Search The Line of Best Fit
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Introducing.... Josef Salvat

14 May 2013, 16:00 | Written by George O'Brien

At the beginning of the year a track emerged online that whipped-up a gentle, but nonetheless concentrated, buzz. In a world where pop (that tricky word) seems to be dominated by talented, soulful female songwriters, Josef Salvat is quietly flying the flag for the boys.

Offering-up intelligent, thought-provoking ballads with added punch through warm layers of sound and a voice that packs both power and poise, ‘This Life’ announced the Australian-born Londoner onto the scene, but the track stood alone and relatively little appeared about the man behind the music.

With great interest comes great expectation though, and following this first track, on top of the weight of the male pop saviour tag, couldn’t be simple, but a second song has followed and emphatically justified this buzz – Josef Salvat deserves our attention.

So we heard you’re busy recording?

Busy doing more tracks, for what specifically, I’m not sure. I mean I have a lot of songs – I write them, and then demo them, and it’s about turning those demos into something that’s listenable for everybody else. What shape that’s going to take? I’m not sure. Whether it’s an album or an EP – I don’t know.

How do you go about the songwriting process?

Well, I’ve been writing for 11 years; I wrote my first song when I was 13.

Do you still play that song?

The first song I wrote was actually pretty good! But there was a lot of shit that came after that. I don’t necessarily play stuff from when I was a teen, but I do mine it occasionally for musical ideas, not lyrical ideas, but musical ideas for sure.

‘Hustler’ was written in 2009, so it was a while ago, whereas ‘This Life’ was written last year. ‘Hustler’ is a song that is essentially relevant to me, I don’t feel dishonest reproducing it now as opposed to four years ago – I’m comfortable with it.

It does feel very honest – how did it come about? What more you can say about it?

I guess essentially it was an exploration. Everybody has their self-destructive elements, so I guess I was struggling from that a bit at the time. It was written very quickly, in like 20 minutes, whereas ‘This Life’ was more of a construction, which is funny because I think they sound the opposite.

How has it felt getting all that attention over the Internet? How do you feel about the way the industry works now from your point of view?

Obviously it’s really exciting; it’s great to get some recognition and validation and to go, “Okay I can do this”, but at the same time I do think, it’s a shame.

It’s not gonna change the way I write, or how I think about it, and at the end of the day it’s like as quickly as it’s whipped up it can die, so I’m under no illusions about that; you’re only as good as your next song.

I just think it’s a shame because I think people don’t really get time to develop themselves properly. It seems like you can put one good song out there and then everybody thinks it’s all about that. Maybe your next song isn’t as great, then you’re used goods. Whereas I feel back in the day, you had like two or three albums, you had time to make mistakes and fuck around before you were under such scrutiny.

Do you think that puts extra pressure on your songwriting?

I just don’t know if there’s a one-size-fits all approach. We’ve put out two songs and I think whatever comes next will be something more. I think that’s the only way to do it now, unless you’re picked up by a record label when you’re really young and then they develop you. But I don’t know how that works, because that’s not how I did it.

I feel lucky because I was able to develop a style of songwriting outside external influence. I had to answer my own questions. I’ve never done a co-write or that kind of stuff. I am really looking forward to getting to, but it’s meant I’ve had to rely on my own devices, which means I’m confident with what I have to offer. I’m happy about my situation but I don’t know how easy it is to create it – if you have that luxury, the luxury of time, you should definitely take it!

So are you working with anyone else at all at the moment?

Well Rich Cooper produced ‘This Life’, I’m working with him. He’s produced a bunch of other stuff which is in the live set. I haven’t done a co-write because I guess a sound is developing, but I wouldn’t say that I have one specific sound.

The two tracks are quite different – was that a conscious decision?

I don’t think I can help it! Once I get one song done I don’t want to write another the same because then I feel like, oh shit that’s done, i’m fucked! So every song is quite different. I do think ‘This Life’ and ‘Hustler’ are darker and more down-beat, which is a word that’s tossed around a lot.

What are you listening to at the moment?

The most recent thing I’ve got excited about is actually Mykki Blanco.

We saw him at Birthdays recently – he’s clearly a massive talent and it’s a real show.

