Josh Pyke – Across The Ocean

Josh Pyke

Josh Pyke is back with album number five aptly titled But For All These Shrinking Hearts being launched in a series of Fans First intimate shows in every capital city around the country. Josh talks in detail with Across The Ocean on everything from song writing, making the new album, family and what is next on the horizon.

Josh Pyke promo 2015

Congratulations on another album, it must feel like another major milestone knocking over another one?

Absolutely, it definitely feels like a great achievement as it doesn’t get any easier. It is hard to explain in that it was the easiest but most difficult one I have done. I had a lot more confidence to do it which made me push myself harder which made it more challenging in a way.

Does it get harder from the creative side coming up with good songs or trying to do something a little different than what you have done previously?

I feel this one is different in the sense that I was trying some different things production wise and also in the song writing process I was writing on some iPhone apps, iPad apps and on the piano which I have rarely done before. Lyrically I was trying some different things, different ways of coming up with lyrics because I have said a lot of stuff in my songs and I always want to push myself in saying things rather than walking over the same ground.

There’s A Line is a really great single first up – what’s the story behind that one, is this more personal and introspective?

Thank you! Thanks a lot! They all are and I can’t write songs from any other perspective except my own. I have tried many times, I can if I’m co-writing with someone else to step in to someone else’s world and empathise with their situation. When I’m writing songs for me and for my record they really need to be coming from an honest place. That song is self explanatory you know feeling like every time you know where you’re going, then you get thrown a curveball and the only thing that keeps me connected to true north is this metaphorical line wrapped around my wrists to those who I hold dear.

Is it hard to come off such a high with extensive touring including The White Album tour and knuckle down in to writing new tunes?

The “what next” thing is always stressful, the writing process is never stressful for me because I do it all the time. There wasn’t a period where I sat down and thought I need to write for the album, it was always something I was doing along the way. I wrote a couple of tracks on that White Album tour and I wrote loads of songs on my solo Lone Wolf tour. The writing thing is more of a joy and keeps me busy, it’s what I’m compelled to do and what I love to do. That part was easy but then the process of going now it’s time to do a record, how that will play out over the couple of years, that’s always reasonably stressful and you have to throw it out to the world and hope for the best.

Does the studio experience throw up its usual challenges?

For me I love the studio and I have a studio at home. I did all the demos at home which was just great fun. It still is a lot of fun for me being a musician, so the studio is great because after five albums and having a studio at home, and I studied sound engineering a long time ago, it is an environment where I feel really comfortable. I’m fortunate that I’m not in the position where I’m looking at the clock in the studio and going over budget. It wasn’t a pressured situation more like a totally creative explorative place to be, I have to say it was really great.

Do you think your sound and vocal style has changed much over the years?

I think so, you could play the early stuff back to back with the new stuff and the maturity comes with being ten years older than when I first started. I think it is a confidence thing and when I listen back to every album up to Only Sparrows, I love them, I absolutely love the songs but there definitely production and performance things that I wish I could do again now. Whereas on the last two albums The Beginning Of Everything and this one I felt one hundred percent comfortable with every decision I made. Apart from developing musically and lyrically that goes with the territory, the studio is a place where I have become a lot more confident in my creative decisions and making them quickly instead of labouring on them as well as trusting my instincts.

Knowing what you know now would you go back and re-record those earlier albums maybe as deluxe editions?

Maybe down the line, I feel that the timing isn’t right for me to do that just yet. I would like to do one or two more records before going down that retrospective route. It is such a blessing to have such a strong back catalogue to do that with. In my fantasies I think about doing a best of after one more album and then having a couple of years off the road. My little boys are getting a bit older and I’d like to spend as much time as possible at home and then come back and do tours with Memories & Dust in full. I’d like to do a series for one year where I would only play full albums and do it once every couple of months.

A best of would make it a challenge narrowing down with so many great songs to choose from wouldn’t it?

It would be, it would pretty much have to be the singles and maybe a fans favourite bonus disc. That’s a long way off but definitely something I have in the back of my mind.

How do you juggle being a dad, home life and maintaining a music career?

It is hard but probably easier than people might imagine because when I’m away I’m away but I have friends who work for companies who are away much more than me and when they are back they are working from seven to seven out of the house. My studio is in my backyard and I drop off and pick up my kids every day from school and I spend a lot of time with them. I said when I first started out years ago that I wanted to be a successful person rather than a successful musician. Being a successful person, part of that is being a successful musician and having a career that I love and passionate about just so I could set an example for my kids by saying it is possible to pursue your passion and do it well if you work hard. Finding balance between my professional passion and my family is an ongoing struggle but I don’t think it is any better or worse than anyone else really. As soon as you throw kids in the mix life gets pretty complicated.

