This past summer, I had effectively written off Vance Joy as simply another singer songwriter with a famous falsetto and the propensity to write one, maybe two passable albums. In a world ever-increasingly populated with white, male, 20-something singer songwriters looking to distance themselves from the enormous one-hit-wonder pack and make a lasting impact, ﬁnding a permanent niche is rapidly becoming a taller task. However, nine months later, I’m conﬁdent that, while Vance is certainly still at the beginning of his career, he has found his niche. Throughout his set at the Electric Factory last weel, he proved to be genuine, unendingly humble, and the textbook deﬁnition of “adorkable.”
As with many songwriters of his ilk, the themes of his songs follow a familiar pattern of the stresses and emotions that come with love, loss, anticipation, et cetera. While his lyrics are less than standout, what does leave a mark is how Vance delivers his songs; he doesn’t fall victim to the Coldplay or Mumford And Sons trend of headache-inducing grandiosity, and instead delivers them with humility, seemingly the rarest of traits among Top-40 songwriters.
Every time he would break before segueing into another song, he would tell some of the backstory behind the song’s genesis. Two of these stories stood out to me, the ﬁrst being prior to the song “Snaggletooth.” He began his story by saying that he was doing some regular Wikipedia-stalking on Sia, one of his favorite fellow Australian celebrities, and read that she, in fact, had a snaggletooth herself. This inspired Vance to write a song with the aim of encouraging people to accept their strange traits; for Vance himself, he said, it was his curly hair. He told the story of his childhood, in which he’d go to bed with a hat on every night in order to make his hair somewhat ﬂat and straight the next morning, which his father discouraged because it was “bad for circulation.”
The second standout story, and my personal favorite, came after Vance arrived onstage for the encore to perform “My Kind of Man.” He began his tale by telling us of a previous case of writers block, in which he couldn’t think of lyrics for the chorus. He transitioned abruptly: “99% of what gets posted on Facebook is rubbish,” he said, “and my uncle’s posts are no exception.” One day though, he said, his uncle posted a passage that was not only profound, but it also ﬁt perfectly into the song. Upon playing it for his parents, Vance’s father said that he had heard that song before. “The melody?” Vance inquired. “The lyrics”, the father replied. “I’m Facebook friends with your uncle too.”
“Thank god for that interaction,” Vance said to us, “because it turns out that my uncle forgot to quote and cite where he got that passage from; it turned out to be the chorus to ‘Simple Man’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd.”
I was so pleasantly surprised, and very thankful that I managed to drag myself out to this show; seeing a songwriter capable of writing expansive, heartfelt songs while also maintaining a huge air of modesty and humor about himself was undoubtedly refreshing and heartwarming. “Red Eye,” “Georgia,” and “Winds of Change” shone bright, and while “Riptide” was as jangly and happy as ever, it took a backseat; Vance’s catalog, and his persona, proved deeper and fuller than his hits.
Electric Factory, Vance Joy