We had the absolute pleasure of catching up with one of Australia’s finest singers and songwriters, Josh Pyke. We talked all about his musical upbringing, what Inspires him to play music and much more. Enjoy!
What inspired you to start playing music?
J.P: I was just very much just compelled to do it. As a kid, I wasn’t into sports or anything like that, I just had an affinity for music from a really early age. I was interested in listening to music, and my parents had a great record collection, so I listened to a lot, and there was just something about it that was extremely attractive to me.
When I was about 12, some buddies of mine had started a rock band in primary school and they asked me to join as a singer because they knew I could sing. It was just an instant combination of fear and love at the same time, performing live. It was this addictive feeling of doing this thing, and sort of realizing I was good at it, which was an unusual feeling for me. I was never any good at sports, so I wasn’t a guy that discovered I was good at running or kicking a ball, but when I did this thing, it just kind of all fell into place. From there, I was completely addicted, so from the age twelve onward it was all I really thought about or aspired to do. It was as simple as that. All the way through high school, and then after high school, I was just committed to making it work a, it took another 8 years, but that’s what I was focused on doing.
What was it about the guitar that interested you?
J.P: I would say that the guitar was more just a tool. I love guitar, I always play guitar obviously, but I wouldn’t say I’m passionate about guitar playing. I’m passionate about the production of music, but the guitar was really more of a vehicle to get these ideas out of my head, and I seemed to have a pretty good natural ability as opposed to the piano and stuff like that, which I’m no good at. It was almost a bit of a lazy option, I was like, I can kind of play this for some reason and it allows me to get these sounds that I’m hearing in my head out and into the world. So, it was a bit of a functional decision rather than a passion decision.
What did your learning process look like?
J.P: It was very much teaching myself. I had piano lessons when I was about seven. I basically cheated. Every week, the teacher would give me a piece to learn from a book to read the music and I’d get her to play it once and then I’d try to remember it. Then she’d go away and I’d pick it up from ear. Then, she’d come back the next week and I’d be able to play it, but I wouldn’t be reading the music. She eventually caught onto this and was like, “If you want to do this, you have to actually try and learn the music.” So, I quit piano.
When I was fourteen, maybe fifteen, I learned to tackle chords on the guitar, and then I had about six months worth of guitar lessons at my school. Then, I quit that as well because I learnt as much as I needed to know in order to start writing songs, which is actually what I was interested in. I wasn’t interested in becoming a great guitarist. I just wanted to know enough that I could play chords and write songs. And then from there, I’m self-taught really. I can play piano a little bit now, drums and bass too, but that’s just from practicing and being interested in it.
What’s your songwriting process and how has that changed over time?
J.P: I would say it’s still very much an evolving process cause I don’t really have any kind of set method. If I was told to sit down and write a song with somebody, which I’ve done many times, like pop writing and stuff like that. In that context, I can sit down and we’d muck around until we’ve done something that kind of piqued our interest and then we’d work on it in a methodical way.
When I’m writing for myself, it really needs to be coming from a very organic place, so it is basically like sitting around waiting for lightning to strike and kind of noodling around and creating an atmosphere or an environment where you have a better chance for that lightning to strike. For instance, I have a studio at home and I go down there four days a week and I just kind of muck around. But, I actually find that I probably do more writing on the road than at home.
What I’ve realized over the years is that opening yourself up to new experiences, new sights, getting out of your comfort zone, and getting out of your habits is probably the best way to create an environment that’s good for proper, organic, emotionally-fueled writing. Then, I take those ideas back to the studio and refine them.
What music are you into at the moment?
J.P: The biggest one lately has been the most recent Sufjan Stevens album. It’s just an incredible album, and emotionally very raw. It’s just amazing. It’s a mind-blowing album. In terms of new music, so that’s the one I’ve been absolutely flogging lately.
And what about some of the music that got its claws into you early on?
J.P: It’s kind of all the classic stuff: The Beatles, The Beach Boys, things like early Billy Joel, Jackson Browne, Simon and Garfunkel, all that kind of stuff. I was mostly interested in lyrics, even as a kid. Storytelling, all of those things where I could really visualize the story that was being told by the songwriter. One thing that I really loved to do was just to lie down and listen to records and imagine the whole thing played out in a film.
Do you find yourself falling away from music at times or is it always a constant for you?
J.P: Not because I want to, but because I’m a dad now, I’ve got two kids and I tour a lot. When you’re touring, you are playing shows every night. Probably on tour, I get more involved in music than while I’m at home, I find despite having a studio there, and despite being a full time musician that balance between music and also being a present, good dad and stuff like that does take me away from musical focus a bit.
There was a time in my life where I’d be out seeing bands three, four times a week, and then in between that, I’d just be spending all day playing guitar and jamming or whatever. I have less time in my life for that, but that’s nothing to do with a choice. That’s just how life has unfolded. So, the answer is no. I never really have had a break from music or moved on from music. There are just periods where I can’t engage with it as much as I would like to.
I’ve thought about it over the years, if this is something I want to do forever. The answer that I always come up with is… Yes. Even if I stop doing it as a profession, I know that I’ll always make as many records as I can or record as much as I can. It’s just what I love to do. I always take a guitar on holidays I’m always recording little ideas in my phone and stuff.
Getting a bit deep, I want to know what music is to you, what’s its role in your life?
J.P: That’s a good question. For me, it is my career obviously but when I started, I didn’t aim to have a…Well, I did aim to have a career, but my compulsion to do music was not motivated by that. It evolved into getting this feeling out of my mind and out of my body and into the world, so that I could live a normal life. It’s hard to explain, but I think a lot of musicians would relate to that feeling. You just don’t feel right unless you’re playing music, and I recognized that early on, so it was something that I knew that I was gonna have to do for my entire life in order to feel sane, for lack of better word. And then, it just turned into a career, and I was trying to do that, but I guarantee that if it hadn’t turned into a career, I still would be doing music everyday.
It’s kind of like my first obsession and first love is music. I engage with music in a very different way than, for instance, my wife does, who is a huge music fan. She probably listens to more music than me. When she listens to music, she absorbs it and can kind of appreciate it. When I listen to music, I analyze it and I’m breaking it down and I’m really involved in that listening. So, for me, it’s everything. I can’t disassociate myself from the music that I make and the music that I listen to.