Artist Q & A: Joyce Prescher

Joyce Prescher
Photo by Rhea Caldwell

Netherlands born come Melbourne resident folk singer-songwriter Joyce Prescher has been active on many musical fronts over the years. She’s spent a lot of time on bigger projects like Songs in the South, Sing a Song of Sixpence and Keep the Circle Unbroken with her good friend Delsinki. Now it’s time for her to release her forthcoming album’s lead single Sleep Now before the big launch at George Lane on Thursday, April 7. The track is officially due for release on Monday, March 28 and pre-saves are available now.

With the music scene getting back on its feet, it’s time for Unpaved to return to our task of highlighting great local music. To that end, we ran some questions past Joyce about her musical past, present and future.

I feel like every musician should be rewarded for enduring the pandemic and still producing great, original work. Tell us how you’ve kept your creative output up in these tough times?

Haha! Well I can’t say it has been easy. There were times when I looked at my guitars and thought ‘What’s the point even?’ There were people who created bodies of new work during. I can’t say I felt particularly inspired, but I pushed myself to stay connected to music. When I can’t find that spark I usually try and listen to lots of music, talk to peers, maybe co-write etc. Just to ignite that flame.

With that said I had an album to complete, so it’s not like I wasn’t doing anything. And working on something like that is very motivating. I was also lucky enough to have pretty exciting projects between lockdowns and just after and I am thankful to have such an amazing group of musician friends who always push me and inspire me or are there when I need a shoulder.

You’ve been in Melbourne for a fairly long time. How does this city compare to where you grew up and started performing in the Netherlands?

I think for me it’s very different. I have lived in Melbourne now for most of my adult life, so I feel that I have really only truly evolved as an artist here. Where I grew up was quite small in comparison to Melbourne, with less opportunities and maybe less room for dreams in general. I feel like I did a lot of groundwork there though. I watched so much live music, always have. Listened to lots of different artists, started writing and performing. I grew up around a lot of creative friends, many of them are still in music or arts now. But as an artist I was still finding myself. Back in those days I probably would have seen myself evolve into a different type of artist too, maybe not folk but more rock.

I feel like the words to your new Sleep Now open up a lot of questions, with various characters and actions taking place. I understand you were coming to terms with losing your father when you wrote it. Can you shed some light on how it arrived at its final form?

This was one of those songs where the words just poured out, and only over time have I been able to make more sense of it myself. To me there are actually not that many characters. Without going into too much detail, my father’s death was probably a long time coming as he struggled with addiction for most of my life.

I think as you grow older you start seeing your parents in a different way, and maybe understand things better and see the sacrifices they have made. Looking back made me realise how much we all shape our lives around others. We grow up thinking the world has endless opportunities, but then as we mature this somehow narrows. Suddenly you’re living this life and you’re like, hang on, is this it? We actually give up much of ourselves for others. I am not saying this is a bad thing. But Sleep Now for me poses the question ‘How much of yourself and your dreams do you let go of and if you do hold on to your dreams, what’s the sacrifice then? How will people perceive you?’ I am very good at trying to keep other people happy, but not always as good in working out how to do that for myself.

I think when someone close to you dies, it presents those types of questions. You realise that life is not forever and so you have to stay true to yourself to some degree. Sorry if that went a little dark.

No apology required! I can also hear you’ve given huge consideration to instrumentation and recording. 

I get very excited about instruments that dance together and take up different spaces in a song. Or where it feels like sound travels around or through you. Sounds that intensify then fade. I love dynamics, light and shade, it’s a great way to tell a story. I love that about the cello and the lap steel in Sleep Now, combined with the subtly layered vocals.  When we picked the instruments and musicians we kept that in mind, we wanted to create a particular mood and I think we’ve achieved that. I also really wanted to explore my vocals more for these songs compared to on my first album ‘Home’. Not that the vocals are bad on that album, but I do feel like I have taken them to a new level.

You’ve built a reputation as a great collaborator.

That’s a huge compliment. I think I just give credit where credit is due. There’s a lot of talent out there and a lot of great people to work with. I find it truly inspiring to work with others, and you learn so much from it. I am an easy to talk to person I think too, which helps in shaping connections. And I am confident enough to approach people. It helps that I didn’t grow up here, I sometimes don’t know enough about people’s backgrounds to be starstruck. And we are all just people in the end.

Tell us about some of the highlights or stories from the various shows and tours.

Hahaha! What happens on the road stays on the road? I have definitely been lucky in the last few years, even during these lockdowns. I have managed to tour with some fabulous people, as part of Keep the Circle Unbroken and Sing a Song of Sixpence tours (which I have Delsinki to thank for really). I loved the JTE tribute too; it really gave me something to look forward to during that last lockdown and I made lovely new friends.

I did have a funny experience (though at the time not so fun) on the Sing a Song of Sixpence tour recently. Myself and Van Walker were driving back from a regional show to the accommodation but took a wrong turn. Since it was in a fairly remote area this meant getting stuck on the freeway for quite some time in the middle of the night and what was meant to be a six minute journey turned into a lengthy one. Possibly ’cause my car is quite small, I upset a truck driver (or was it my driving?) without initially noticing in fact. This turned into an overtaking game then slamming on the breaks (the truck) and us missing yet another exit as the truck blocked it. At the time I felt like crying and the others were quite worried when we hadn’t gotten back yet. In a way we hoped the truck would stop us and Van could get out of the car, that would have been pretty funny. We had a nice jam on the porch after, so the evening still turned great afterwards.

George Lane sounds like an ideal place for this launch. What can audiences expect on the night?

This venue is so beautiful, I am very excited about it. I have a great band supporting me, the room is superbly decorated, has a great sound system and passionate people who work there. I just want to bring people a night of music they hopefully connect to and will remember. The band will be made up of Tom Brooks, Lachlan Bryan, Jeff Consi, Craig Kelly and XANI. My friend Bec Sykes is opening and I love her songs, so I am thrilled about that too.

How can people best keep track of your work?

I try and keep my socials up to date (mostly Instagram and Facebook as well as my website). But you can find me on Bandcamp, Spotify, SoundCloud, Apple Music, YouTube. Pretty much everywhere? I am going to be releasing much more music this year so watch this space!

Tickets available now: Joyce Prescher with full band, Sleep Now single launch, 6:30pm Thursday 7 April 2022, George Lane, St Kilda

Pre-save Sleep Now

Single photo: Peter de Wit
Single artwork: Studio Equator
About Les Thomas 106 Articles
Narrm/Melbourne singer-songwriter and Unpaved editor