As a music reporter, I often feel like I don’t give each recording artist enough attention. Despite my best efforts, sometimes the current of the music business just moves too fast.
Jimmy Page mentions in the movie It Might Get Loud that he stopped reading reviews after one magazine blasted Led Zeppelin’s fourth record in just one-paragraph. He explains the band spent months working on those tracks (we’re talking hits such as “Stairway to Heaven”, “Rock N’ Roll”, and “Black Dog”), over multiple recording sessions, to have it all dwindled to a few sentences.
And yet, I can empathize with the writer, who was likely working on several articles to fast-approaching deadlines, with a time and energy deficit acting as a permanent handicap.
Which is so unfair. Especially for emerging artists. They spend years writing and developing dozens of songs, of which only a few will be squeezed into an EP, to get a fraction of the media’s attention, but with so much riding on it.
So much, squeezed into too little. It reminds me of a riptide.
“Riptide” is the platinum selling single from Vance Joy (aka James Keogh) of Australia. He’s one of those emerging talents I wish I could have spent much longer talking to and writing about.
This tall handsome Aussie was named “artist to watch” by Time Magazine (and coincidentally he shares the same name as one of Time‘s editors). His musical talent is confident, and his lyrics show wisdom beyond his 25 years. Yet you can tell he’s still new to the scene. After his set at Ottawa’s Folk Fest, he met every last fan, signing autographs with a pen, until the label rep gave him a handful of sharpies and told him to keep them handy.
James is humble. Despite “Riptide” going platinum in Australia and landing him a four-album record deal with Atlantic Records, James registers as a mild-mannered regular 20-something. But his excitement comes out a little as he talks about how his girlfriend came to surprise him:
“I didn’t know she was coming, it was so cool. It was such a lovely surprise. It hit me for six, do you have that expression? Same thing as a home run, that feeling of being totally overrun. Gobsmacked.”
I was gobsmacked by his quiet confidence. “I haven’t gone on a great journey yet,” he admits.
Yet, geographically, he’s already completed quite the journey, travelling from Melbourne to North America for just a few shows across Canada and the USA.
“I’m excited to see all these places. I have no idea, I’m such a clean slate when it comes to Canada. I’m just absorbing it all and taking it one day at a time.”
North Americans should jump on the opportunity to see this curly-haired spark whose sound is spreading like wildfire.
His music is the kind you put on repeat. It’s the sound of a terrycloth robe: plush, inviting, warm, and enveloping.
Vance Joy’s debut EP God Loves You When You’re Dancing was released in North America this month. Although the title may have you picturing Christian folk rock, James tells me the title was just something he wrote down in a notebook, perhaps to be used as a lyric.
“I didn’t really put too much thought into it, sometimes you just write something when it has a ring to it…When you’re dancing or you’re playing music, it’s kind of like you’re totally immersed in an activity, you’re totally at peace with yourself, and all the pressures or all the distractions and worries and stuff kind of dissipate. I think I was getting at that.”
Before you know it, the five-songs are over, and you’re hitting the play button yet again.
The easy-going “Emmylou”; the motivational marching on of “Play With Fire”; the simplicity of “Snaggletooth,” which allows the vocals to stand as tall as the musician himself; and if only I could score my mundane everyday routine with “From Afar,” I’d be transported to a happier place.
And of course the infectious ukulele of “Riptide.”
“I feel fortunate to have written that song,” says James. “You’re always kind of putting your hat into the ring to hope that you write a catchy song, and you might never write a catchy song, so I just feel fortunate that that one stuck.”
With its Wes-Andersonian cinematography, the music video for “Riptide” is also sticking. The video is well on it’s way to 1,500,000 YouTube views in just five months.
In short, this review is too short to do Vance Joy justice. So get caught in his riptide, and take a listen to the EP God Love You When You’re Dancing on Soundcloud or iTunes. Or catch him in person, and be sure to grab an (indelible) autograph.