Vance Joy, born James Keogh, has seen his star as an indie folk singer-songwriter steadily rise. His 2013 single “Riptide” stayed on the charts in his home country of Australia for over 100 weeks and he nabbed a prime spot as an opener on Taylor Swift’s 1989 World Tour last year. Since wrapping his Fire and the Flood tour, the musician has been preparing the follow-up to his 2014 debut Dream Your Life Away and stopped by Rolling Stone to discuss his surprising guitar influences and songwriting process.
At 14, Joy began playing guitar. His dad surprised him lessons, though he wasn’t exactly thrilled to learn. “He bought me a guitar and was like ‘This is happening. You’re going to get a lesson in a couple weeks he,'” Joy says.
Though he’s best known now for his folksy ukulele-playing, Joy started out practicing Metallica riffs. Though the metal band is not a huge influence on the music he has written since, they did teach him a lot about breaking song structure rules. “[A song] can be whatever. As long as you’re feeling like this is a cool thing, I think people will go that journey with you.”
Joy also finds song-writing inspiration from book. Even his stage name comes from the Australian story Bliss, by Peter Carey. “I definitely find good lines in books,” Joy says. “The way a book will convey to you an atmosphere … you might go to that place and you’ll write a song from that world.”
Joy is taking his time on his new LP, trying not to rush the new material. “I think I just need to chill out,” he says, adding that in addition to a good book and a little Metallica: “Good songs happen when you’re being totally free and having a good time.”