Australian Singer/Songwriter Vance Joy Talks About His Excellent New Album, In Our Own Sweet Time, And His Hit Songs “Missing Piece” And “Clarity”

Vance Joy
Vance Joy
(Photo credit: Celina Martins)

Starting in 2013 with the release of his breakthrough hit, “Riptide,” Vance Joy has become a popular and acclaimed singer/songwriter who’s built a worldwide following. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Joy released his platinum debut album, Dream Your Life Away, in 2014, and he followed it up with his second album, Nation of Two, in 2018.

Now in 2022, Joy appears ready to take his career to an even higher level with the release this week of his third album, In Our Own Sweet Time. Joy’s new album is an excellent work that is probably his best album to date. In Our Own Sweet Time is an outstanding collection of mostly upbeat, romantic and heartfelt songs, that are full of hooky, appealing melodies and features Joy’s expressive lead vocals. All the songs are well-written and the album flows beautifully from beginning to end.

The album is off to a good start, with two singles already released that have had chart success. Last summer, Joy released the joyful, uptempo “Missing Piece,” which became a hit on the rock & alternative charts in the U.S. and went double platinum in Australia. Then in April (2022), he released the current single “Clarity,” which is now moving up the charts. Both singles have been accompanied by fun, entertaining videos that have boosted the songs’ impact.

Here’s an excerpt of our interview with Vance Joy, who tells how he wrote the songs for his new album via Zoom after the pandemic started.

On the title of his album, In Our Own Sweet Time, Joy shared, “I’m always drawn to the idea of timelessness or that shared moment that takes you out of the chaos outside. If the world is crazy, you can retreat somewhere. It’s always hard to think of the right title but I think that sums up the album perfectly.”

In Our Own Sweet Time contains 12 songs, that were mostly written and recorded during the pandemic & lockdown. Interestingly, Joy worked remotely (via Zoom) with his producer & writer colalborators on all the songs. However, working online did not affect the quality of the songwriting or production.

Here’s the video of Vance Joy’s single, “Clarity.”

For his album. Joy teamed up with three hit writer/producers who are based in Los Angeles. With Joel Little (known for his work with Lorde and Taylor Swift), he wrote the singles “Missing Piece” and “Clarity.” Joy also collaborated on several songs with Dave Bassett (Elle King, Weezer) and Dan Wilson (Adele, Leon Bridges). In addition, he wrote with Nashville writer/producers Daniel Tashian & Ian Fitchuk, who have won Grammy Awards for their work with Kacey Musgraves.

Besides “Missing Piece” and “Clarity,” other highlights on the album include the uptempo, colorful “Catalonia” (written during his time in Barcelona, Spain), the warm midtempo cuts “Don’t Fade” and “Every Side of You,” and the ballads “Way That I’m Going” and “Daylight.”

Now with the release of his new album, Joy and his band have launched a new tour that includes shows in the U.S., Australia and Canada.

Vance Joy Interview

We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Vance Joy. He tells how he wrote his latest hits “Missing Piece” and “Clarity,” and his first hit, “Riptide.” He also discusses the making of his album, In Our Own Sweet Time.

DK: You’re from Melbourne, Australia. How did you get started with music and writing songs?

Vance Joy: When I was 14, I got into guitar and fell in love with it. I saw some kids playing covers by Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica and I was amazed. Then when I was 18, I tried writing my own songs which were pretty bad at first, but I kept at it. When I was 22, I wrote a couple songs that were kind of a breakthrough. I felt like I wrote something that more people than just me would like. So I really got into songwriting, and that led to me making a batch of songs which became my first EP when I was 24. That was about 10 years ago.

DK: Around 2013, you had a big hit with “Riptide.” How did you write “Riptide,” and what it was like to become famous and start touring the world?

Here’s the video of Vance Joy’s single, “Missing Piece.”

Joy: That was a good period of time. I remember when I was 21, I was finishing studying for my university degree, and being in class taking notes. But I also came up with the idea for this song, which ended up being “Riptide.” I started scribbling the lyrics into the margins of my notes, and then I got into the car and I was singing along.

When I got home, I picked up the guitar and worked on it. Then I saved up some money and found a studio where I could record it. With the help of my drummer Edwin White, we recorded it in a studio in Melbourne. We spent all day and recorded the version of “Riptide” which is pretty much the song that’s out there. A year after that, I had signed to a label in Australia and America. The song was put on a couple of SoundClouds and online, and almost instantly it started reacting. Then I went on a two-year journey of promoting that song, releasing my first album and playing around the world. It felt like being on a rocket and you’re strapped in for the ride. It was good times and that song helped take me on a big trip.

DK: You’re about to release your new album. Living in Australia during the pandemic, what was it like to write and record your album?

Joy: Right before the pandemic, I had things lined up to follow the same approach that I used to create my first and especially my second album. I planned to come to L.A., stay at an Airbnb, and see my friend (writer/producer) Dave Bassett, who I’ve written a lot of songs with. We have a good songwriting chemistry, so it’s easy to work together. So that was all set up, but then Covid happened and all the travel plans were canceled and I ended up at home (in Australia) during lockdown.

