Music Interview: Chatting with Josef Salvat

by Hanne Nord

27-year-old Aussie singer-songwriter Josef Salvat just released his first album, Night Swim, and soon sets off on tour, starting in the UK. He has already received a lot of praise for the album, including a four star review from The Guardian, and has without question a lot going for him. I interviewed him shortly before his album release, and when I wondered about what to expect, he replied: ”Ask for the world, expect nothing.” I am however sure that Salvat’s talent will win him a bigger slice of the world than he’s prepared for.

Firstly, ‘Paradise’ is great, and makes me very excited for Night Swim. I noticed you’ve made a French version of the song. Why? 

Really simply, because I could. They wanted to put it out as a single over there, and since I did a French version of Open Season and it had worked, I decided to do one for Paradise too.There’s something I quite like about singing in French.

I know just about enough French to tell that your French version of ‘Paradise’ has similarities with the English one, but it’s not exactly a translation. How do you go about making two different versions of the same song? 

Exactly right, they’re adaptations. My French is not quite good enough to do it on my own. I worked with this guy called Doriand, who does this sort of thing a lot with English speaking singers who do French versions of their songs. The important things are overall sentiment, and then the rhythm of the melody. The precise rhymes and things can change, but the melodic rhythm and basic structure has to be respected or the song starts to really change.

Sony promoting your brilliant cover of Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’ seems to many online sources to be how you got your first international recognition. How do you feel about someone else’s song taking some of the credit for your hard work? 

It strikes me as odd because to my mind I had way more press before Diamonds than I did after it and I had actually finished production of my album before Diamonds was released. But I suppose Diamonds opened a lot of doors. Although I saw someone describe me as a ‘covers artist’ the other day and it made me want to kick them in the face. But I got over it.

Are there any songs you’d love to cover, but don’t feel you can or have the right to?

Most songs for sure, particularly older songs. My thing with covers is if you can’t make it a better song OR you can’t bring a completely fresh perspective to it then don’t do it.

On a slightly different note: What do you feel about streaming sites such as Spotify? Will all you music be available there?

I think Spotify is a great platform for emerging artists, less so for established ones. I think overall streaming is beneficial to music makers and music listeners alike. It democratizes everything. My music is definitely going to be on Spotify. I would be worried if any one streaming service became a monopoly, particularly with respect to the control it would have over which artists it supports and what artists it doesn’t.

You start touring with the new album in March – what are you looking forward to the most? 

Meeting the people who come to the shows. Always good.

Is there anything bad about being on tour? I can imagine travelling so many different places must be wonderful, but maybe there’s something that’s not as glamorous as it seems? 

It’s very difficult to establish a routine on tour, which most people take for granted. It’s hard to see much of the places you visit because there’s generally a tight schedule. And also, it’s glamorous if you’re making loads of money and can afford to pay for the glamour. If not, it’s a splitter van and an Ibis budget and really, really fantastic clothes.

And lastly, because London is where I’ll catch you live: Is there anything special about the London crowd? 

They’re notoriously hard to please, which I guess means that when they’re happy you’ve done an amazing job. I’ve always found them very generous though, even when they tried not to be.


Latitude Lookout is seeing Josef Salvat at Heaven, March 8th. Be sure to get your ticket for the Night Swim tour before it’s too late!