Vance Joy’s debut LP, Dream Your Life Away, came in at #1 last week on the ARIA Charts and his national album tour will see him perform at the Astor Theatre on Friday, March 20, 2015. MEG CRAWFORD reports.
Singer/songwriter James Keogh, better known as Vance Joy, is a whip-smart, measured and thoroughly pleasant man.
Keogh’s had a wild flurry of success with his beautiful brand of folk pop – Riptide off his debut EP God Loves You When You’re Dancing headlined triple j’s Hottest 100 for one, and it has since gone five-times platinum. You might expect some ego, but there’s absolutely none.
The moniker Vance Joy is an amalgam of names from one of his favourite books, Bliss by Peter Carey. Keogh likes the freedom that comes with operating behind it and, although he’s committed to it for the foreseeable future, he doesn’t necessarily intend for it to be his identity for all eternity. “Vance Joy’s a musical project,” he explains. “If you have an alias then you can float into something else one day. Idols of mine are like Damon Albarn who’s done all of this solo stuff, but his also done Gorillaz and Blur amongst other projects – sometimes doesn’t even remember what the collaboration was. Gotye as well. It’s almost like a self-effacing approach that they have. I really admire that. They let the music do the talking.”
Given that he’s taken his name from a book, it’s safe to say that Keogh is a little bookish and it shapes his music. “I really do enjoy reading, it’s like a vacation, but I’m not a super voracious reader,” he reflects. “I don’t chow down books really easily, but I feel like what I read stays read. You can get a lot of good lines or ideas or a general feeling or atmosphere from a book and you can channel that into a song. I feel like it’s good mental exercise.
“I read something really beautiful recently. I was reading the new Tim Winton book, Eyrie, and he says ‘it’s easier to fill a void than contemplate it’ and I was like, that’s awesome. I feel like there are those little nuggets of gold that you can get from a book. Whether or not I ever try and build on the concept or use it for a song, they all go on the scrap-heap, those kind of nice ideas and thoughts.”
It’s like Keogh’s already had a couple of different lifetimes already. He used to play footy for Coburg and was well on the path to being a lawyer. Luckily for us, he’s given those careers a swerve and he says he feels more relaxed as a consequence.
“It’s a work in progress, but I’m doing something I really love and I feel like I’m expressing myself,” he says happily. “The goal, eventually, is to becoming a fully realised person. I know it comes with maturity: you grow into your skin and you also accept what you are and your limitations and you work with what you’ve got. At the point in my life where I was playing footy and at uni, I was still trying to find my path, but I had an instinct that it wasn’t for me.
“I had a dream in my heart about playing music. So, settling into myself and being able to follow my dream has allowed me to be more relaxed.”