels through Western Australia. When BRAYDEN EDWARDS caught up with Josh Pyke he had just finished rehearsals ahead of some radio appearances ahead of the tour. He talks about the artists that inspire him for their longevity, the moments in his life that influenced his songs and looking up some of his own early tracks on the internet to remember how to play them.
You’re celebrating ten years since you put out your first solo album Memories and Dust. What has surprised you the most in your career to date?
I think the most surprising thing is that it’s still going. Really it’s been more than ten years too as I was playing music and putting out singles before the first album as well. Prior to that I was in a punk band for a number of years too. Over that time I’ve seen so many musicians come and go and not that many be in there for an extended amount of time. So the surprising thing is that my career has kept going and has kept building in an organic way which has been really fortunate.
As a singer-songwriter who do you look at and think ‘I’d like my next ten years to follow in their footsteps?’
In terms of Australia I think like most artists my age I look to Paul Kelly. He’s certainly had incredible career trajectory in terms of longevity. People like him are not so much an influence but more of an inspiration for me. But then there’s also Tim Rogers from You Am I that has always been in multiple projects and lots of cool stuff. People like that who have constantly stayed productive and creative are those I admire most – because those are the most important things to me and it’s not always easy to do in a music market as small as Australia.
With five albums already under your belt, have you recognised any kind of pattern or process that keeps that creativity and productiveness ticking over? It’s not always easy turning inspiration into an actual finished product…
I try not to be inspired particularly by contemporary music when I’m making records. I kind of stop listening to music completely because I don’t want to be subconsciously taking things from here and there. But in terms of recognising any pattern I’m not sure. Basically every song I’ve ever written has been about some kind of personal aspect of my life. Of the 200 odd songs that I’ve written only a couple have been ones that I’ve written from someone else’s perspective. So really it’s not so much about a pattern but about being authentic and written without an agenda from an honest place. If I was to sit down and try and write a single I could probably do it but I wouldn’t be in love with the song and if that feeling isn’t there then I’m never going to want to play it again.
Songs can often take you back to a time in your life even years later. Is there a particular song that even when you play it live now that takes you back to a specific place or time in your life?
Well that’s the thing about writing from a very personal point of view. All the songs are like that to me. On this tour I’m playing my first album Memories and Dust in full and so I had to re-engage with a lot of those songs. I remember writing the song Someone Else’s Town about Melbourne. I remember writing Buttons walking home from the record store I used to work at every night. I remember the specific stretch of street that I was on and exactly what was going on in my life at the time. I had just gotten together with the woman that later became my wife as well so there’s so much stuff that’s intensely personal that’s tied up in every song. It’s like a diary for me but I’ve tried to write songs in universal way so other people wouldn’t necessarily see that.
Are there any of your songs that take you back to our part of the world in Western Australia?
Absolutely. In the song White Lines Dancing the lyrics describe ‘white lines dancing in the ripple of a heat wave.’ That song was about a road trip we went on after playing at Southbound. We hired a campervan and drove through the south west all the way to Albany. The Lighthouse Song is actually about the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, and so is Where Two Oceans Meet, where you can look out see the Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean from the rocks.
There’s a joke that often get’s played on people there. ‘The Southern Ocean is colder than the Indian Ocean. If you look closely you can see the line where one is darker than the other.’ Of course nine out of ten kids say they can see it.
(Laughs) It’s going to be great coming back over. WA has played a huge part in my musical career. Earlier on I supported John Butler on a tour around the country which was a huge thing for me. And then I played with Eskimo Joe and Bob Evans as well which were also massive career moves for me. I also did the Basement Birds which was all WA acts which was a huge part of my musical journey.
You’ve become an ambassador the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. What was it about that organisation that made you want to support them? I suppose as a songwriter you recognise the importance of language in people getting their stories heard…
I was always interested in indigenous issues and especially about ‘Bridging the Gap’. But I’m not a fan of the current government, the previous government or any government ever in Australia to be honest. So I didn’t really want to support an organisation that had any government or religious ties being an atheist as well. The Indigenous Literacy Foundation’s only real agenda is to get free books into communities and raise literacy levels and it’s all done with the blessing and inherent instruction of the elders in those communities. They’ve even started translating books into local dialects. For me it was a simple, achievable program to be involved in.
You’re covering quite a bit of ground in this tour with a lot of regional shows as well. What are you looking forward to the most for this tour?
It’s actually less about visiting any specific place and more about performing the album from beginning to end because that’s something I’ve never done before. If I do it again I expect it won’t be for a long time. It’s an opportunity to re-engage with an album. I’m still an album guy. People say the relevance of albums is waning but I still love telling a story from beginning to end I’ve never done that live before.
Are there some songs on Memories and Dust that over years were no longer part of your set that you’ve had to revisit?
Some of these song I’ve never even played live before or even played since I recorded them for the album. Some of them I actually had to go and look up on the internet to figure out how to play them to be honest (laughs). So it’s definitely going to be a fun and fresh experience for me.
Josh Pyke plays at the Prince of Wales, Bunbury on Friday, August 18 and Amplifier Capitol on Saturday, August 19 with special support from Kyle Lionhart. Tickets are on sale here.