Popping Up is our recurring look at new artists making noise on the music landscape. Because, hey — Madonna and Britney were once unknown, too.
Australia is currently a hotbed for quality alt-pop music. Andy Bull, Snakadaktal, Tame Impala, Bag Raiders, Boy & Bear and Emma Louise are just a smattering of names to watch from Down Under. Another artist to add to that growing list is Melbourne singer-songwriter Vance Joy.
He broke big earlier this year with debut EP God Loves You When You’re Dancing. It produced platinum-selling top 10 hit “Riptide”, which generated enough heat to snag him a five album deal with Atlantic Records in the US. It was also picked up for a GoPro camping commercial, in case the title sounds familiar to you.
The 25-year-old is a born storyteller with poetic, literate guitar/ukulele-pop songs that sound custom-made for being played on (an admittedly depressing) road trip or in the early hours of the morning. Learn all there is to know about this talented Aussie after the jump.
REAL NAME: James Keogh
HOMETOWN: Melbourne, Australia
SOUNDS LIKE: The most obvious comparison would be the late, great Jeff Buckley. They share a similarly haunting voice, melancholy disposition and poetic way with words. There’s also more than touch of fellow Australian singer-songwriter Paul Kelly in the mix. Jack Johnson and John Mayer are other artists that occupy the same musical space.
FUN FACTS: Vance completed a law degree before pursuing a music degree, which surely makes him one of the most educated dudes in music. He also turned his back on a promising career in Australian Football but feels the skills he learned in the sport assist his music career: “That idea of preparation and repetition is embedded in my brain from footy,” he told an Australian newspaper. “Those habits are just there.”
US RECORD DEAL: The multi-faceted crooner signed a five album deal with Atlantic Records after he made waves at SXSW last year. “My song was passed to my A&R guy at Atlantic,” he told us. “We met in New York, where I showcased [my music] in the offices. It developed from there.” He will be performing dates across America in September and October, finishing up at the El Rey in Los Angeles.
“RIPTIDE”: After generating significant buzz with “From Afar”, Vance score his breakthrough hit with “Riptide”. The atmospheric track reached number seven on the Australian Singles Chart and sold platinum. The song will serve as his debut single in the US. When asked what makes the song special, he’s very humble: “I think ‘Riptide’ is a catchy song with flavorsome lyrics.” As for the song’s success? “I don’t know really, I just feel glad that the song has connected with people.”
ON SONGWRITING: The key to Mr. Joy’s music is his wistful songwriting. “The songs are everything,” he explains. “You can’t really dress an average song up and make it a good song. You can roll a turd in glitter as the saying goes — I don’t know if I’m getting that saying right.” Maybe not be we get the point!
SAD SONGS: If you’re looking for uplifting tunes to blast while running on the treadmill, Vance is probably not your guy. There is a sadness about much of his music, whether he’s singing about lost love (“From Afar”) or finally seeing people for who they really are (“Playing With Fire”).
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