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      Foy Vance in Toronto

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      October 21, 2019

      Monday   7:00 PM

      190 Princes' Boulevard
      Toronto, Ontario

      Foy Vance

      with Ryan McMullan
      Foy Vance knows how to write a song. Its a naturally-born but dedicatedly-finessed skill that has led him tocollaborate with artists as diverse as Plan B, Sheryl Crow and Rudimental, synced his music on multiple TV showsranging from Greys Anatomy to the finale of Sons Of Anarchy, and caught the ears of some of the biggest players (inevery sense) in music, from Elton John to Ed Sheeran.So it is that in the run-up to the release of his new album, Vance travelled to Nashville. Its a long way from home forthe Irishman, both from the place of his birth (Bangor, Northern Ireland) and the place of his residence (Aberfeldy,Scotland). But for an inveterate songwriter, Music City is an irresistible draw, a place where Vance can work with thebest of the best. Not, Vance clarifies, for himself or his own material. For one thing, hes already completed his newalbum, and with songs of the calibre and single-minded brilliance of the dozen that comprise The Wild Swan, theresno need for any outside assistance.But for another, Im not snobby about it, but I wouldnt feel comfortable writing with other people for myself. That feelslike its my own private joy, adds a man who crafted The Wild Swan entirely to his own vision, in Nashvilles BlackbirdStudios, aided by Jacquire King, who recorded and mixed one of his favourite albums, Tom Waits Mule Variations.And I used to steer clear of writing with other people altogether until I started doing it just by chance. And then Irealised that even when it goes shit, its still a learning curve, Vance notes with a smile. Every wrong path is a way tothe right path. I keep it pretty lean. But when good people come up, I give it a go.One of those good people is Sheeran. Vance co-wrote Tenerife Sea and Afire Love from 2014s multi-millionsellingX, and he wrote Make It Rain, which Sheeran sang over the final episode of cult biker drama Sons OfAnarchy.Eds like a wee song machine, Vance notes approvingly. He would always go places lyrically that I wouldnt gomyself, so he makes me think about the lyrical choices I make. Working with Ed made me a better writer.Now, with the impassioned, rootsy, rousing The Wild Swan an album that makes nods to, and takes cues from,proper heroes ranging from Noam Chomsky to Ziggy Stardust to WB Yeats the pairs relationship moves to anotherlevel. Sheeran has signed Vance to Gingerbread Man Records, the label he launched in 2015 with Jamie Lawson andhis self-titled, chart-topping debut album.But in fact, Vance and Sheerans relationship goes back way further than that.Eds dad used to bring him to my gigs when he was 13, begins Vance, a born hobo-raconteur (and he has thestorytellers hat and showman's moustache to prove it). He only told me this after wed done a couple of gigstogether, but hed been to something like 48 gigs of mine before wed ever met.As an up-and-coming artist always keen to honour his formative influences, as soon as he started to have somesuccess, Sheeran sought to pay it back.He reached out and said, do you want to come on tour with me? And Im thinking: 'When else is a thirty-something,white, baldy Irishman single father who lives up in the mountains gonna get to on a bona fide pop tour? So I said,yeah, Ill go and do it.And that tour was tough! I thought Id just go in and do my own show. But I realised very quickly that, even though hehadnt fully broken through at that time, his crowd of screaming teenage girls was ferocious I spent more timebombing than I did anything else, laughs Vance. They just looked at me as if I was Eds demented uncle wheeled onfor the craic, singing about heartache and cancer.Still, the Sheeran/Vance relationship flourished, with the pair emailing each other works-in-progress songs and Vancesupporting Sheeran on the closing, Antipodean leg of the mammoth X tour. There was even a night trading riffs andrhymes with Sheeran, Jay Z and Beyonc in the basement of Snow Patrols New York bar. But thats another story foranother biog.One of the impetuses behind Sheeran founding Gingerbread Man Records was to give musicians he truly believes incomplete artistic freedom, and so he made his friend an incredible offer: the chance to make a new album with anArtist-led record company, with full support and without constraint.Ed said, go and make the record you want to make. Vance took him at his word. Similarly, he made sure JacquireKing was fully onboard.Mule Variations is not only an exquisitely-written record but a wonderful sounding record. I actually flew out to meetJacquire in person before agreed to work with him because I wanted to look in the whites of his eyes and make surewed be on the same page. I didnt want something too clean and polished and commercial.That said, theres no denying the infectious beauty of The Wild Swan. It opens with Noam Chomsky Is A SoftRevolution, a rocknblues celebration of a roll-call of musical, philosophical, literary and polemical insurrectionists. Itstops off with Coco, a tender, campfire song written for the young daughter of good friend Courtney Cox (Coco is afriend of Vances own daughter, Ella). And it ends with a dash of uillean pipes and The Wild Swans On The Lake, astop-you-in-your-tracks breath of Celtic balladry inspired by WB Yeats poem The Wild Swans At Coole.Vances rich, rich voice also gets up close and personal on the hymnal Burden, then digs deep for She Burns, asong and a performance evocative of Bruce Springsteens Tunnel Of Love.There are other, equally deeply felt glories too, like the ancient-but-modern Be Like You Belong, Vances soulful raspweaving through pedal-steel and simple piano chords, or Ziggy Looked Me In The Eye. The latter is a piano-based,strings-buoyed soul-stirrer that compresses anthemic cri de coeur into four minutes of dignified tribute to, says Vance,various people who I think have been part of a revolution. Im not talking about Che Guevara or Ghandi or evenRussell Brand for that matter Im talking about personal revolution. I like that idea constantly revolting against yourown parameters.This thinking no doubt informs Vances embracing the opportunity of a summer tour with Elton John. Ever attuned topassionate artists, and forever intent on giving audiences the best possible night, Elton has invited Vance to supporthim on the British and European legs of his Wonderful Crazy Tour. But Eltons enthusiasm for Vance goes deeper,still, than that hes Executive Producer of The Wild Swan."I feel so privileged to be a part of this remarkable artist's first album on Gingerbread Man Records, says Elton. He isan extraordinary writer and singer."As seals of approval go, they dont come much better than the imprimatur of one of the greatest songwriters of alltime.Referring to the albums penultimate song, the antsy, agit-folk Fire It Up, this tyro-troubador sets straight his goals:|t just has to be real. You go back to ancient Irish music, or Native American music, or people out on the plains ofAfrica those people who are struggling for food, sometimes not eating for weeks on end, and having to hydratethemselves by piercing the neck of a wildebeest. But every single night the drums are out, and theyre singing aroundthe fire.That tells you something about what music actually is. Whereas weve turned into a commodity its becomesomething to sell, a vehicle to get money or fame, Foy Vance says with cheerful distaste. Thats not what has everinterested me. Its the music itself that matters. It has to be real.The Wild Swan will be released May 13, 2016

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