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‘Riptide’ sweeps Vance Joy onto Taylor Swift tour

By Brian Mansfield/Gannett News Service

True to the title of his debut album, “Dream Your Life Away,” Vance Joy is good at finding ways to fill free time. He’s getting fewer and fewer opportunities, however, since his single Riptide became an international hit.

Now, he has to resort to written-out daily schedules.

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THE NIGHT WE STOLE CHRISTMAS

With Walk the Moon, Kongos, Vance Joy, Meg Myers

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Aragon, 1106 W. Lawrence

Tickets: Sold out

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“I still have a lot of little windows of free time now as opposed to the giant open spaces,” says the 26-year-old Australian singer/songwriter.

 Joy, who hails from Melbourne, was born James Keogh, taking his stage name from a character in Peter Carey’s 1981 novel “Bliss.” He’ll answer to either name. “If I’m introducing myself on the street, I’d say James, but I’m happy to go by Vance, especially if it’s somebody that knows my music,” he says.

On his single “Riptide,” Joy sings stream-of-consciousness lyrics while accompanying himself on a tenor ukulele that he picked up in a music shop. “I loved the way it sounded and the way it felt to play,” he says. “New instruments have songs in them, and I always like trying new ones for that reason.”

Having toured with Young the Giant and played festivals including Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza this year, Joy is scheduled to play the WKQX-FM (101.1) Night We Stole Christmas on Saturday at the Aragon. Next year he opens for Taylor Swift on her world tour that comes to Chicago’s Soldier Field on July 18 and 19.

He was pretty sure he had landed the gig when Swift covered “Riptide” for BBC Radio 1 in England. “It confirmed to me that she loved the song and knew about me and was into the stuff I was doing,” he says.

The two met for the first time last week before Swift’s appearance on “Late Show With David Letterman.” “I came backstage as she was doing soundcheck and got to meet her and her team and her band,” he says. “She was warm and friendly and also obviously excited about the tour. It’s cool to meet someone with such a strong vision and who’s all over every part of the deal.”

Getting Joy onstage has never been difficult. “I think I have something in me that wants to perform for people,” he says. “I would jump at opportunities at school in plays or in drama class and later on would play covers of popular songs but change the lyrics to be funny, Weird Al-style.”

“Riptide’s” best-known line is one about singing the words wrong. Funny thing is, Joy’s no longer sure just what that lyric is. “I say, ‘I’ve got a lump in my throat, ’cause you’ve gone and sang the words wrong,’ but I sing it in such a way that it kind of sounds like, ‘You’re gonna sing the words wrong,’ ” he says. “It’s hard to understand on the recording whether it’s ‘gone and sang’ or ‘gonna sing.’ ”

From night to night, Joy couldn’t tell you whether he’s singing the lyric in present perfect or future tense. “When you’re singing it so regularly, you sometimes don’t even think about the words. You’re just making noises with your mouth. After so much time, it doesn’t really matter what the words are; I’m just replicating the recording.”

Joy began writing “Riptide” in 2008 and didn’t finish it until 2012. Not all his songs take four years to complete, but the good ones take awhile, he says. “I haven’t really written any songs in a quick burst. Of course, parts of songs came quickly — but the connections and the completion takes time.”