Foy Vance on how the Scottish Highlands saved him
Bangor man Foy Vance says personal misfortune and a move to the Scottish highlands set him back on track for his long-awaited second album
IT’S NOT that Foy Vance is a forgetful man, but these days he has a lot on his mind.
Like birthday parties, and daughters, and cinema trips, and new albums, and interviews with The Ticket. Today, crossed wires means that he is combining all five elements at once, which means that our chat is conducted in the foyer of a London picturehouse. But that doesn’t mean that the Bangor man is unwilling to talk. On the contrary; it seems Foy Vance, an eminently witty and down-to-earth chap and a pretty darned good songwriter to boot, loves to tell stories.
Which is just as well, because he has plenty of them to go around. The flatcap-wearing, moustachioed Vance’s own upbringing seems like a bit of a tall tale to most, but it is nonetheless true. Some of his formative years were spent in the American Deep South, as his family relocated with his preacher father to various postings in Oklahoma, Alabama and beyond.
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“Well, I guess when you pick it apart, it was quite interesting – but I guess as soon as you pick anyone’s life apart, it gets interesting,” he laughs. “It was a pretty cool way to grow up, I guess. The religious thing never really impacted on me, so I just got the good shit, all the music stuff. I remember going to my first church in Alabama; I was only a tiny kid, but I remember. It was pretty interesting to experience at a young age. Loads of kids where I was in Oklahoma would have experienced that, but what made it different for me was that I came back and grew up in a working-class estate in Bangor. That sort of polarised it a bit; it’s like, ‘Fuck, that was a bit weird, wasn’t it?’”
The juxtaposition of those two worlds undoubtedly had an effect on the young Foy, who says that music was always around his family, but he had never considered making a career out of it.
“The estate I grew up on, there was no one else that did anything in the arts; there were way more paramilitaries than there were actors or singers, so it just wasn’t the reality,” he chuckles. “It never occurred to me that I could join a band, and maybe go out and gig and record my own stuff – that was always something that other people did. So I kind of fell into it; I never had a drive or a vision, so to speak. I just kind of followed my nose, and before I knew it, I was in bands. I can be slow on the uptake with things like that, hence the first album being released when I was 32, and the second being released when I’m 38. It takes me a bit of time to get around to doing things.”
When Vance did eventually get around to releasing a solo album, 2006’s Hope, it was successful enough for him to continue along the career path of “musician” and tour extensively. Now he’s back with that aforementioned second album, The Joy of Nothing, a record that combines the singer’s soulful husk with some thought-provoking lyrics of love and loss, some superb musicianship and the lush addition of strings. It’s an uplifting affair that aptly reflects where Vance is as both a person and a musician – something that, in retrospect, Hope didn’t quite capture, he says.