Vance Joy Talks About Connecting With Fans

Vance Joy’s breakout hit “Riptide” has sold more than 6 million copies since its release five years ago last month – and the video has been viewed nearly 228 million times.

Has the 30-year-old Australian singer-songwriter grown tired of playing it?

“I mean, I don’t do it every soundcheck,” he told iHeartRadio.ca on Thursday in Montreal. “You know, we just do it in the set.”

Joy knows the song is a fan favourite and said he looks forward to performing it at the end of his show.

“We build up to it,” he said. “When you play the upbeat songs, people really come out of their shells and let their hair down. That song has always done that.

"I look forward to playing it in the set because I know that’s the reaction.”

Audiences across Canada this month are soaking up “Riptide” and other songs from Joy’s 2014 album Dream Your Life Away as well as new music from this year’s Nation of Two.

The Canadian leg of his tour began Thursday night in Montreal and travels to Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Burnaby before the end of June. 

Joy is no stranger to performing in front of Canadian audiences. “I’ve been here a lot of times,” he said.

“We’ve been in America since the start of April, which has been good, but it’s nice to be in a clearly different country. It’s a bit quieter, not as crazy.”

This time around, Joy is headlining in arenas and amphitheatres.

“This is definitely the biggest we’ve done in terms of we’ve got a bit more of a light show and kind of a more developed thing in the way the stage is set up,” he explained.

Joy said he believes he’s still connecting with fans in the bigger venues. He recalled a performance at the 10,000-capacity Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut earlier this month. “During the show, I was kind of like, ‘I really don’t know if this is working, if the people at the back are feeling involved,’ because you can feel quite removed sitting on that stage, especially when there’s a distance,” he said.

“But I got off stage and my sister was at the show and she said it was good, the vibe was strong. That’s a nice thing to know, that it can work like that.”

Joy said one of the ways he stays connected with fans at a concert is by looking out into the crowd. “I definitely look at people’s faces,” he explained. “Sometimes there are shows where, in the first few rows, there are people who do not necessarily want to make eye contact. There is no way to know at what level they’re enjoying the music.

“Some people are so extroverted that there’s no avoiding their eyes.”

Joy said paying attention to who’s watching him perform is typically not a distraction. “I only get thrown off if I’m really focusing on someone in the crowd or looking at people in the crowd and watching what’s happening,” he said.

More often than not, Joy sees fans singing along. “It’s great. Usually in the first couple of rows people are really eager to be up there and know all the words,” he said.

“There are lots of ways you can determine whether you’re album’s doing well but if you go to the show and see someone singing your lyrics… you’re seeing an encouraging bit of proof that it worked.”

Another way Joy connects with fans is via social media. “I’m not that much of a sharer with the day-to-day stuff,” he admitted. “I’ve been posting after every show. It’s become kind of routine.”

He said he favours Instagram because “you can control the version of yourself that is put out into the world.”

Joy, who was born James Keogh, said he’s not always in songwriter mode.

“At the moment I’m not always switched on,” he said. “If I hear a great line I’m always going to write it into my phone.

“If I’m feeling inspired, I’ll pick up a guitar and can’t put it down while trying to write songs. That hasn’t happened in a little while.”

When Joy hears one of his songs come on the radio, does he turn it up or off?

“I think up,” he replied. “If I’m by myself in the car, I listen to it.”

Joy sees airplay as the reward for a job well done. “Even after doing it for a few years it’s not always guaranteed that your songs will get on the radio,” he explained. “There’s a lot of hard work that goes into it. So when it gets on the radio you’re like ‘cool.’

“Maybe if you have a song that’s so popular that you can’t escape it, maybe you turn it down after the 10th time you’ve heard it.”

Joy added: “Maybe ‘Riptide’ I don’t need to hear all the time. But I haven’t heard it in the car for awhile so when I do I’m just like, ‘Oh cool, isn’t that a blast from the past.’”