Wildest Dreams

Talking with Vance Joy

By Lindsey Lowe Osborne

You’re not going to believe this.

Vance Joy and I are basically (as they say) the same person.

OK, maybe not exactly, but we do both share a soft spot for the English singer/songwriter Johnny Flynn. The difference, I guess, is that Joy’s channeled his affection for what Flynn impressed upon him into a thriving musical career. I, on the other hand, once got “let go” from piano lessons when I was 12 because my piano teacher didn’t think we had a future together. (Don’t feel bad for me—this month I got to interview Vance Joy and am feeling pretty good about it.)

“It seemed like fate because I had been listening to [Flynn] all day and happened to look at the website for the venue and saw he was playing that night,” Joy, an Australian native, says of his encounter with Flynn. “It was easy to think it was fate…I was in love with the songs and was really inspired by his guitar playing. He was doing things that were so far ahead of where I was at that time so he seemed like an example of what I’d like to do.”

Joy—whose real name is James Keogh (his moniker was lifted from an Australian novel)—tucked into music as a career when he made the decision to pursue it full-time instead of continuing to complete his law degree. “I’m lucky in that I feel like it really evolved naturally for me to be playing music,” he says. “I picked up a guitar at 14 and was playing covers. Five years later, I was playing what were some pretty average attempts at songwriting—my beginning. At 21 or 22, I wrote my first decent song that would appeal to people (not just people who knew me). That was a good turning point for me and from there I got addicted to songwriting. I worked at it a lot, but I found it was something that I got a lot of satisfaction from and felt I had a knack for.”

He released an EP, God Loves You When You’re Dancing, in 2013, which was followed by his breakout single, “Riptide.” “I think the main ‘pinch me’ moment was when I was in Amsterdam and heard someone singing a cover of ‘Riptide’ and my manager turned the phone around and it was Taylor Swift during her BBC Live Lounge,” Joy says. “At that point I was like, ‘What?!’ It was crazy to think that such a huge artist is aware of what you’re doing and is into it to the point that she’s learned your song and done a beautiful version of it. That’s hard to top and it led to getting to go on tour with her… hard to top.” Joy released his first full-length album, dream your life away, in 2014, and, as he alluded to, was invited to be a part of Taylor Swift’s The 1989 World Tour shortly thereafter. Saying yes, he says, was a “no-brainer.” 

Joy’s currently on his own tour for his newest album, Nation of Two (you can catch him at Sloss Fest at Sloss Furnaces in July.) I can guarantee it’s a show you don’t want to miss, because it’s a show that will make you happy. Joy’s music is bright but rooted—fun but full of heart. “The songs that I like, they elicit some emotion or some feeling. They pump you up, like you want to bang the steering wheel to the beat or you want to sing along because it penetrates your heart in some way,” he explains. “So I want songs that can do that—that affect people emotionally and make them bob their heads. Like when I listen to Mumford & Sons, I think, ‘This guy is ripping it and there’s a force to it.’ I aim to have that same power in some way.”

For tickets to Sloss Fest, visit slossfest.com.



 5/5: Beck at the BJCC 

6/3: Fitz and the Tantrums at Iron City

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