BY TRICIA DESPRES | FOR THE SUN-TIMES
Indie-folk-pop star Vance Joy wanted a guitar, but he didn’t want to take a lesson. He wanted to perform what was pulsating in his head, but he didn’t want to pore over the myriad books of music theory as his father was so hoping he would. He wanted to play a Metallica cover every once in a while but didn’t care too much about the notes and chords that went into those pounding songs.
But Daddy won.
And eventually, Joy, the Australian with his signature curly hair, got himself more than just some musical smarts. He got himself a career.
It’s a career that Joy admits has come quite organically, transforming the playing of random gigs around his hometown of Melbourne to the 2013 release of his first EP “God Loves You When You’re Dancing.” And then there was his big break coming from another song he randomly uploaded to Facebook.
With: Reuben and the Dark
When: 7:30 p.m., January 22-23
Where: Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine
Tickets: Sold Out
“It had taken me a while to write a good song, and then ‘Riptide’ came along,” explained Joy during a recent interview, about the ukulele-driven tune. “I had put it up on Facebook and SoundCloud, and a guy who I had gone to school with had a brother who listened to it and asked if I wanted to do a showcase.”
From there, an undeniable attraction to “Riptide” hit the rest of the world, going multi-platinum everywhere from the United States and Australia to Canada and Sweden and racked up over 100 million views on YouTube and more than 265 million streams on Spotify.
The song even hit music superstar Taylor Swift smack dab in the ears. “It was a surreal moment,” says Joy of the first time he heard Swift’s cover of “Riptide,” which she had performed in October of 2014 during a radio stop in the U.K. “It was crazy to think she was singing my song. It was a special moment.”
That moment got even more special when he was asked to join the blonde superstar on her crazy popular “1989 World Tour.”
“Going out on tour with her is something that I have been feeling quite nostalgic about lately,” Joy says. “It was a great experience. I spent a lot of time watching her and her band’s level of professionalism and their transitions between songs and the passion in which they played. It’s definitely something I have tried to now bring into my own shows.”
Currently on his first U.S. headlining tour, including sold-out stops in Chicago this weekend, Joy seems to have hit the proverbial big time with a unique sound and shows that have evolved from the short, half-hour sets he used to do as an opener, to 75-minute sets that include his current hits such as “Fire and the Flood” from his recently released special edition of his breakthrough 2014 debut album “Dream Your Life Away.”
Heck, he even performed the song on the “Today” show.
Joy remains committed to staying grounded, revealing he has moved throughout the excitement of recent years with a calmness that everything is occurring exactly the way it is meant to be.
“It’s been cool to see the level [to] which these songs have reached, organically,” Joy admits. “I really don’t worry about the songs or the image. I don’t worry about the big picture. I go out there and trust my instinct. That’s what makes me happy.”
Tricia Despres is a local freelance writer.