Josh Pyke has family life in harmony with new album
JOSH Pyke is a dad with a man shed of a different kind.
The ARIA Award-winning singer songwriter penned his fifth studio album, But For All These Shrinking Hearts, in his backyard studio.
The 50sq m shed is filled with instruments including drums, a piano and guitars.
It's his workspace, separating his songwriting efforts from the daily routines of his young family's Sydney home.
"It's just about being able to have my own space and it is truly mine," he tells Weekend.
"I can engage in that world and then walk back into family life."
The 37-year-old has sons Archer, 4, and Augie, 2, with wife Sarah. The boys are allowed in the music shed when Pyke's not working.
"The youngest, in particular, likes playing the drums," he says.
"They're both into music now and discovering music they like. Archer has always been obsessed with songs, while Augie is drawn to playing instruments. But he's only two; the world is wide open for him. I'm certainly not going to push any expectation on what he's going to do."
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Pyke household is one filled with more than the typical preschool soundtrack of The Wiggles and Dora The Explorer.
"Holly Throsby's children's album is amazing. She's a mate of mine and they're really into that," he says.
"Archer is also obsessed with the song Rio from the film (of the same name), and the song We Are Family from the film Ice Age 4."
Archer can be heard singing in the song Hollering Hearts, from Pyke's new album, when the song is listened to through headphones.
"He's piping up in the left (side)," Pyke says.
"He's super stoked about it."
But the father-of-two draws the line at including specific references to his children in his lyrics.
"It's one thing for me to expose things about myself in songs but I don't think it's fair for me to expose too much about them in songs," he says.
"I do try to have enough imagery and metaphor that people will relate to a song as being about them even if it's obviously about me."
But For All These Shrinking Hearts marks a turning point in Pyke's career as he makes the transition from independent artist to the roster of a major label (Sony).
The move to Sony hasn't changed anything creatively, as evidenced by the consistency in the sound of his latest release.
One thing fatherhood has forced upon his songwriting is structure.
Pyke set aside several hours each day to work on But For All These Shrinking Hearts in his shed in between preschool pick-ups and drop-offs.
"Mentally, and for being a comfortably functioning person, structure is what I needed," he says.
"Having that framework to work within has been good. It makes you more productive and makes you stay more present. In the creative industry it's easy to disappear into your own mind.
"Walking back into family life, you can't be dwelling in your own mind and thinking about esoteric concepts."
His two young sons are still wrapping their heads around what it is daddy does for a job.
"It's hard for me to quantify what I do to anybody let alone a little kid. They think that every song they ever hear is one of my songs," he laughs.
"Archer was able to come to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra shows I did earlier this year and that was a really beautiful thing to be able to do so he can understand what it is I do for a living. I think it's still a little bit odd for them."
He says that work-family balance, especially when it comes to touring in support of a new album, is a goal he is constantly striving towards.
"It all (fatherhood) happened at a point in my career where it could happen," he says.
"When I'm touring in Australia I'm only ever away for four nights a week in the peak periods, and that only lasts for four or five weeks. There are months when I'm just at home.
"I used to tour for five or six weeks at a time and I wouldn't be home at all."
But all that structure which makes life with two toddlers manageable doesn't always fuel the creative process.
Pyke can't just lock himself in the shed and pump out lyrics and melodies on command.
"Essentially what you're doing is structuring time within which you hope lightning will strike," he says.
"There's still an element of magic and unpredictability. You've just created this space and time in which you hope it will happen."
For a man renowned as a lyricist, he can't help but fall back on clichés when speaking about how fatherhood has changed and surprised him.
"It's a cliché, but the capacity you have for compassion and empathy and love is limitless," he says.
"That's definitely the surprising thing. You basically become a servant to your children. I mean that in the literal sense but also you realise you're there to serve these other humans.
"It's no secret musicians are often driven by ego and attention. You can't be like that when you have kids, if you want to do a good job at it.
"You have to give yourself fully to that world (of parenting) and it contains many, many surprises - all positive."
Josh Pyke plays the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers on September 20 and the Caloundra Music Festival on October 2.