For Vance Joy, sharing a stage yesterday at KROQ’s Weenie Roast with artists as diverse as Muse, AWOLNation and Florence + The Machine was fitting. Joy finds inspiration from an eclectic group of people, from his upcoming tourmate Taylor Swift and high school friend Chet Faker to boxer Manny Pacquiao.
Following his set at the sold-out concert and a few hours before he took an overnight flight to Alabama’s Hangout Festival, Joy sat down with Billboard to talk about his eclectic tastes and his dream duets with Swift.
Talk about the bands you’re sharing the bill with today.
I got to see Florence at Coachella and that was amazing. I think she’s incredible and I got to see her in the flesh from a couple of meters, which is nice. I think she just turned around the corner there; it’s like a glimpse of something special. I’m glad I got to hear the “Howling Moon’ song from AWOLNation, so you take what you can get.
How do you feel being essentially the lone troubadour on the bill?
You just do what you do and what I do is singer/songwriter stuff, and it’s a bit more mellow potentially; even though it’s upbeat, it’s still quite raw. So I think it’s good when you line up to have that assortment of people. I think people as well have diverse tastes. It’s kind of nice to have this contrast because if you had 11 troubadours, it’d be so boring. So I think having AWOLNation rocking out and killing it and then Florence, which is an amazingly huge setup, big production, but all real instruments, it’s really cool.
What do you learn from being around all these artists?
Talking to them is great and sometimes talking to them about the music game is good ’cause they’ve been through it and they can tell you things. It’s a relieving thing, they’ve been through it and they can go, “Oh, it’s fine, I totally know what it’s like to feel uncomfortable sometimes.” You go, “Cool, we’re all experiencing the same thing.” I think watching them is important. And I think the most important thing is just hours and hours of practice. Hours and hours and you get those subtle differences to your performance, which make you better. So I think it’s a mixture.
Are there people you look to on how to handle sudden fame and the demands of it?
I don’t get swamped that much, like, super bad. I’ve taken like 10 photos today, so it’s not that bad. I like doing it because someone like Manny Pacquiao, he’ll take photos with everyone, do selfies before he goes into fight. If you push people away, it’s almost more of a stress, but if you’re just like, “Whatever,” it’s way more free and easygoing. He’s such an open guy, so I think people like that are good role models to have. He’s getting swamped all the time, but he just brings people in and makes it bigger. I think that’s why he’s so well regarded.
Look at who you’re touring with. Few people deal with it as much or as well as Taylor Swift.
She’s pretty inspiring. I read something she said once about surrounding herself with great artists and not being afraid of the fire they have, it’s like you have a brighter light together. And I think she burns brighter because of the way she interacts with her fans. It’s a great thing for someone like her to be so generous with her time, I am sure she is in demand every second of her day. So to give that slice of time to people is very generous.
Who would you have freaked out to have that time from as a kid?
When I was a little kid I remember I saw Nicole Kidman in Batman Forever and that was where I wanted a slice of time. I didn’t know what I was gonna do ’cause I was only eight; I had no idea. But I think it’s more sports people when you are a little kid and even now I still get that bit of nervousness when I saw Florence: this person is pretty epic.
I spoke with Chet Faker a few times and he spoke of how nice it is to see someone from home on the road and be able to compare notes.
Yeah, I think I get to see him in about a week in Boston. It’s inspiring to see what he’s done and it’s like, we went to high school together, so it’s kind of bizarre we’ve both been on this journey. We had a really great connection, just because we both love music and he’s a great person, amazing personality and really funny guy. We shared a passion for music and I watched him make a proper go of it. I think it helped me, I think it made me go, “I want to do this as well. I want to try and do it seriously.” It’s a pretty cool turn of events this happened for us.
You just covered Taylor. What duets would you like to do with her?
What’s the Johnny Cash song [written by Bob Dylan]? “It Ain’t Me, Babe.” That’d be a good duet and of her songs I like “Begin Again” and “Mean.” Of my songs there’s a song called “My Kind of Man” that she’d sound amazing on. She could choose, actually.
Are you already writing for the next album?
I’m writing, I’m trying to chip away. I’m inspired by guys like Ryan Tedder, who writes for everyone and his own band and has an amazing output of quality. I’m writing someone for myself, I’m always trying to chip away, it’s good to feel the pressure to write. If you just go on tour and forget about writing, you come back and you haven’t done anything for a year, that muscle is rusty. So I’m gonna keep writing.