Do you find it hard listening back to your albums without being super critical?

It is a day to day thing, on a good day I can listen back to my earliest demos and hear what I heard in them at the time which was a real true expression of myself and what I was feeling at the time. I can acknowledge that I was doing my best, I’ve always done my best and I don’t feel embarrassed about decisions I have made in the past. I can acknowledge it was my best in past then and my best now is much better than that which is what you would want. I hate the notion, particularly in Australia and with musicians that they get to three albums in and start to lose their creative virility or whatever and it’s just not true. I think you finally know what you are doing three albums in and it doesn’t happen in any other creative worlds in writing, film direction or acting particular male actors are revered as they get older. Like wow, this guy is a master of his craft. With music the whole industry, no disrespect to you or media that surrounds it, is geared to celebrate youth and start to joke about older musicians. There are three that have avoided it that I can think of including Neil Finn, Paul Kelly and Nick Cave. Its annoying thing I find and I haven’t hit that point yet.

Is cracking the overseas market still a focus or are you content with what you’re doing back here?

I don’t know, I’m pretty content but I’ll never say never but I do have a great following over in the UK and I tour there once per album. I think I’ll reassess that when my kids are a bit older because like I say finding the balance is the most important thing to me. I know from lots of musical friends that I have who have tried or cracked the US you have to spend years and months and months over there. To be honest I love touring and making music but I also love Australia and being at home experiencing the beauty of day to day life as opposed to being in a van driving around the mid west of America.

You must take a lot of heart with how well the Fans First shows and pre-orders for the new album have gone?

That was always set up to reconnect with the core group of supporters who have been there for me. I’m very aware that when I get up I do not have to go to a nine to five job. The reason I can do that is because of these people and not because of anything else. All those other things helped me get those core supporters but the fact that these core supporters have hung around and I can sort of rely on them to support what I do it’s the biggest thing of all. It allows me to have a career for ten years. The Fans First is definitely about acknowledging that and it is a bit of high fiving myself kind of moment that I finally feel established after ten years and five albums. It seems like a crazy thing to say but it is just the way it is.

Is it great playing tiny venues such as the Grace Emily Hotel in Adelaide?

They are way less formal and a chance to muck around and play, experiment with the new songs to an audience who are properly interested and engaged. That is a big thing for me and bolsters the confidence I have with the new material and it is just a lot of fun. I’ve played so many times at the Grace Emily and the reason why I chose that venue for the one in Adelaide is because when I was doing my tri-state residency in 2006, almost ten years ago now, I was playing a show in every state once a week for a month when Middle Of The Hill had just come out, it was my way of establishing myself as quickly as possible The Grace was one of the venues on that residency. It went from twelve people the first week to being completely sold out by the end of the month. I have super fond memories of playing that joint and that intimate vibe in general.

After this run of dates what’s next for Josh Pyke?

I’m doing a few one-off things for the rest of the year like the Sydney Symphony Orchestra shows I did in April I will be doing with WASO in Perth. There will be some festivals and I will kick in to proper album touring January and February next year then it will be on and on.

Would you do Symphony shows with other orchestras in other states?

It’s on the cards it is just a matter of timing. It came up with the Sydney Symphony and we would have been crazy to say no it was a little complicated trying to fit it in with the album coming out also. I’m keen to pursue it down the line and it will be a matter of sorting out the timing when they slot me in the orchestra’s program hoping all the stars are aligning.

Even though album number five has just come out is there plans for number six next year?

I definitely a planner and I haven’t thought about number six yet. I’m going to be writing no matter what and I’ll keep writing until there comes a point where I have twenty songs that I love it’s time to do a record. That might take eighteen months or might take three years. Unless the songs are there I’m not going to compromise on the timing of putting it out which is something I’m very adamant about since the beginning. It’s funny how it turns out with the cycle being every two years to write twenty songs so if that’s the pattern maybe there will be another album two years from now.

Rob Lyon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rob Lyon has been writing about all things music for well over ten years in Adelaide clocking up more live shows each year seeing the best going round.

Whether it is rummaging through vinyl at record stores such as Clarity and Title finding hidden gems to scouring the internet to find that album by the next big thing or chasing bands to get that elusive autograph and photo his passion is music all the way.
Rob Lyon

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