Josh Pyke is joined by Lisa Mitchell for a special free City of Wanneroo concert on Saturday, November 9, at Wanneroo Showgrounds (tickets essential, via wanneroo.gov.au). KATIE DAVERN checks in with the singer/songwriter.
The pressure to create a lasting legacy is one that often weighs down the shoulders of musicians – and it was certainly at the front of Josh Pyke’s mind while recording The Beginning And The End Of Everything. On first glance, the name of the new record seems eerily foreboding.
“A few people have said, ‘Oh God, does this mean…is it the end? Is this your last album?’” Pyke chuckles. The name’s origin is a lot less dramatic in reality.
“When I was making decisions about songs and writing songs – the production, the lyrics and everything – it kept on coming back to ideas about desire and leaving a legacy and how you want to present yourself,” he says. “That was always at the beginning and end of every decision I was making.”
Since Pyke’s ARIA-award winning 2007 debut, Memories And Dust, he’s crafted an enviable career as Australia’s foremost proponent of folk-pop. Besides releasing three more successful albums, he’s also been involved with the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, pioneering the Busking For Change initiative, and has even found the time to play in Basement Birds with Bob Evans, Eskimo Joe’s frontman Kav Temperley and Steve Parkin. Yet the notion of legacy is still one Pyke tries to reconcile with on his latest record.
Ironically, this fourth studio album was perhaps the most natural record to produce for Pyke. “I just felt like this album, more than any other album I’ve done, was really instinctive and really flowed from beginning to end. Creatively, I felt really… virile, for lack of a better word,” he laughs.
The Beginning And The End Of Everything is a record where the creative process transpired quite quickly. “It just felt really creatively exciting the whole time, so it was something that I just wanted to pursue. If it hadn’t felt right I wouldn’t have done it,” he says. Pyke just finished touring his previous album Only Sparrows in December and said a lot of the songs for this album were written on tour, simply because that’s when he is most musically focussed.
Pyke talks about being inspired and intimidated by Leonard Cohen and Paul Kelly, two highly revered and prolific artists still forging incredible creative careers. And Pyke’s new record is not without inklings of self-doubt, especially so in Feet Of Clay, an affirming toe-tapper that recognises these feelings and overcomes them. “I basically had a full meltdown. My confidence had gone, I was thinking, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore, I just want to have a normal job’,” he says. “Then I was reflecting on what I was saying and I was like, ‘You’re being a dickhead, you’re being pathetic. You’ve got this beautiful life, you’re able to do this thing that you love for a job’,” Pyke said, telling himself, ‘You’re just being an idiot, this is constantly your weakness!’”
It seems like a gift for storytelling is a requisite for venturing into the ether of folk songwriting and Pyke is no exception. He says that he has always been an imaginative person and he clearly finds an outlet through his music. He recalls a speech at his own wedding where his friend spoke about Pyke’s vivid imagination and the imagination games they’d play all together as kids. “I don’t remember being the kind of leader of those things, but apparently I was,” he laughs. “I remember always writing stories and stuff and I see now in my older son, he’s just like me. He just loses himself in these imagination games for ages, and I was like, ‘Where does he get that from?’, and my wife was like, ‘That’s you, that’s exactly you!’”
In terms of his own music, Pyke says he finds it hard to be objective about his progress and development. “Musically, I’m a much better player these days, he says. “I think I have a more refined idea of what I want to do with songs. I used to be really afraid of resolving something in a way that would be really pleasing to the ear and I would always try and find some other way to do it, but now I just think, if something sounds right, it’s right you know?”
Josh Pyke will also perform as part of the Live At The Quarry series on Wednesday, March 12, at the Quarry Amphitheatre.
Get yout tickets here.