Josh Pyke on his last run of shows before taking a well-deserved break

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Josh Pyke on his last run of shows before taking a well-deserved break

Longevity in music is a rare beast, but Josh Pyke has proved that timeless song writing trumps all. Creating a bold and distinct path into music since his breakthrough album Memories & Dust 10 years ago, selling out shows worldwide and delivering a unique sound which has garnered him a wealth of respect from fellow musos and fans alike, Pyke has regularly been at the forefront of the Australian live music scene.

Calling in from his Sydney home, taking a breather from playing his twelve-string guitar, Pyke takes a moment to discuss his two-disc Best Of album release and massive regional tour next month, after which he will be hanging up the boots and going on hiatus at the end of the year.

“I’ve been putting together this ‘best of’ and I’m touring right up until the end of the year, going to the UK and Europe, but I actually do feel like after this run I will take some proper time off from touring my own stuff,” Pyke explains. “There’s other projects that I’ve got on the boil, but in terms of just going out and doing a tour supporting an album or supporting my own material, I actually do think I will take a break after this, and focus on not being away every weekend for a year.”

Well-loved for his intricate storytelling, thoughtful folk-pop arrangements and finely-honed stage performances, Josh has released five studio albums, all of which have gained prestigious accolades and critical acclaim.

From his first appearance in the Hottest 100 with breakthrough single ‘Middle of the Hill’ coming in at number 19 in 2005, to the 2017 release of his greatest hits album The Best of Josh Pyke + B Sides and Rarities, Josh Pyke has been a part of the Australian music landscape for more than a decade, and is celebrating his illustrious career with a two set performance for his upcoming tour, performing the whole Memories & Dust album, while devoting a second set to crowd favourites such as ‘Leeward Side’ and ‘The Summer’.

“We’re playing Memories & Dust from beginning to the end so we’ve actually had to go back and re-learn the songs,” Pyke says. “It’s quite a nostalgic and cool process. I have to admittedly look up a few chord progressions online. Some of the songs we definitely haven’t played live, and some of them I haven’t ever played since I made the record so it’s been a fun process.”

With five acclaimed top 10 albums, four ARIA Awards and countless sold out tours to his name, Pyke has firmly established himself as one of Australia’s most respected and beloved artists, and one who believes in and gives back to the music community with the Josh Pyke Partnership.
Now in its fourth year, the partnership aims to connect an unsigned musician with the exciting opportunity to receive a $7500 grant along with valuable insight and mentorship from Josh Pyke himself, to help kick-start their career.

“It was just an idea that I had because I was given a couple of grants early on in my career and it really helped. I kind of identified with the fact that there isn’t enough funding for emerging artists in Australia – we’re actually one of the most under-funded arts community in the world,” Pyke says.

“I know mentorship is really important and having an open line of communication between myself and the grant recipients is important, but also the $7500 makes a massive difference in people’s musical careers. I just wanted to do it and was fortunate enough to be in a position to do so.”

Last year’s winner, Alex Lahey, has gone from strength to strength since receiving the award, while this year Melbourne’s Angie McMahon captured Pyke’s attention to become the recipient of the funding and mentorship that will help to grow her career.

“I sort of had to figure out a lot of stuff out for myself, but a that’s a big part of being a musician, particularly solo artists,” he continues, “I went on a couple of really early seminal early tours with John Butler, and then with Eskimo Joe, and then the first tour I did with Bob Evans, and I learnt a lot from them. We’re all kind of the same age, but they’ve being musicians for a solid ten years. I mean I’d been trying, but I wasn’t a professional musician for the whole period of Jebediah and Eskimo Joe.

“I wouldn’t say they were mentors though, only because that would be embarrassing to say that about them because they’re my mates,” he laughs, “but I definitely learnt a lot from them back in the day.”

Between chatting about his strong friendship with Bob Evans, and the re-release of Memories & Dust on vinyl, Pyke touches on his search for his famous guitar boat to allow him just one more spin around Sydney Harbour. The search was made public last month as part of an eight-part web documentary series that looked back at his career over the last 10 years. And as for the whereabouts of the illustrious SS Maton? Well, Pyke’s search is giving Big Brother a run for his money.

“I think we did [find the boat] actually,” Pyke laughs. “We had a bit of a dilemma which is why we haven’t really announced it. We think it’s in someone’s front yard. Somebody tipped us off saying it’s in bloke’s front yard in Frankston in Victoria’, so we google mapped it, and then street searched it and we could see it. We could see that it was all wrapped up in plastic to protect it from the weather I guess. But we don’t have any form of contact with the guy and we don’t just want to go knock on his door.”

The boat, an exact replica, except for size, of Pyke’s Maton CW80E acoustic guitar, was used in his 2008 music video for ‘Make You Happy’ and was sold for $7,000 back in 2009 in an Ebay auction with proceeds going to the Indigenous Literary Foundation.

“It was all a bit Big Brother, you know checking it out on Google maps and being a detective, but we sold it to raise money for the indigenous producing foundation and whoever ended up buying it (presumably this person) wanted to remain anonymous.

“I think that I’ve mentioned it enough that if this person is a fan they’ll know and they can contact us if they want to. I want them to, but it’s their privacy. It’s been off the radar for a solid eight years, but I think we do know where it is,” he says.

While it’s goodbye for now, we’ve got our bets on Pyke’s return to song (and that boat) sooner rather than later. Regardless, he certainly has a career in Big Brother to fall back on.

When & Where: The Corner Hotel, Richmond – August 3 & 4; The Wool Exchange, Geelong – August 5

Written by Talia Rinaldo