Multi-platinum Australian singer/songwriter Vance Joy will bring his Nation of Two worldwide headline tour to the Greek Theatre tonight. Released earlier this year, his sophomore album Nation of Two debuted at #5 on the Billboard charts and was met with wide critical acclaim. The tour will hit most major U.S. cities and will see Joy play some top music festivals including Coachella, Shaky Knees, and Firefly.
In anticipation of the Greek Theater show here in San Francisco we wanted to connect with Vance to talk about his quick rise to fame, what he hopes people will take away from his music, and if he prefers the intimacy of smaller stages to the energy of larger festivals like Coachella.
You’ve had a sort of “rags to riches” career from playing open-mic nights in Melbourne to playing in front of tens of thousands of people in stadiums all over the world. Can you describe what that feels like?
When I started I had small expectations for my music. I had been writing songs, and I wanted people to hear them and to share them. Open mics were the perfect opportunity for that, but I think it was so scary. Open mic nights were scarier than playing Taylor Swift shows because I had no experience up to that point. Playing for five people and playing original songs felt like the scariest thing ever.
After that, it was a whirlwind. Once I put out “Riptide” and it was getting people’s attention online it’s all a bit of a blur but I was lucky to meet an amazing team and manager. He helped me navigate through the music industry. I’m lucky to have assembled a great team of people to work with me, bring me great opportunities, and protect me. So I feel I’ve had a charmed passage through the music industry. And the consistent thing has been enjoying songwriting and I feel like following my instincts with songwriting has done me well.
You recently released your sophomore album Nation of Two. Because Dream Your Life Away was so successful, were you nervous at all about how well it would do?
I was a bit nervous, but I look back now and I feel like I’m glad that I wasn’t too nervous or that the nerves for some reason didn’t overwhelm me. I’m glad that I wasn’t too distracted by a need to meet the same level as my first album. I don’t know why that didn’t take over but luckily it didn’t. My main focus was writing songs and hoping they’d meet my personal criteria — whatever that may be.
You’re slated to play Coachella in a few weeks. Do you tend to prefer the bigger festivals or smaller more intimate venues?
I love playing festivals because everyone is excited and enthusiastic — just as people are in small shows — but people really let their guard down at large festivals so it’s great to engage with that type of crowd.
In an intimate show, there’s nowhere to hide, which can be super raw. With the audience right in front of you, you can’t really ever be on autopilot because they’re so close by. I love both but I’m especially excited for Coachella.
Being from Australia, what are some differences between U.S. and Australian audiences?
There aren’t too many differences actually. It really goes city to city. For example, you can find similarities between Melbourne and New York; and Brisbane might be similar to a Boston crowd. It’s almost like you respond to the enthusiasm level and loudness of the crowd. I feel like for some reason some cities are more reserved yet they’re still engaged, which is fine, and some cities are way more boisterous. So there’s no real main difference between the countries but definitely in some of the cities.
Do you still get nervous before you hit the stage?
It depends on if there’s something different that’s happening during the set I’ve been thinking about. A new song, someone to impress in the crowd like a friend or family member. That can be a reason to get nervous. But I think it dissipates quite quickly once you get out there. I like that feeling of being fully awake before you walk on stage.
What do you want people to take away most from your songs?
The songs that I like, they all elicit some emotion or some feeling. They pump you up. Like you want to bang the steering wheel to the beat or you want to sing along because it penetrates your heart in some way. So I want to make songs that can do that … that affect people emotionally and make them bob their head. Like when I listen to Mumford & Sons, I think “This guy is ripping it and there’s a force to it.” So to have my music have that power in some way is something I aim for.
What’s one thing that most people would be surprised to find out about you?
I know the entire Buffy Season 6 musical … the whole thing. And I can sing along to it.
Vance Joy plays the Greek Theater in Berkeley with Lovelytheband tonight Friday, April 13 // Show: 7:30 P.M.
Photos courtesy of Atlantic Records