INTERVIEW: A Chat With Josh Pyke

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Australia fell in love with his honest lyricism and melodies that would soon become an Australian soundtrack of long Sunday adventures. A decade on, and Josh Pyke is still gracing our ears with new and beautiful tunes. On the brink of releasing his 5th album, we caught up with Josh to chat about his new approach to songwriting, giving back to his fans and reminiscing on his first album.

So your 5th album, But For All These Shrinking Hearts, will be released at the end of the month. Exciting stuff. You’ve said that this album was the most creatively challenging you’ve written. Can you explain to me why that was?

It was challenging in a more positive way rather than a negative way. I didn’t really feel like there were big boundaries to overcome, I just felt like I was challenging myself more. I wrote a lot of the songs using techniques I haven’t used before, like writing on iPhone and iPad apps. Also writing on the piano, which I haven’t done before. 

Lyrically, I used different techniques like a wild one that Jeff Tweedy from Wilco wrote about; which is where you sing and record jibberish, and you kind of translate what you think it sounds like. From there, you get these kind of interesting phrases and sentences and you can start to build a story around it that relates to your own life and experience. So all those kind of things I challenged myself. Albeit being a negative challenge, it was actually really a fantastic creative challenge.

That sounds really interesting. How long was this collection in the works for?

I don’t ever sit down just to write. There’s never a point where I just decide to write a record; so it was pretty much from the time that I released The Beginning and the End of Everything, which was 2013. So I guess it’s been two years in the making because it was literally from the time I was touring with the last record until probably January this year. I ended up with 20 songs which I was really, really happy with and I started culling them back to get to the 11 that ended up on the record.

Yeah they’re awesome – I was listening to the album this morning. It’s such a great collection of songs to go about your morning to and gives me the feeling of a Sunday drive up the coast.

[LAUGHS] Ah cool, nice one. Thank you.

You’ve been teasing us all with little snippets and clips of this new album – keeping everyone on their toes. How do you think you’ll feel when you do release this album? Are there any standout emotions. Is there any anxiousness, excitement or relief that you usually feel when releasing new work?

Well kind of all of them. I usually definitely feel relieved. It’s a big project to release an album and I feel proud getting through that process successfully. There’s definitely pride and relief, as well as some anxiety because you never know, no matter how proud you are of an album, you don’t know how it’s going to be received. 

One of the things I hate about being a musician is that if you want to have enough success that you can make a living out of it, you have to accept a level of “fame”, I guess, or being known and going along with that- you have to accept that people are going to judge what you do. I find that really difficult to take because I’m just a pretty normal guy that lives a pretty normal life outside of music. So there’s definitely a level of anxiety because of that, but I just try really hard to accept that: as long as I’m proud of the record and I can stand behind every creative decision I’ve made that beyond that I have to let it go, which is kind of tough. Bit of a mental discipline thing really.

Yeah I guess you never really know unless it’s pushed out into the world.

Exactly, it’s completely out of your hands then.

You’ve given fans who have pre-ordered the album the opportunity to attend one of your fan-first shows, which is a really awesome concept. Now I understand you’ve organised fan first shows in the past. Can you tell me a bit about how you came up with the concept?

I came up with the idea about three albums ago and I’ve done them three or four times now. I guess it’s just a really good way to reconnect with your core fan base and supporters. People get so much information online, especially nowadays, people doing this and that. If I was just to say, “Alright, the album’s coming out, and here it is!” It’s easy for that to get lost with people and it’s hard to get people interested in what you’re doing. So it’s really a way to reconnect with those core supporters, who have always been there for me. 

It’s kind of my way to say thanks, as well. Give them a little something extra before I give it out to the rest of the world.

It’s lovely. I mean, being an avid live music lover myself, I understand how important it is for the artist to acknowledge their fans and it’s great to see musicians like yourself put in the effort to make the fans feel special. It’s a really, really lovely thing that you’re doing.

Thank you.

You released a clip for your track, There’s A Line, a short while ago. What made you decide to release a clip for this track instead of Hollering Hearts, which was the first single you’ve released off your album?

We’re definitely going to do a clip for Hollering Hearts, as well- that’s just being finalised now. I always like to release what I like to call a ‘teaser-single’, because I like to kind of set the tone of the album and ‘There’s a Line’ is such a different song for me. I wrote that on an iPad app which is why there’s that kind of synthy theme all the way throughout and I really kind of wanted to highlight the differences and point out there’s some new stuff going on. So I like to release those ‘teaser-singles’ just to kind of, again, reactivate that core fan base who will know that something’s coming – but also  use it as a kind of bridge between the previous release and a new one. Kind of a transitional thing, so that people can get their heads around where I’m going with the new music. 

You released your first album, Memories & Dust, in 2007- that’s 8 years ago. How do you feel looking back on that release?

I feel good. I feel really proud that it’s stood the test of time and that it’s a record that people still listen to a lot. People tell me often that they have used songs on that record at their weddings. Those songs get out and travel and do their thing, and that’s a really beautiful thing. I love that record, still – I must say I don’t actually listen to my music. My kids have started to listen to my music now, so when I hear them listen to it, it brings back a lot of memories and I’m proud of it. 

What advice would you give to your younger self, or an emerging musician who is looking to have a career in music?

That’s a good question. To be honest, in terms of the path that I followed, I feel really good about the decisions I’ve made. I would definitely say to my old self that you need to enjoy the present moment. I would say that to anybody, especially to my kids. When I was doing ‘Memories & Dust’, I was plucked from working at a record store and I was suddenly touring the country and won 2 ARIA’s. Having this public profile suddenly kind of happened, and I just wasn’t ready for it at the time. So I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have, and I look back now at some of the experiences I had at that time- like playing Glastonbury in the UK, playing SXSW, all these amazing things, and I definitely had a good time but I don’t think I was fully present because I was always quite nervous of it disappearing after I worked so hard to get to where I had gotten. My biggest piece of advice wouldn’t be so much about following a particular path, it’d be about really trying to enjoy the moment when it was happening.

If you want to check out the sweet, sweet sounds of Josh Pyke, you can head here to pre-order the album- which will also give you access to one of his ‘fan’s first’ shows.


Written by Krissy Bryant