Artist to Watch: Vance Joy

The 25-year old Aussie gave up a career in law to craft airy indie-folk tunes

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 From: Melbourne, Australia

AKA:  James Keogh

His Sound: Keogh’s music might be described as indie-folk, tinged with a modern-pop flavor. His smooth and honeyed vocal style works well with the light, lively strums of his ukulele.

3-Minute Bio: The 25-year-old first made a splash with his standout track, “Riptide.” Within hours of its upload to Soundcloud, the infectious single hit #1 on Hype Machine’s Most Popular Chart. Keogh can’t believe the success he’s had with the tune, which just went gold in Australia. “I had a special feeling about it,” Keogh tells TIME. “I didn’t know if it was going to necessarily be a really popular song, but I knew that it was catchy and it had a definite spark to it.”

After earning a law degree, Keogh decided to follow his heart and focus on music. He first tested  his musical chops at open-mic nights in and around Melbourne, and word of his unaffected yet sophisticated sound quickly spread. He soon started headlining his own sold-out shows, and in March released his debut EP, God Loves You When You’re Dancing, in Australia.

Vance Joy’s music, along with their SXSW showcase this spring, caught the attention of an Atlantic Records executive in the U.S. The label decided to put their faith in Keogh and sign him to a five-album deal—the EP goes  on sale September 3. Vance Joy recorded God Loves You with a Melbourne producer who works at the back of his parents’ house, in a small studio he calls “The Shed.” Keogh had been sitting on his song ideas for a while, so each track only took about a day to record. “It was quite a low-key affair,” Keogh says. “We just let it happen spontaneously, so it was a bit raw. I think we embraced that.”

Keogh—who is so new to the business that he has yet to receive a single royalty check—says he’s not in it for the money. Instead, he wants to put his focus on establishing a connection with listeners. “When I go to a gig and I hear a song that I really like, a song that hits home to me or hits an emotional nerve,” Keogh says, “if I could ever recreate that for someone, that would be the ultimate goal.”

Watch the music video for “Riptide” and listen to some tracks from God Loves You When You’re Dancing.

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