It is the most exciting stuff I’ve come across in a little while, I guess because it’s a multi-faceted and extensive experience. I would love to see him live – what did he do?

There was quite a lot of stripping! So would you say you’re into that kind of music?

I’m not genre biased, not at all, like I wouldn’t say I love rap. My access point throughout was Missy Elliot and then through her I got into some ambient stuff. I just feel like Mykki Blanco happens to be doing rap, but it’s intelligent, the direction is interesting and he could be doing anything; the persona is really interesting.

There’s a lot of beautiful music out there, like London Grammar; it’s just beautiful, incredible, like other-worldly. They’re also playing at Blissfields, so I’m looking forward to that.

Blissfields sounds good then – Chloë Howl is playing there too. You played with her at The Old Blue Last recently – how was that?

Yeah it was good. I’ve only done 5 shows thus far, so it’s early days in that respect. I performed a lot when I was a student; a lot of my friends were really good musicians, so I was fortunate and could always perform my own stuff. I had a band or sometimes it was just me and a piano. Then I didn’t really gig for three years ’cause I moved to Spain, so this is the first time I’ve got to a point where I’m happy with the the sound – it’s early days performing the songs as they sound.

What’s your live show like?

It’s a really simple set up, just me and a guy. At the moment it’s backing-tracks but they’ve been programmed in such a way to try and create a more live experience. It’s something I want to grow and I’d love to reproduce the songs with a band, but that’s hard! I’ve been in the country for a year now and it’s hard to do unless you have an extensive network of contacts, people willing to do it for nothing, or money and I don’t really have any of those things!

So what brought you to London?

It’s just the most obvious place to come in terms of the sound that comes out of London and has always come out of this country. I lean more to that. The Americans have it a lot cleaner, particularly for the types of songs I write. They could easily be swallowed up into sort of beige pop stuff. Also culturally, coming from Australia – it’s easy to get here, easy to stay here.

I grew up in Sydney, but home is here now. I don’t know when I’ll be going back to Australia to live, maybe much later in life!

There’s a lot of exciting stuff coming out of Australia at the moment – Flume immediately comes to mind.

And there’s so much more of that. Just listen to Triple J like evening time in Australia. You can stream it online. There is a lot of really, really good stuff.

George Maple’s another one.

Yeah, I really like George Maple, I was gonna try and get down to that show but I couldn’t. Was it good?

It was very impressive for a first show. Do you think it’s good to be able to hold-off live shows?

Yeah absolutely. If I could’ve put-off the live shows a little bit more I probably would have. I mean she has a band! But, yeah, the first show, which was sort of under the radar, I think that was a bit dodgy! Oh gosh the very, very, first one.

I heard differently!

Fantastic! I’m just happy to be getting out there and doing it because it’s been a long time and I do really like live stuff, playing and singing to a bunch of people, I mean that’s why I do it in the first place, that’s why you do it right? I suppose not for some people!

You’re on The Line of Best Fit stage at The Great Escape – we’re looking forward to that. How about a horrible question – have you got a Desert Island disk?

So if I was stuck on a desert island what would be the one CD I could take with me? Ah Jesus, that’s so fucking awful!

It can be a Salvat compilation.

Shit. What would I take. I want a bit of everything! When i was growing up I listened to a lot of classical music and then the modern stuff, in between commas, in my parents record collection was like Art Of Noise, Bruce Springsteen, Jethro Tull, Nina Simone, Edith Piaf and Billy Holiday.

So on this compilation I’d have: ‘Don’t Smoke In Bed’ by Nina Simone. And then I have to say – I don’t know if I could listen to it for the rest of my life, but I think it’s one of the most genius pieces of songwriting I’ve ever heard – ‘Rolling In The Deep’ by Adele; it hits the nail on the head I think, it’s a pretty perfect song. I’d probably pop in something by Jacques Brel, ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’. And maybe… I just really like this Mykki Blanco song, ‘Mendocino California’.

Sounds like a good mix. What’s your plans for the weekend? Everyone’s excited for the the bank holiday.

I know, and the weather! It’s a miracle! I don’t have many plans. My Mum’s in town which is really lovely, she just surprised me, literally rocked up on my door step, I had no idea she’d come all the way over from Australia, so that’s really nice.

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