IN: 2018 is a big year for you, how are you feeling?
VJ: Yeah, I’m feeling good about it. It's a lot of hustle and bustle right now, so I just have my head down and I’m working away but it feels really nice to have that whole recording process done and to just get to share the music. It’s good I’m excited for it!
How would you describe Nation of Two, what story is the album telling? And how does it differ to Dream Your Life Away?
Yeah I think relationships is kind of the theme. I think it’s similar to my first album in the sense that… I guess I’ve always been drawn to stories that seem like everyday stories. It might be relationships, or lovers, or friends. I try and capture that everyday life in songs, so I think that is consistent with the new album.
Songwriting wise, it’s a craft you develop the more you do it and so some of these new songs are me exploring songwriting. With songwriting, I’m interested in things I haven’t done before. So it might be playing my guitar in a slightly different way, or lyrically singing a song or a story I haven’t told before. Besides just the sound of the music, there’s also some stories I haven’t told before. And this album feels much more biographical which is exciting for me, because I’ve never written direct memory into song like that.
We know it's like picking your favourite child, but do you have a favourite song from the new album?
I like them all, but there are a couple of ones that I feel close to because they’re quite acoustic songs and for me they have some of the most emotional power. Maybe a couple, I’d choose Call If You Need Me, I’m With You, and the final song on the album Where We Start. All those ones fit in the same realm for me.
So many amazing Australian festivals have closed, but you're playing the new Sydney City Limits soon! What's it like to be part of something fresh and exciting like that?
It’s great, I love playing festivals in Australia! I guess there’s something, just from playing Falls Festival and Splendour In The Grass, they’re always big occasions and I think this is similar to that. Australian festival crowds are super enthusiastic and everyone’s having fun and it’s like a party. That’s the perfect crowd to play to, and you can just try and absorb it and facilitate the party vibe and just, get a connection going.
You're also heading back to Coachella in 2018, is that just an even grander experience entirely?
It has such a big reputation *launches into Taylor Swift lyrics* I just had to acknowledge that, sorry.
Coachella is so well known. I feel like Splendor is a great festival that’s just as huge and can compare in that way. But I guess Coachella is one that everyone knows about so it has that recognition. They do have these huge line-ups, like Eminem and Beyonce, and that’s hard to beat.
Who else are you keen to see in this year's line-up?
Yeah obviously Beyonce, Eminem, also Fleet Foxes, and I think St. Vincent. She’s amazing. I’m also just happy to wander around and see what’s happening. It’s fun to just immerse yourself in the vibe and see whatever’s going on.
You've got an impressive and ever-growing list of accolades under your belt. Is there something you haven't yet achieved that you think would just "make" your life?
You realise that, like, no matter what you do, what’s going to make your life amazing are things that are less specific career things. I love playing my songs and I’m really proud of the work I’ve done, and I feel like I’ve met people who have been affected by my music and it’s been an influence on their lives, so those are the kinds of things that make me feel rewarded. Obviously, in the last few years there have been so many amazing highlight moments - like opening for Taylor Swift and playing festivals like Coachella - for me I’m just looking forward to doing this whole year of touring and facing all the new challenges it will offer me.
What's been your biggest pinch-me moment?
I think opening for Taylor Swift and finishing the whole tour with her in Melbourne, which is where I'm from. She gave a big shout-out to me and my band, and made an extra effort to make me feel special, I felt very grateful to her for that. I also got to perform with Paul Kelly at one of my show’s at the Sydney Opera House at the start of 2016, my parents were in the crowd so that was really cool. We sang Two of Us by the Beatles, I have the audio at home. That’s a time where you’re going to look back and be proud.
You've mentioned getting to perform in front of your family, is missing them the hardest part of being on tour?
Yeah missing my family and friends. You know, they’re your people and you don’t have to put too much effort in with them, it’s nice to get to just be yourself. It’s something to look forward to, coming home is such a special treat.
Do you have any lucky items of clothing to perform in, or do you stick to a 'work uniform' on stage?
Yeah I have a few reliable things. I had an amazing stylist for a few things recently, Tara Nichols, she got me a bunch of clothes and I love what she picked so basically she’s supplied me with my daily uniform. Just nice woollen jumpers, my denim jacket with the shearling that I wear a lot, my R.M Williams and black jeans. Some kind of henley style t-shirt. Yeah it’s a uniform, it’s like I go to work every day and put on my work uniform.