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Foy Vance Charms at The Fillmore

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Interview with Foy Vance

Foy Vance knows how to make an audience feel at home. Although it's a sizable venue, The Fillmore felt a lot like Foy's second living room when he appeared there a few days ago. He had the crowd wrapped around the stage, clapping and singing along by his fourth song in. Foy Vance has earned a dedicated and enthusiastic following that was certainly well represented there that night, but of course many attendees were also primarily at The Fillmore to catch the headlining band, Need to Breathe. No matter, they were all completely enchanted by the close of Foy's first song, Closed Hand, Full of Friends. The short but gratifying set list on the night was: Closed Hand, Full of Friends, Jenny, Joy of Nothing, You and I, Shed a Little Light, and Guiding Light. While Foy performed solo at The Fillmore, he has a voice and a presence big enough to easily fill the room and, as mentioned, had the capacity crowd singing backup vocals by mid-set, complete with harmonies. In fact, even after Foy had bid us farewell and had exited the stage, the audience continued to sing the last two lines of Guiding Light for several minutes in his absence. I spoke with Foy directly following his set at The Fillmore.

Wendy:

You said onstage that this was your first show at The Fillmore. What did you think?

Foy:

It felt as beautiful as I hoped it would. I've envied people who get to play this venue; so many great bands recorded and played here. It's nice getting to do a show here; I'd like to come back and do my own.

Wendy:

The crowd would've loved more time with you. Good singers too, when you had them singing along.

Foy:

They were pretty good yeah; there were some lovely harmonies. There was a nice vibe out there tonight. I thoroughly enjoyed their company.

Wendy:

The last time we talked was during the tour for Joy of Nothing; that was a headlining tour. It seems like you really enjoy interacting with the crowd and being on tour.

Foy:

Being on tour and interacting with the crowd are two very different things (laughter). There are elements of tour life that really don't suit me as a human being. I always feel like I get paid to travel and the music's free. The second you're on stage, that's the good bit; that's the reason why you put yourself through hours and hours and hours of sittin' on the bus. To stand in front of a room of people who want to hear music and you get to play music to them - that's a wonderful exchange. I grew up around music - live music - not so much at gigs; I never went to gigs really. I think the first gig I ever went to, I played at. Music was always a very big thing in the house; my granny would always sing; my dad would always sing; my granddad - everyone would get their instruments out. This is to me just an extension of that. I think people should feel completely at home and completely at ease, and I enjoy that element of it as well.

Wendy:

It does feel that way. People do really thrive on that - being able to be part of things, like a sing-around-the-campfire on a much grander scale. You had mentioned the first gig you played; what was it?

Foy:

Do you know what? I think it was in a boxing club. It was in a boxing club with a guy I had never met for some charity event. We had a mutual friend that put us in touch and said, "Why don't you come down". I can't remember how he heard of me but he asked me to come along and sing at this thing. That was it; I got the bug straightaway.

Wendy:

How did things evolve from that point forward?

Foy:

I joined another band, an original band in a wee town called Donaghadee. We were a grunge band sort of thing. I wrote with them for a while and through doing that I met other musicians and I ended up being a singer in a soul band. We were doing soul covers, like Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, all that. I did that for a couple years. You know what? I was doing that for at least two years before I realized I could do it for a living. I was doing it and then I realized, this is all I actually do; I don't work; I just do this! Then I started to think a bit more seriously about it and [about] how to carve out a path for myself.

Wendy:

And when did your songwriting begin?

Foy:

Songwriting began on January 31st, 1999.

Wendy:

Wow, ok. What was the impetus for that?

Foy:

My father died. I'd written songs before that but nothing of worth. That's not me being modest. If there was good stuff there I would be able to say. Lyrically it was all projection; I hadn't really done enough or experienced enough to know what I was talking about. I was this kid kinda trying to be profound. I had nothing really to say. But the night that my dad died I was at a gig; I lived in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands for a year and I was playing a gig. I used to try and make up songs while I was at the gig and see if I could get away with it. I was singing this song over and over and over again that really affected me that night. It felt very heavy or something, and the only lyric that would come was "Jesus is comin' like a thief in the night".

Wendy:

Oh, what great lyric.

