No Pyking out now
HEADING into album number three, Josh Pyke was a little anxious.
Its predecessors Memories & Dust (2007) and Chimney's Afire (2008) made Pyke a household name, landing at no.4 and no.3 respectively on the ARIA album charts.
His work has garnered critical acclaim every step of the way, including ARIA awards, a J Award nomination and gold sales to back it up.
Following up these successes, however, wasn't the only thing on the Sydneysider's mind.
After the birth of his first child, Pyke's life was given a different perspective.
"As a songwriter I'm always thinking about the past and the future,"; he tells Pulse.
"But I think having a child you're forced to think about what's happening now.";
With most of the songs for Only Sparrows written before the birth of his first-born, Pyke admits this change in his lifestyle had little effect on his latest release.
Instead it was the danger of coasting along in the comfortable position in which he found himself.
"I was really conscious of the danger to conform,"; he says.
"I wanted to do something different on this record and I was aware my old fans may not like where I was going. I haven't gone down the same path of introspection with my songwriting and sonically it's different as well.";
He says, for him, it felt like a natural progression.
"I just wasn't sure they [his fans] were going to go with me,"; he says.
This record sees Pyke's work back in the hands of Wayne Connolly as co-producer, who he worked with on his debut.
On his previous releases Pyke says he liked knowing his fingerprints were all over every track, which meant he played almost every instrument. Handing back control to someone else opened up the channels for Pyke to grow as an artist.
"I knew the songs, but I got to the point where I just needed to figure out how to execute it. I needed somebody who I could trust, who shared the same vision as me,"; he says.
Allowing other musicians into the mix added depth to Pyke's lyrical efforts, while the addition of Little Birdy's Katy Steele on vocals for Punch In The Heart adds another element of sweetness and beauty.
When he made the decision to follow a new path, he also decided a songwriting sojourn to the United States might help. And it did.
Pyke wrote three of the album's songs while in New York, one of which - Break, Shatter, Make, Matter - provides vivid imagery for the theme of change evident throughout the album.
All our lives we get followed/ By our shadows/ Who collect/ Our darkest thoughts/ And store them in / The pool devoid of light/ We fight/ But we get swallowed every time.
"The shadow is where you store the darkness,"; Pyke explains.
"You might be able to lose it for a while, but it's always there like your shadow and it always informs you. It doesn't have to be in a negative way, it can be a positive in that you're always aware of it.";
In the end Pyke didn't have too much to worry about with Only Sparrows landing at no.4 on the ARIA charts. Not that Pyke is concerned.
"I think it's important to remember why it is you want to do music,"; he says. "I love writing music. My aim is to be able to continue making a living from it. All that other stuff - like winning ARIAs - it's nice when it happens, but it was never a goal. If it happens again though, great!"
Josh Pyke's Only Sparrows is out now through Ivy League. He plays The Northern, Byron Bay, September 22. Tickets $40.