Unique and soulful sounds guide Vance Joy to the top

James Keogh, better known as Vance Joy, is an Australian singer-songwriter with a soulful alternative style. Following the success of his single “Riptide,” Joy will release a new album, Dream Your Life Away, on Sept. 9. “Riptide” became the top song on Triple J’s Hottest 100 countdown. Joy has sold over a million copies worldwide, has been streamed more than 3 million times a week and has cracked The Hot 100. The song launched international tours and brought the artist into the limelight. In an article by Mushroom Music Publishing Joy mentioned, “It’s taken on its own life … It’s definitely been a door opener. It’s running [its] own race now.”

Bringing ukulele back · Australian singer—songwriter Vance Joy is prepared to debut his new album Dream Your Life Away on Sept. 9, and it is nothing short of wonderful.  - Photo courtesy of Atlantic Records

Bringing ukulele back · Australian singer—songwriter Vance Joy is prepared to debut his new album Dream Your Life Away on Sept. 9, and it is nothing short of wonderful. – Photo courtesy of Atlantic Records

While “Riptide” might have opened doors, it is Joy’s refreshing sound that keeps listeners hooked. Joy’s music has a distinctive sound and features his ukulele. His backstory and the motivation behind his songs are as diverse as his indie folk aesthetic. He started performing at open mic nights, after completing a law degree in Melbourne. His music has heartfelt origins and references books, movies and cultural icons.

Joy’s stage name  comes from Peter Carey’s novel Bliss.

“In the actual book, the character Vance Joy, he’s kind of a grandfather figure,” Joy told Radio.com. He brings people around him and tells these stories and that image just sort of fit.”

Like the character, Joy creates narratives through his music and feels a personal connection to his songs.

Though not strictly autobiographical, Joy’s music has strong ties to his own experiences. For example, “Riptide” references his fear of dentists, which he developed due to a bad experience with braces at age 14.

As a law student, Joy wrote songs and performed as a hobby; he used music purely as a form of relaxation and expression. His plans changed in 2013 when his single “Riptide” topped international music charts. Shortly after, he signed a multi-album contract with Atlantic Records and decided to pursue his passion for music instead of continuing with law. In an interview with The Bay Bridged, Joy explained that music is his passion.

“I really don’t think that I’d go with law,” he told The Bay Bridged. “If I wasn’t doing music, I’d do teaching or something else, like be a librarian.”

Luckily, Joy shows no signs of abandoning his ukulele for the book stacks. Dream Your Life Away follows his debut EP, “God Loves You When You’re Dancing,” and will be produced by Ryan Hadlock. Hadlock is known for collaborating with The Lumineers, Gossip and The Foo Fighters. The majority of Joy’s 13-song album was recorded outside of Seattle, with three of them, “Mess is Mine,” “Winds of Change” and “Georgia,” being completed in a tree house on the studio’s ground.

Dream Your Life Away builds on Joy’s mellow folk-pop sound and takes listeners on a journey that shows off Joy’s artistic growth. Interlaced into each track are poetic references and allusions to Joy’s life. Though listeners can appreciate the album on its own, these references make the experience all the more enjoyable by adding another layer of meaning to Joy’s heartfelt vocals and catchy melodies.

The album opens with “Winds of Change,” a song that helped ignite Joy’s songwriting career in 2009. In the article by Mushroom Music Publishing Joy states,“It was a breakthrough. It planted the seed in my head of me being able to write good songs … ‘Winds of Change’ was the first coherent song I wrote that I wanted to show people. I’m glad that song opens that album,” Joy said.

The song invites listeners to embark on a journey and marks the first time Joy discovered his creative voice.

“It was the change in my songwriting,” Joy said.  “I discovered that strumming rhythm. It started something.”

Dream Your Life Away also features Joy’s single, “Riptide,” which blends comfortably with his other compositions. Though Joy calls “Riptide” one of his favorites, listeners will be pleasantly surprised by the strength of the album’s other songs.

Immediately  following “Riptide” is “Who Am I,” a song that pays homage to poet W. B. Yeats. Joy was inspired by the idea of laying dreams at someone’s feet and hoping they are not crushed, from the poem, “The Wind Among the Reeds.” The carefully crafted lyrics and earnest sound of his music make Dream Your Life Away an album bound to play on repeat.

The song “Riptide”,  one of the few songs completed in the studio’s treehouse, is another one of Joy’s favorites. He explains that  it came on the heels of a hectic tour schedule and reaffirmed his creativity. “Georgia” is a tender ballad with a soothing rhythm. His earnestness and clever lyrics make this track one of the album’s gems.

Even the title of the album bears special significance. Joy identified with the “People say I’m crazy, doing what I’m doing,” line from John Lennon’s 1981 classic “Watching the Wheels.” In addition to inviting listeners to lose themselves in his music, Joy feels the title reflects his life.

“It’s still all totally new to me,” Joy said. “I still feel new, which is good. I still feel like I’m just chipping away.” Mentioned in the press release the launch of his new album coincides with an international tour, similar to the one sparked by “Riptide,” which promises to be smooth sailing.