Bringing Joy to Swifties

Published 01/01/2015 by Damn Magazine.

Taylor Swift brought a lot of happiness to fans in 2014 with Swiftmas, and she’s about to bring even more joy to Swifties in 2015: Vance Joy.

T-Swift fans may remember she covered the Australian singer-songwriter’s hit single “Riptide” for VH1:

“I didn’t know it was coming,” says James Keogh, AKA Vance Joy, of Taylor Swift covering his “Riptide.”

“My manager played it to me, and she started playing it on her phone. She had the audio and was like ‘Check this out’, and I was like ‘Yeah, that sounds really good, but what’s going on? Why are you covering [the screen] with your hand?’… and it was Taylor Swift playing it! I was like ‘Wow that’s so cool’,” says Keogh, “I thought she did a great cover.”

Now, this tall drink of Aussie agua is getting the opportunity of a lifetime, opening for Taylor Swift on over 60 dates supporting the 1989 World Tour. Kicking off this May, the tour will spread Joy across North America and to Keogh’s native Australia.

A tall order: DamnMag Editor Emily Kennedy and Bluesfest Marketing Director Allison Shalla, looking up to Vance Joy.

But before getting into road mode with Swift’s crew, Vance Joy landed another massive gig: Just announced last week, he’ll play Coachella in April. So, get ready to hear a lot more about this curly-haired crooner. If you wanna’ get a head start, BuzzFeed did a fun profile on the artist called “19 Things You Never Knew About Vance Joy,” and we’ll bring it up to 20: James Koegh used to be a professional football player.

“[I]t was what my life was focused on before I did more music,” says Koegh, “I spent about four years in total with my blinders up and all I wanted to do was football. Then it kind of dawned on me that although I was passionate when I embarked on football as a pursuit, I kind of gravitated towards music, I just moved naturally in that direction.”

Keogh says “Winds of Change” was one of the first songs he wrote that started him on a more serious path towards music. Appropriately, it’s the first song on his debut full-length album Dream Your Life Away.

Vance Joy with band play to a full house in Ottawa, Nov. 2014.

Vance Joy with band play to a full house.

Although not a one-theme album, there is a recurring theme of a guy trying to do his best. “In terms of the themes, a lot of themes occur… in ‘Red Eye’ and ‘My Kind of Man’ there’s like this guy that’s doing the best he can, and I think that’s a character that appears in the songs.”

Listeners are likely familiar with the track “Mess is Mine,” the first single released off the new album. The music video shows a polar bear lose his iceberg home and float his way to a dilapidated big city, highlighting the mess that belongs to all of us: climate change.

Koegh credits the video’s dark environmental warning to writer and director Luci Schroder’s interpretation of the track. But for him, the song is about affection in the moment:

“For me, it’s like a love song about the moment. It’s not a perfect picture always, things are complicated and messy and relationships are messy—in a good way. Life is never neat and cut and dried.”

If the New Year brings new dreams and new directions for you, check out the track “Georgia.” Written on one New Years day, the song is unique from the others on the album. “It’s very simple,” says Koegh.

In contrast to “Georgia,” many tracks have more complicated percussion. “All the percussion is his stuff and when he gets on a roll he likes to layer things,” says Koegh of his drummer Edwin White.

“Like ‘Riptide’, there’s so many layers of drums and different varieties of drums,” says Koegh, “so it’s good having someone that’s so versatile.” That versatility is why White is also Koegh’s musical director for the live show, but all those layers make recreating the album more of a challenge for a four-piece band.

“That’s the challenge, you’re trying to give expression to all the sounds on the recording with your limited tools, and it’s a different thing, live is always going to be different to the album–Hopefully it’s better, well hopefully its better in some ways” laughs Koegh.

Vance Joy in concert with Taylor Swift this year is certainly going to make 2015 better for Swifties.

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