- 29 Aug 07
He once played a gig in a Belfast loo. Now Foy Vance is hanging out with David Holmes and has seen his music make the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack
When Bangor troubadour Foy Vance declines to meet Hot Press for a coffee, we’re paranoid as to why. Did we come on too strong? Was it our hair? It’s only when he explains over the phone that he’s in the studio with David Holmes that we can see his point.
“I’m laying down vocals and other parts, and it’s going really well,” he says of his guest appearance on Mr Holmes’ new album. “It’s interesting to see how he works in a studio environment – he’s clear in what he wants all the time, and that vision’s obvious in his music. But not many people know that he makes the best bacon sandwich. Really, they’re amazing!”
David Holmes is the latest in a long line of artists associated with Vance, who released his first single less than a year ago.
Already, he’s played shows of artists in the calbre of Pete Townshend, Joss Stone and KT Tunstall. But it’s his full European tour with Bonnie Raitt that he holds closes to his heart.
“I have to admit that before the tour began, I knew I liked her voice but I never bought an album. But I vividly remember watching her by the side of the stage on the first date, at the Apollo in Manchester, and I got goosebumps from watching her sing. There was a real sense of heritage and authority about her voice.
“We still keep in touch. In the few weeks after the tour finished, she’d send me CDs from Amazon telling me that I should listen to this album, I’ll love it. That’s such a thoughtful thing to do.”
Presumably rubbing shoulders with the likes of Bonnie Raitt and Pete Townshend is a major perk of the job?
“It’s lovely, but it’s not why I do it. Nor is about holding a physical album in my hand. It’s not the affirmation at all – it’s the feeling when a song almost accosts me. While I’m making a cup of tea, I might hear a sound that inspires me to sit down and write, and it won’t let me leave until I’ve a song that makes me think a little differently to what I thought before. It’s such an amazing thing. That makes me sound like a right dick, but it’s true!”
This passion is evident in his debut album Hope. Carrying on a long-running theme of toilets (he played a tour of various restrooms in Belfast and recorded ideas for the album in his mixer’s loo), it features ‘Treading Water’, a song which “was inspired by looking at a toilet bowl while on tour with Rodrigo y Gabriela in Portlaoise,” written in that very same toilet, and played later on in the night.
Elsewhere on the LP, there’s also the Grey’s Anatomy-featured ‘Gabriel And The Vagabond’ as well as recent single ‘Be With Me’.
It’s a touching affair which at times feels like reading someone’s diary. The personal nature of it is reflected by the artwork: contained inside the sleeve are fold-out prints of a set made for him by his wife Joanne.
“They’re pictures of myself and my family. I loved them and just wanted to share them especially as the theme of the album is bloodlines,” he explains. “It’s called Hope because that’s a trait that my father – who died nine years ago – passed on to me. It was the pride and bane of his life.”
It’s clear from talking to Foy how important family is to him. He speaks fondly about “Grandad McCauley”, who bought him his very first instrument.
“He had one leg, was blind and could barely speak because he smoked a pipe so much, but he was as sharp as a pin,” he recalls. “He was in a bar one night and told his friend that he liked onions so much he could eat them like apples. Someone overheard and bet him an accordian that he couldn’t, so he went ahead and ate the whole thing!”
How did you get on with the accordian? I ask.
Vance laughs: “Much better than he did with the onion.”
Hope is out now. Foy plays Cyprus Avenue, Cork (September 8), Roisin Dubh, Galway (9), Dolan’s, Limerick (10) and Spirit Store, Dundalk (11).