Foy:

Yeah. I guess I was sort of semi-religious at the time. Then I went home and it turns out, that as I was singing that, my father passed away at that very moment. I didn't hear until the next morning. The second I heard, the second I got the phone call, the obvious happened. When I hung up the phone I sat down with the guitar and the entire song came in just one sitting. I wrote it like a stream of consciousness. For about three or four months after that, in fact maybe more, songwriting was quite a visceral experience. It was quite violent, like being accosted; it was like throwin' up. That's a pretty violent way to describe it, but that's what it was like. I had to get all this stuff out and it just started to flow. It was all pretty heavy, hard stuff. It was like I woke up, you know what I mean? I was plugged in; I came online that night and pretty much stayed on; I just learned how to temper it a little better.

Wendy:

And also of course, life got to hopefully be a little less rough. When we spoke last time you'd said that Joy of Nothing was inspired by your move to Scotland, and that sounds much more like a joyous, lovely thing.

Foy:

Oh absolutely. There's definitely a bit of pain in that record too. You've gotta listen to At Least My Heart was Open or Regarding Your Lover to see that but, that record, and the move to Scotland as well - being around things that are millions and millions and millions of years old is good for the heart. I slowed my pace of life down and the dust settled a little bit more. I guess maybe it's just I'm getting older as well; I'm growin' up a bit.

Wendy:

And you're surrounded by all that beauty of nature, so all around you there's a lot to be grateful for on a daily basis.

Foy:

Absolutely, absolutely. There's always a lot to be grateful for on a daily basis.

Wendy:

Let me ask you about your tour now and how that's been going. You've got quite a lot ahead - summer festivals coming up, and you've got the tour of the states ongoing. How has this time around been treating you?

Foy:

It's great, really good. I quite like being the opening act. It's interesting; I've opened for so many different people - everyone from Taj Mahal, Buddy Guy, Bonnie Raitt to Ed Sheeran, Joss Stone, Pete Townsend. I love playing my own set but there is something about support too that I get quite excited about. You don't have the stress of ticket sales and all that (laughter). All you've gotta do is take a look at who you're supporting and then try and articulate yourself to that group of people. It's an interesting thing to do; I enjoy it. So I'm loving this tour. And the entire band and the entire crew and team - there isn't a weak link among them; they're all great people, so that makes it a lot easier traveling.

Wendy:

Your music has been getting heard on television as well, most recently you appeared on Other Voices in Ireland and one of your songs was featured on a TV show, Cougartown.

Foy:

I think that's a great medium. There's a lot of people that are against that, like, "Oh, I don't want my songs used". I've never really understood that. The intent behind the song is not impacted by where it's placed, to me anyway.

Wendy:

How was playing on Other Voices?

Foy:

Great. You know the best thing about Other Voices? I've done various TV shows; I've done some really good ones but I've done some that weren't terribly enjoyable at all. The thing with Other Voices is that it's so music centered. It sounds weird because, music shows, that's what you'd think they are but so many of them are so focussed on the filming of it that it doesn't feel like you ever really start playing. It's always, "Ok, cut, cut, cut! Let's go back to the top of that and we'll do it one more time". With Other Voices it's like a festival. People go in to these old buildings that they pick out, these old churches, and you go up and you play your set and that's it. If they don't capture it right that's their bad. It makes the night go more fluidly and [it's] more enjoyable for all the people that are there. I think that comes across when you watch the show; it's a great show.

Wendy:

I heard that you also did some work on an EP called Lost.

Foy:

You're talking about Star Wheel Press; their EP is called Lost. I just did some backing vocals. Where I live in Aberfeldy, up in Scotland, a couple of friends of mine, they've got a band called Star Wheel Press. They're just great, really interesting. All their songs are so intriguing. They have this one song called called Hey Lord; they asked me would I come in and do something on it. It's worth a listen; you should check them out.

Wendy:

I will. So you're mid-tour; is it going to be pretty solid touring type of summer?

Foy:

This tour ends in June in some states and then I've got some festivals and then I'm gonna be in LA, gonna live there for a couple months to write. I'm gonna get the next album together. Then I've got some gigs back in Ireland and then I think we're looking at another world tour at the end of the year. It's a pretty busy year.

For more information please visit www.foyvance.com

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