“I think there was a chance that ‘Riptide’ wouldn’t have made it out there,” nonchalantly admits Vance Joy, who initially thought that the track wasn’t any good. The Australian singer is speaking about his multi-award-winning summer anthem, which received a perfect score at the prestigious International Songwriting Competition – the first time this has happened in its 18-year history.
An unexpected hit
Joy – real name James Keogh – describes it as “funny how that song came together,” referring to the fact that it was over four years in the making. Not fast by any means, with the ukulele-plucking singer-songwriter almost unnecessarily explaining, “It takes me a long time, and I usually sit on it until it comes to fruition.”
Apparently, part of this gestation period sees new material incubate messily among other unfinished works on the floor. Fortunately for the fans of “Riptide,” the pop-folk artist from Melbourne was more expedient with the release of his debut album than the “Dream Your Life Away” title suggests, dropping it in September 2014.
Touring with Taylor Swift
Joy, whose platinum single was covered by Taylor Swift for BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge, is now the support act for the American leg of her "1989" World Tour. Not that the softly spoken 27-year-old is overwhelmed by global superstars like Swift: “I just remind myself that they are totally normal, and that they have the same kind of insecurities as everyone else.”
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Famous, but still awkward
That said, Joy is still, as his “Riptide” lyrics reveal, “scared of pretty girls and starting conversations.” “I find that a lot of those things about your personality don’t change,” he says. “I guess people come to your shows and have an expectation about what you’ll be like, but I prefer to meet someone on an equal basis. I guess it comes down to practice, practice, practice.”
Rock star status
But surely Joy – all 6’4” of him and a former Australian Rules soccerplayer – isn’t falling flat on the female front? “I got a couple of requests from girls who wanted me to come to their prom,” before qualifying any hint of bravado with, “I’m no Justin Bieber.” He’s a modest, gentle giant, with a writer’s introspection, minus the raucous hedonism that takes place in video “Mess is Mine,” which randomly sees a polar bear driving a taxi for randy, sozzled delinquents.
“I’ve asked a couple of cab drivers to pull over just after a big night a couple of times, but I never did a runner like a lot of my mates at high school. They’d steer the cab towards the park and then run out, but I never had the balls for that,” says Joy.
His vice, or innocent bit of escapism rather, is to watch the odd basketball game or play Frisbee (clearly, the soccer days are very much over). “It’s a game for a man who doesn’t want to get injured,” quips Joy with tongue firmly in cheek. "Mr. Sensible" maybe, but rightly so, because as Joy says, when you get up on stage, “there are a lot of expectant faces” – and after such an auspicious start he wouldn’t want to disappoint.
If you go:
May 22, 7 p.m.
Boston City Hall Plaza
1 City Hall Sq., 617-635-4500
New York City
June 5, 4:45 p.m.
Randall Island Park
June 12 and June 13, 7 p.m.
Lincoln Financial Field
1 Lincoln Financial Field Way, 267-570-4000