Jumping for Joy: Vance Joy excited to open for Swift
Vance Joy got his first guitar when he was 11 years old. He was reluctant to take lessons and learn to play, but his dad pressed him to stay with it, and now he's opening for Taylor Swift.
"My dad was very persistent," Joy says, "and I'm glad he was."
With good reason. Joy is on the fast track to success just eight months after he released his debut album, "Dream Your Life Away." Not only did Swift invite him to open for her massive "1989" world tour, which hits Ford Field on Saturday and keeps him on the road through the end of the year, but she also covered his song "Riptide" during a performance at the BBC last year, shining a megawatt light bulb on his work. ("Riptide" has been streamed 228 million times on Spotify and 70 million times on YouTube, so thanks, Taylor.)
Joy is now playing to the biggest crowds of his young career; his last Detroit date was in front of about 1,000 people at Saint Andrew's Hall in November, and on Saturday he'll play to a crowd approximately 50 times that size. The instant boost is comparable to that of Swift's opener on her last stadium tour, Ed Sheeran, who graduated from Swift's opener to headlining arenas on his own.
"It's going to definitely be a different level," says Joy, whose real name is James Keogh. "The idea of playing to that many people is incredible, and I think it really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You never really see these opportunities coming, but it's something I kind of grabbed with both hands and am really excited about."
Joy, 27, hails from Melbourne, Australia, and got his start playing in cover bands, banging out songs by Foo Fighters and Green Day. The rush from performing, even in front of his high school friends, gave him an instant high.
"You want to be that entertainment. People connect with songs, and it's a great thing to be able to be the source of that," says Joy, on the phone earlier this month from a tour stop in Kansas City. "That was the start. You fall in love with music and songwriting that way."
He soon began writing his own material, and elements from the songs that make up "Dream Your Life Away" — which has a mostly sparse, acoustic-based sound — date back to 2006.
The album was recorded in 2013, and he started trickling out songs that year. When Swift covered "Riptide," a month after the album's release, Joy was in Amsterdam doing press when his manager's phone started blowing up.
"She started playing this audio to me, and I could tell it was a cover of 'Riptide,' and I was like, 'Oh, this is really good,'" he says. "She had her hand over the screen of the phone, and she pulled it away to reveal Taylor Swift singing my song, and I was like, 'Wooooow.'
"I listened to it a few times and I really enjoyed it. I was kind of blown away. It's really great, it's a great rendition, and it was all so surreal," he says. "You don't expect something like that to happen, and when it does you feel like you're in a bit of a dream."
He says it was exciting "to be able to tell your friends Taylor Swift covered your song," but by then, they all already knew about it.
Joy says he's beginning to "chip away" at new songs, but doesn't yet have a time table for his next album. "I don't know if it's a year away or a year and a half away or two years away, but when the songs come I'm going to want to record them," he says.
For now he's excited to play on the Swift tour, which is reason enough to be full of joy.
with Vance Joy and Shawn Mendes
7 p.m. Saturday
Ford Field, 2000 Brush, Detroit
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