Ode To Foy

A Bangor musician who reckons Ed Sheeran’s young fans thought he was Ed’s “demented uncle” on tour, Foy Vance is really a long-latent talent who’s struck creative gold somewhere in the Scottish Highlands.

Half a decade after Hope, the debut that never stood out to him as an “articulate piece of work”, Foy Vance headed for the hills. In between, the man from County Down hadn’t been standing still – he’d performed everywhere, even prisons, and had fruitful collaborations with David Holmes, soundtracking Terry George’s Oscar-winning The Shore – but the absence of a new long-player betrayed how lost he felt inside.

“I got disheartened with making a record,” he confides, leaning over his guitar and peering up beneath his flat cap, “So I didn’t make one until I had something to say. I searched and searched for something worth saying, and realised nothing’s worth saying. But, being that I’ve got to do this for a living, I may as well say something about nothing!”

Leaving a relationship and the “hubbub” of London behind, the “stillness of the Highlands” spoke to Vance. And then the songs came. Uplifting songs that nod towards the work of David Gray, coming from a voice on speaking terms with Paul Buchanan. All gathered together under a fitting title: Joy

Of Nothing.

“I don’t feel part of the industry, I’m really not interested in that. I appreciate people who are really good at it and really tenacious about that marriage between their artistry and the industry. I’m not that guy. For me it was one or the other.”

He cites Damien Rice’s O as an example of someone pulling off that trick.

“He taught himself, knew the industry inside-out, but didn’t compromise on his artistry at all.”

You could argue the trick took its toll on the Kildare songwriter. One more album in 2006 and near-silence ever since.

“I think if I was Damien I’d probably be at home writing for my own pleasure as well!” he counters. “I’ve no doubt he’s still writing and still painting. He’s doing his own thing and fair play; he’s worked hard for it.”

If Joy Of Nothing, recorded in Donegal and released through Glassnote, takes off, what’s his own idyllic next step?

“Start painting!” Vance laughs. “Do fuck all again! No, I’ll always write, no matter what. I like playing live. I’ll always tour.”

The venues have been getting larger of late, particularly during his time supporting Ed Sheeran in the US. And if he has a soft spot for the road, it stems from the fact that he’s

been taking his 10-year-old daughter along for the ride.

“It’s beautiful,” he beams. “On the last two tours that she came on with me, we’ve just really bonded. I love having her on tour with me so she’ll be coming on the next one. It’s an unknown, what way she’ll respond to being on the road. She’ll either take to it really well and be an absolute nun or she’ll be the opposite and I’ll end up in prison!”

It must have been a dream come true for a young girl: travelling with Sheeran and

Rizzle Kicks.

“Yeah, she loves them. They are really, really lovely guys. Though there were times when it was very obvious that I’m a 38-year-old man with a daughter on a bus travelling with 19-year-olds. Ed’s a regular bloke. It’s the boy next-door type thing. And he can sing and play and write songs that relate to his generation. I mean, he has a wide audience but it was mainly young girls screaming at gigs!”

Some of the hysteria even spilled over into Vance’s sets.

“There was a little bit of screaming. It must have looked like Ed had wheeled his demented uncle out on stage for the craic! Who is this guy singing about heartache and cancer and shit? But no, they were great.”

Vance has also been opening for country-blues legend – and Joy Of Nothing guest –

Bonnie Raitt.

“She’s just a legend of a woman in every sense of the word. There’s very few people

that have been doing it that long and still deliver live. When she plays, she’s not going through the motions. Very personable, very down to earth.”

Comparing it to his experience with Ed, he says it was night and day.

“It was the other end of the ‘ginger scale’!” he laughs. “You should get that going in Hot Press – you could have Glen Hansard in the middle! Although he’s closer to legend, isn’t he? He might be up there with Bonnie Raitt.”

Foy himself is shaven-headed, but his recently-acquired moustache suggests we’ll have to find him a decent spot on that scale, particularly if Joy Of Nothing crosses over . Not that he’s too fussed.

“If it didn’t have a single solitary sale, I’d still have the fact that it’s an articulate record. And now I’ve got a good group of people around me, it feels like a perfect greenhouse.”

 

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