I got a second-hand piano that I put in my front room, and I sat at the piano and played music. But I wasn’t as productive as I thought I would be. I didn’t write songs everyday—I was learning to cook for myself (laughs) and watching TV and being in hibernation. But after a month I got a bit restless and I tried Zoom songwriting. I got on Zoom with Dave Bassett and we wrote a couple songs, and it was surprisingly easy to write on Zoom. Then I wrote the song “Missing Piece” with Joel Little. It was cool, because I feel the songs were strong by doing it on Zoom. This was in mid-2020, and we continued doing that throughout 2021 I kept doing Zoom songwriting, and worked on my own songs as well. And piece by piece, I started accumulating enough songs.

Here’s the video of Vance Joy’s song, “Don’t Fade.”

DK: What was your creative process, writing songs online?

Joy: I would record a voice memo into my phone, with my guitar and voice, and my songwriting partner would be singing as well, so I’d be picking up the mic of the laptop. And then Dave (Bassett) would put together a little track and it might be just guitar and drums. Then I’d have a little mic, and I’d sing on that. I’m not very good at recording, or at least I’m not very good at editing or engineering, so I would press the red button, sing a bunch of takes, and lot of those vocals are the ones that we’re hearing on this album.

DK: You wrote your singles “Missing Piece” and “Clarity” with Joel Little. Can you talk about writing those songs with him?

Joy: Joel is a great songwriter and collaborator. I feel that whatever information you give him—like a guitar riff or chord progression or one line from your phone that you feel is good—he can take that and then connect the pieces and spit it back out to you and that happened on both songs. I shared a couple ideas that I had, and then he made the connections and put it back together. It might just be a couple ideas or lines, but he can help take them together in a way that makes it all flow and makes sense. Both times, ir was very fluent. So I think collaborating like that is great.

DK: “Clarity” is your new single. What inspired you to write this song?

Joy: I think at that time in my life, I was enjoying living in Barcelona. I’m originally from Melbourne, but I met my partner in Barcelona in early 2019. And during the Covid lockdowns, I spent most of my time in Barcelona with her. So I think I enjoyed a different part of my life, where I was enjoying a different kind of pace and I realized that spending time with her was important to me. I was reconnecting…not being solely focused with music and things like that. So I think that was a moment of clarity that influenced my songwriting.

Here’s the video of Vance Joy’s song, “Every Side of You.”

DK: Besides “Missing Piece’ and “Clarity,” what are your other favorite songs on your album?

Joy: I love a song called “Way That I’m Going,” which is a bit of a crazy tune. It was a guitar riff that I’d been sitting on for ages and wanted to put it into a song, so I was glad to find a place for it. There’s a song called “Daylight” that I like, which I wrote on my piano at home. I also like the song “Catalonia,” which is a snapshot of my daily life over there in Barcelona. And a song called “Look At Me Like That,” which is slightly more poppy in its approach. I’m keen to see what songs people will gravitate towards.

DK: When I listen to your album, I like how some songs have different, cool sounds like “Clarity” and “Catalonia” have horns on it, and then “Wavelength” has sitar on it which is very different. Do you like coming up with fresh, different sounds for your songs?

Joy: Yeah, definitely. This album probably has more experimentation than previous albums. I think that comes down to collaborating with different people. On the song “Wavelength,” I worked with Dave Longstreth from a band called the Dirty Projectors. The production was done by a duo called Take a Daytrip (Denzel Baptiste & David Biral) who are incredible producers and songwriters. The approach to that song was so different to the way I probably work with Dave or myself. Everything was kind of a collaboration. Me and Dave would be singing and mumbling melodies into our mic, and Take a Daytrip would be forming it into shape, and then we’d stand back and say, “Okay, this is the chorus of the song.” Then me and Dave would get our notepads out and write the lyrics.

DK: I like the videos you created for “Missing Piece” and “Clarity,” which are a lot of fun. For “Missing Piece,” you have the story where your girlfriend chases you around the city to bring you the sandwich she made. And with “Clarity,” you’re on a movie set. So do you like coming up with unique stories for your videos?

Joy: Yeah, I’m really happy with those two film clips. It definitely started with “Missing Piece” The person who was going to produce the video pulled out at the last minute, and there was a short window of time to make this clip. Then my friend in Melbourne, Annalise, had this very simple but cool and funny idea about the sandwich and how I forget my lunch and my girlfriend runs up to me. I love those kind of film clips. (Filmmaker) Spike Jonze has a couple film clips where he does very simple ideas. It’s like a storyline—it keeps you engaged. It’s a simple idea, but if the idea is good then everything flows from that.

With “Clarity,” the storyline is a bit more complicated, but it still takes you on a journey. These videos can be colorful and light-hearted and hopefully have a little heart in it as well. So that was the recipe for those two videos.

Here’s the link to Vance Joy’s site:

Dale Kawashima is the Head of SongwriterUniverse and a music journalist. He’s also a music publishing exec who has represented the song catalogs of Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Motown Records.
Dale Kawashima