To mark his headline tour, Joseph Lyons explains why honesty is key
Jasmine Cowler

13:06 14th May 2015

The debut album from Heavenly Records' folk singer Eaves (a.k.a Joseph Lyons) possesses a haunting intensity and maturity that is the pefect sum of his 23 years.

His spirited and heartfelt subject matter on What Green Feels Like has seen him featured on Radio 1 and garnered him invitations to perform with Nick Mulvey and Radiohead's Philip Selway. In the process of adjusting to his new-found success - and in a break from this month's European headline tour - we caught up with Eaves to discuss honesty, Bob Dylan’s penchant for borrowing lyrics, electro-swing and the perils of playing while paralytically drunk.

Gigwise: What song on the album has the most meaning to you and why?
Eaves: I think there's sentiment in all of them but my favourite is ‘Dove In Your Mouth’. It’s the last track that I wrote going into the record and it was when I'd just met my current girlfriend. It has a fresh potency and is the catalyst to the next lot of music.

What do people get wrong about you?
I’ve had people compare me to Jeff Buckley but then the next time round they'll say David Gray! To be honest I don't think I sound like either of them directly. I'm definitely inspired by Jeff Buckley: it's frustrating but it's understandable. I think it's just trying to find my own sound. It's my first record and it's very eclectic - and the way it could go now is any direction - but it was really important for me to test every genre. Some of it is simple singer-songwriter and some of it's quite trippy and heavy.

There seemed to be a lot of metal vibes coming through on the record 
Yes... I've been waiting to purge that bit out! It'll probably come out a bit more in records to come.

Did you listen to a lot of metal when you were growing up?
There was a stage when I was in my late teens. I was really into Mastodon and the whole heavy rock thing and then obviously grunge like Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains and Nirvana, so that never really left. And I was into prog at the same time so that's how I was teaching myself guitar. I would learn that kind of music.

What do you think about Tidal?
Well, I don't know anything about it but if it works then that's grand. It's never really bothered me because I used to stream so, in that sense anyone in the world can hear whatever music they would like and I think that's such a great thing. Not everybody has the cash every week to go out and to buy the music and to go to the gig but people need it...If the industry had got on it early on when streaming first happened then it might have been a different story.

Do you ever worry about the modern nature of disposable music and the impact it could have on you?
I don't worry about that because you want to find fans that are there with you and who are there with you forever for your whole career. That disposable bit helps a lot because it filters out the people who are fickle listeners.

What do you hope this album will do to people?
I think generally, music does things to people that they have in their minds and heads and that they want to say to people but they can’t. So I think music is like your friend. You listen to it and it’s like ‘this person knows what I'm talking about’. If the songwriter's honest then anyone who's listened to it who's been through the same thing then doesn’t have to talk about it. Because listening to the song is kind of that sort of emotional release. I want it to do the same thing that music does for me.

Are songs that are personal more meaningful than those that aren't?
I wouldn't say it's more meaningful but I would say it's always more honest. If you write down a lyric and you think it's bad, you cross it out, that's fine. I think if you look at a lyric and you think 'Oh that's too honest' and then you cross it out, that's a mistake. You shouldn't put a wall in front of you, you're only limiting yourself. With music there's no place you can't go with it. If you stop yourself writing or playing a certain kind of music then you're only limiting your ability to progress so I think honesty is super important.

Growing up in Manchester what sort of nights did you go to?
This might sound strange but I didn't go to too many gigs in Manchester or to many bars. All my mates studied in Leeds so I was going there quite a lot. I did see some odd shows like Mumford & Son's at the Ruby Lounge before they released their first EP. And Mr Scruff! I was an absolute fiend for that sort of music. He would do Bang on the Wall the first Saturday of every month so that would be the big night out. We would always go to that.

What's your worst gig that you've had?
I have one of my good friends coming along tour with me in May, doing backing vocals, but before I started getting attention she was doing really well with lots of gigs. So she asked me to do a gig in Manchester and - this is the only time, it's never happened since - but I got absolutely annihilated. Somehow on stage she turned into this angelic kind of being and I turned into like a solid lump of nothing and I couldn't really perform. All I could remember was how angry I was the next day! So afterwards I just drank more to get over it. But that was a massive lesson to me because it's just not viable.

What's the strangest gift you've ever got from a fan?
I've never got a gift from a fan! Nick Mulvey and his girlfriend gave me a flower once. It was really beautiful and that's the only present I've ever got. It was at Green Man Festival on the Saturday night but I lost it like, an hour later and I really wanted it. They're real hippies.

What musical trend needs to stop?
Is dubstep still a thing? Maybe that. There are trends that I really don't like though that gave birth to ones that I really do like. Stuff like electro swing is amazing. My friends’ are in an electro swing band and they're actually amazing and they introduced me to it. I know before that was coming up they were really into that other heavier stuff so it got them into it.

Has there ever been a time when you've been starstruck?
I've never seriously hung out behind the venue or anything. I've always been weird with that kind of thing. I went to see Neil Young in Hyde Park and my booking agents booked me as well on that show...there was an opportunity for me to go back and meet him and I avoided it. I'd never seen him play before so I kind of wanted to see him play first. He's certainly a hero of mine but I don't know how he feels about that now. To see him on stage was more than enough and that's how I feel generally about a lot of artists.

Is there a particular album or artist that really inspired you when  you were growing up?
Bob Dylan's The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. That was something I used to play on repeat. I would listen to it for days. There were lots of albums that did that but that made me want to be a songwriter basically. 'Girl From The North Country' is my favourite. Although I found out later on, my mum pointed this out actually - and I got really pissed off - but she compared it to Simon and Garfunkel's 'Scarborough Fair'. She pointed out that the first line of every verse is the same. He literally just took it from them and just changed it into his own track which I don't think I ever would have known but it's true. It’s one of the best love songs.

What are you looking forward to most this year?
There's another EP coming in October which is three tracks that didn't go on the record but that I think are the best songs. It’s a lot darker and rockier and at the same time they'll be a deluxe edition on the record with them on. I'm looking forward to having them all together.

Eaves What Green Feels Like is out now (Heavenly Recordings). He is playing Secret Garden Party in July and On Blackheath in September.

Issue Four of the Gigwise Print magazine is on pre-order now! Order here.

Photo: Press