Vance Joy singer James Keogh, who help will bring in the New Year at By­ron Bay’s Falls Fes­ti­val next week, is happy to ad­mit he gains much in­spi­ra­tion from his fam­ily when it comes to cre­at­ing catchy lyrics

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - CAMERON ADAMS


Back when Vance Joy was James Keogh and had yet to write Rip­tide, his mum used to help him sum up es­says in high school and uni, where he was do­ing a law de­gree.

Post Rip­tide and with that law de­gree jet­ti­soned, James Keogh is now Vance Joy but still get­ting as­sis­tance from his mum – the ti­tle of new sin­gle, Mess Is Mine, came from her after she looked at the lyrics her son had cob­bled to­gether.

“She just came out with, ‘You still make sense to me, your mess is mine’,” Keogh ex­plains. “She’d al­ways come up with a con­clu­sion line when I was writ­ing es­says but she hasn’t pro­duced the goods re­cently be­cause I’ve been away so much. But that was a re­ally good line.”

Fam­ily mem­bers have had other in­put into Keogh’s de­but al­bum, Dream Your Life Away. His Aunt Shari al­ways used the phrase “left-hand man” – it seeped by os­mo­sis into be­ing a key line in the cho­rus of Rip­tide. A phrase he read on his un­cle’s Face­book page also got re­cy­cled in new song My Kind Of Man.

“Mum and Dad pointed out Grant was quot­ing a Lynyrd Skynyrd song called Sim­ple Man. So I looked it up on YouTube and yep, there were all the lyrics. So I mas­saged it to a point where, legally, it’s not the same song lyri­cally. My fam­ily have been very help­ful – I have to stay friends on Face­book just for the po­ten­tial lyri­cal ideas.”

Keogh started mak­ing mu­sic in 2006 – he re­mem­bers jam­ming Ge­or­gia with high school mate Nick Murphy, who’d also find suc­cess with a fic­tional name, Chet Faker. Murphy helped out record­ing early ver­sions of the first Vance Joy songs Winds Of Change and From Afar.

“We’re good mates,” Keogh says. “When I saw him do so well, it helped me re­alise I could do it, too. You meet peo­ple who turn you on cre­atively.”

After that, there was a Bloc Party-in­spired band called Hyper­son­ique (Keogh in­sists their song Disco stands the test of time) as well as play­ing in the VFL for the Coburg Tigers (Rich­mond’s re­serve team), that law de­gree and a stint as a gar­dener.

“I used to love the 10am morn­ing teas,” he says. “And I know a lot of the botan­i­cal names of plants now.”

The first song Keogh wrote where he found his sound, Winds of Change, tellingly opens Dream Your Life Away. How­ever, it was a song he spent $7000 mak­ing, Rip­tide, that would change his life. He and his ukulele have now spent more than 20 months pro­mot­ing Rip­tide around the world, tak­ing him ev­ery­where from a pizza restau­rant in the Mel­bourne CBD to a gun shop in Spokane, Wash­ing­ton, as well as to Glas­ton­bury, Lol­la­palooza and Splen­dour In the Grass.

Fly­ing into the black after that ini­tial in­vest­ment, Rip­tide has now sold 1 mil­lion copies and is now cer­ti­fied triple plat­inum in Aus­tralia. It hit the Top 10 in the UK and is at No. 61 in the US this week, where it’s the most-played song on al­ter­na­tive ra­dio. It’s also been “synched” on TV ads.

“I feel very strongly back­ing my­self on that,” he says. “That’s how artists make money th­ese days. Of course, there’s peo­ple who’d want me to write 20 more Rip­tides, that’s the dream sce­nario com­mer­cially. But … that’s not who I am.”

Rip­tide’s stag­gered suc­cess meant Keogh had longer to work on his de­but al­bum.

“I never want to be that guy who says: ‘I don’t want to play Rip­tide any more’. I knew it was spe­cial but I don’t think it’s the pin­na­cle of my song­writ­ing. Ex­plod­ing with a mon­ster song is a big thing to follow up.” Vance Joy, Falls Fes­ti­val, North By­ron Park­lands, De­cem­ber 30 to Jan­uary 3.

Vance Joy plays Falls Fes­ti­val on Jan­uary 1.

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