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  • Writer's pictureDanny Wiser

TONGA/AUSTRALIA: You Make Me Believe - Joel Havea

Updated: Mar 21, 2023

Havea's independently released debut album is a set of genuinely uplifting and engaging tunes

The sense of wanderlust and adventure that characterises many backpackers is something that shines through in Tonga-born Joel Havea's wonderful debut album. Like many young Australians, Havea had his heart set on a trip across Europe. However, his sense of exploration led him to stay on the continent for many years, pitching his metaphorical tent up in Hamburg, Germany where he recorded You Make Me Believe. The daring nature that inspired a move to a new place is something that has been passed down the generations as his mother came to Melbourne from The Netherlands, and his father left the small Pacific nation where he grew up, to work as a doctor in the Australian metropolis.

“Self-made/self-funded debut records are always a tricky mission to get right, however Havea nails it.”

Havea’s most reggae-inflected song Homesick makes references to the momentary regret one might experience when living so far away from home, however, it is clear that for the most part Havea doesn’t regret his travels as he seemingly adopted a creative license and freedom one might only feel able to explore when in a completely new environment. Homesick comes in the second half of the album, which though I feel is lyrically stronger than the first half, perhaps lacks the sheer quantity of memorable tracks that stand him out from the crowd in the opening section.

The first track Make Me Believe is just one of a selection of catchy pop songs that stay in the mind for a long time. His floaty style on songs like Little Bird is reminiscent of performers like Jack Johnson whilst he also shows himself off to have almost a country-inflected style on tracks like the rather beautiful My Dear which serves as a powerful proclamation of unrequited love. Though Havea maybe finds himself at his most comfortable in an acoustic role, with his major influences being the likes of singer-songwriters such as Van Morrison and Tracey Chapman, the quality of his voice is enhanced by atmospheric instrumentation, such as the percussion on tracks like Pick up My Guitar.

However, despite the catchiness of the record ever so slightly tailing off at Find Your Way, Havea gifts us with my favourite song of the entire album right at the finish, arguably bookending the record with the two best songs. Heavens Sake is a genuine stone cold banger, for this song alone the album is worth a listen. It shows off Havea at his best. The stripped back nature of the track allows the audience to enjoy his soulful voice, memorable yet meaningful lyrics and a thoroughly enjoyable melody.

Self-made/self-funded debut records are always a tricky mission to get right, however Havea nails it. The music industry is full of artists who believe they have something special and unique, yet when it comes to putting out their own sound for the world to hear, more often than not these type of albums are accompanied by the sound of tumbleweed in the distance as they fail to make an impact. Despite Havea clearly having a sense of confidence in his talent, to be bold enough to make the decision to entirely self-make the album, he does not share the sense of delusion that many do, as he is a genuinely talented artist, whose authentic yet sometimes mischievous voice makes it apparent that he loves what he does making both him and his music incredibly amiable.


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