You know that man whose music you listened to in your bedroom throughout your whole childhood on your walkman, and you became low key obsessed with because he spoke to you on a spiritual level and you still kind of maybe have a huge crush on him even though you’re well into adulthood? Yeah, Josh Pyke, that’s the one. He is back for one last hurrah before hanging up his Pyke boots to spend some time writing and producing. It’s been 10 years since his album Memories And Dust was released and I first saw his video clip for ‘Middle Of The Hill’ on Rage – I was hooked. Josh Pyke has a sense of effortless wisdom and honesty about him, his music is so strongly aligned with ideas of what the Australian industry has to offer, and we are proud to call this poetic songwriter one of our own.
With 5 albums under his belt, 4 ARIAs on his shelf, and over a decade of experience, Josh Pyke and his acoustic folk pop aesthetic teach us that you can stay humble while conquering the world of music. He crashed onto the scene in 2005 after he signed to Ivy League Records and released his mini debut album Feeding The Wolves. He then made his first Triple J Hottest 100 appearance in 2005, became an ambassador for APRA, and is now an ambassador for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. What can’t he do really? In the middle of preparing for his upcoming international tour, he had a chat with us about what he has learnt from the industry over the last decade, what this tour means for him, and what the future holds.
You have 5 studio albums, all of which have been widely praised and have seen you tour internationally, which one if you had to choose, is most meaningful to you?
Most albums of mine when I listen to it back, I can’t feel comfortable listening to, but if I had to choose, I think there’s something about Only Sparrows that I actually can listen to and connect to. I don’t know why, but that one I connect with a lot more than the others.
You have been a key character in the music industry for such a long time, do you think the industry has changed much as you’ve grown and evolved as a musician?
The industry has definitely changed heaps. It has shrunk so much that everyone has to do a lot more. When I started out there would be different roles for different people in record companies, and now it seems like A&R people are doing almost everything in those roles. The same for touring – when I first started I had a sound guy, a lighting guy and a tech guy, and now all of those roles have now started to melt into one. The same is happening with musicians though. If I’m speaking for myself, I now need to be not only a musician but a producer, an engineer, a mixer, I need to be able to create high-quality content. Everything is condensed, you have to be way more adaptable.
Your collaboration with Sydney Symphony Orchestra in 2016, first of all, was so incredibly beautiful, it really transported your music into a completely different context, and even earned you an ARIA award. What was that experience like, did you learn a lot?
I don’t think it necessarily changed the way I make music but it changed my openness to collaboration and allowing people to invest in my work. I have always been quite coveted of my own stuff because I want control of it. I want either the success or failure of it to rest solely on my shoulders, but doing the SSO thing, because I don’t read or write music, I really had to let the arrangers and composers show their own voice in the arrangements they came up with for my music. It was quite confronting at first but once you kind of relinquish that control it can be incredibly liberating. I think that’s what I learnt from that experience.
It’s been 10 years since Memories and Dust was released. Is it easy to transport yourself back to the mentality of that body of work and that time in your life or does it all seem like a distant memory?
It feels like a distant memory, but then every time I play the song live, all those emotions and feelings come back so vividly and sharply. It’s actually a great way to connect to that period of my life. All of my albums do that – they transport me back to maybe 1 or 2 years of my life, so playing songs from all of those albums allows me to stay connected with those experiences, it’s been a really nice thing about touring.
You’ve announced your hiatus from the industry at the end of the year, what does the near future look like for you?
I’m just taking a break from touring really, I’ll still be doing music stuff, I want to work on producing other artists in my studio at home, and I’m excited that I’ll be in my own studio for a while so I can use it to its full potential. I’ve been working on a kids TV show, writing and producing music for it and that comes out in November so I’m really keen to do more stuff like that. I am kind of just taking things as they come though and choosing projects that I really want to invest my time in, which in the past I would have had to say no to because I have been touring so much.
Are you feeling emotional about this upcoming tour because it’s a bit of a goodbye for now?
I do to a degree, but at the same time I’ve got shows booked in all around the world up until the start of next year so it’s sort of seems like a long way away, so I haven’t quite kicked into that sad phase just yet.
Do you have any advice for young musicians trying to break into the Australian music scene?
I think it’s difficult to give specific advice because everyone’s story is so different, but what I do often say is that, it’s really hard to make it in any creative industry, but I feel like it’s particularly hard within the Australian music industry because we have quite a small market and not many avenues for creative outlet. What I would say is that if this is something that you just get up every morning and are absolutely compelled to do and you actually feel like you’d be mentally unstable if you didn’t do it, then you have to pursue it to the fullest of your ability whether that means quitting jobs or giving up other things, this has to be your number one priority otherwise you won’t make it. You have to take the risk.
Grab tickets to Josh Pyke‘s 10-year anniversary tour for ‘Memories and Dust’ here.