Now 30, Joy tells WHO’s Cynthia Wang about the sparks that gave life to his ARIA chart-topping sophomore album, Nation of Two (out now).
Q: Two years after taking out the Best Male Artist award at the ARIAs, did you feel pressure making a follow-up to Dream Your Life Away?
A: I think that last year was a bit of a grind of just trying to stumble upon songs and trying to write songs with other people. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. But when it works, it's like, ‘Sweet, that feels good.’ Give me a good song and that’s my job— I can play that for 12 months and be happy and play it for years beyond that. I guess it's worth all the grind and all the weight and all the stress and anxiety, whatever it is that goes into finally having a breakthrough.
Q: Why did you choose “Lay It On Me” as the first single?
A: I think it was the most dynamic. That was actually one of the last songs that I wrote. It was a nice breakthrough because I had two days with a guy called Dave Bassett in Malibu. I'd just flown from Australia at the end of last January. I had two days with him. The first day, we wrote a song called "Take Your Time" and the next day we wrote "Lay It On Me." I had a couple of ideas in my bag of ideas. Each day, I used an idea that had been around a while and I wasn't sure if they were able to be used, but I had belief in them. Both songs went beyond what I expected, so it was like a great couple of days of just chemistry.
Q: Speaking of “Take Your Time,” you refer to a woman with sandy blond hair that's like a waterfall. Was there someone specific you were thinking of, or was that just a picture that wanted to paint?
A: That picture, actually ... In my head, I was going down to the beach with my friend. She doesn't have sandy blond hair, but we did have sandy hair because we were on the beach! But there was a bit of that world in my head of that location, and also a film I saw called Patterson with Adam Driver. He's a bus driver who drives around and he's a poet. He described a waterfall and he's like, 'Tumbling like a waterfall,’ and I liked that image. In the film, his poetry is written on the screen and you can read the poems. I kind of poached a bit of that. I was also down at the beach in my mind, so there were a few things going on there.
Q: The whole album deals with love and relationships. Is it difficult to go back to your family to talk about the music when it’s a little more intimate?
A: Not too much. I don’t feel uncomfortable at all, singing them an intimate love song that’s personal. There’s nothing too racy or saucy in it. It might be sexy in some kind of way, but it just depends on what the lines are and if they feel right to me, I’m not even scared to show them. There’s no limits.
Q: Are you in a relationship now yourself?
A: I’m single at the moment. I’m not trying to rush into anything. If it happens, it happens. It may be hard to meet people when you’re always touring. I’m just keeping up. A lot of my band have really lovely partners.
Q: What do you like to do away from performing?
A: I think when I'm not doing music, I think I'm in Melbourne. In 2016, I spent a bit of time flying around because I felt a little bit like, ‘What am I doing? Maybe I should be somewhere having crazy experiences, like getting inspired by a bit.’ You kind of really just make that stuff happen. So I felt like even when I was away for a little bit, it might be like a two-week trip to America or Europe, it was great but it didn't necessarily... I don't know, I think you can also be productive just at home. Your brain can still be evolving and doing things, even if you are back in that suburb I used to live in when I was a kid. I don't think that necessarily has to be limiting to your creativity.
To read more from Vance, pick up the latest issue of WHO on newsstands today.