Saturday, April 08, 2017

Josef Salvat

This evening for "music night" I share Australian singer-songwriter Josef Salvat's "Hustler," from his 2015 album Night Swim.

"Hustler" was first released in 2013, as a self-released single entitled "The Hustler," and according to Songwriting Magazine, it "stood out like a small, glowing pearl of creativity in a sea of identikit dross."

In an interview in the same magazine Salvat was asked: "The words to 'The Hustler' are quite dark, aren’t they? Are we right in thinking the song’s about a rent boy?" To which Salvat's responded:

Not really . . . well, it could be about a rent boy, yeah, but it’s really about anyone who’s got depressive tendencies, or slightly masochistic tendencies. It seems if your mind tends to work that way then you’re always drawn to something destructive, whether it’s drink, or drugs, or unhealthy sex. So really it’s about behaviour that’s unhealthy for your head . . . which I guess being a rent boy would be, I mean, I’ve never been one! [laughs] But the hustler, as in the title, is really just an opportunistic character.

In a more recent piece, music critic Andrew Hannah reflects on Night Swim and in particular the song "Hustler," which he says "feels like the most important song on the record." Continues Hannah:

It’s important for a number of reasons: it feels honest, it captures a young man dealing with a lot of psychological and physical questions . . . and of course there is the striking video which has got people talking.

It's not easy on my bed sheets
It's not easy on my nerves
It's not easy on my conscience
It's not easy on my soul

This is not what you wanted
What you wanted for me
I know that much now
My apologies

You would call me a harlot
You would call me a whore
But see I'm a man now
I'm worth so much more

But I've got the heart of a hustler
With a hustler's pain
I've got the heart of a hustler
With all the hustler's shame
I've got the body of a lover
With a masochist's brain
I've got the heart of hustler
I'm playing a dangerous game

The mind says no sir
But the body says please
The heart stays silent
Such a silent tease

And I don't know why I'm telling you this
Maybe I've gotta get it off my unholy chest
There's a road once traveled
But one I haven't walked down yet
And it calls my name (it calls my name)
Yes, it calls my name
It's a darker path
And it calls my name

I've got the heart of a hustler
With a hustler's pain
I've got the heart of a hustler
With all the hustler's shame
I've got the body of a lover
With a masochist's brain
I've got the heart of hustler
I'm playing a dangerous game

I close by sharing a second excerpt from "The Heart of a Hustler," Andrew Hannah's insightful 2016 interview with Josef Salvat.

Night Swim . . . sounds like a record with a strong artistic statement, made by someone who while perhaps still finding their place in the world is confident enough to admit their confusion. “It’s not that I’m confident in the person that I am,” he says. “Okay, I said some of the songs are not truthful but that’s not like I fabricated things…aspirational instead of dishonest is what I mean. I’m uncomfortable with…every time I have a question about myself and how I’m feeling you just have to assess what is there, you have to come to terms with that. If that is confidence, then fine. I’m not sure what confidence is actually. You can only ever work with what you’ve got, and the best way to do that is to understand what you’ve got."

"I’m not sure I’m comfortable with who I am, and in fact [the confidence] comes from a place of tremendous discomfort if anything. But I have to understand because I don’t know anything else. From knowing that and dealing with that I can come to understand other people’s experiences rather than try to copy another person’s identity.”

Identity is key to Night Swim in that Salvat flatly refuses to be pigeonholed. Whether it’s his sexuality – and in researching this interview I found three different magazines calling him either gay, straight or bisexual – his feelings or his definition of what it means to be a man or masculine, the singer follows his own path: “Growing up it was so tempting to just copy the performance of different types of masculinity or different types of social interaction,” he says. You can hear it in the songs. Alongside “Hustler”, there’s the man in “This Life” who proclaims “If you’re drunk I’ll get done quicker”; yet there’s also the person in “The Days” who sings “and you learn that a soul has got to change”. A fluid take on masculinity for sure, and Salvat says of this “I definitely tried to copy, I just wasn’t any good at it! And it was never very convincing. So I just stumbled along with my own thing . . .”

. . . So who is Josef Salvat? He’s the hustler and the romantic, the animal, the aspiring lover and the artist. “I feel like I’m the latter and I think you can hear that in the album,” comes the immediate reply. “It’s taught me so much about what I want to do with everything. I have to do it an album at a time, rather than on one record. I’m getting to be the most extreme version of myself and I want to take more chances.”

Related Off-site Links:
Rising Australian Singer Josef Salvat: From Studying Law to Studying Sia – Megan Buerger (Billboard, October 3, 2014).
The Heart of a Hustler – Andrew Hannah (The Line of Best Fit, March 1, 2016).
Josef Salvat: “I’ve Never Wanted to Be Defined by Anything, Not Just Sexuality – Dean Eastmond (Hiskind, March 27, 2016).

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