While you may not know the name, there’s a good chance you know Foy Vance’s songs – his music has been used in key moments of shows as diverse as Grey’s Anatomy, Vampire Diaries and Sons of Anarchy, among numerous others, and he’s worked with artists including Sheryl Crow and Plan B.
With his first two albums, the Northern Irish singer-songwriter attained cult success. But thanks to the patronage of Ed Sheeran and Elton John, this year’s The Wild Swan has seen his career step up a gear. Foy was the second artist signed to Sheeran’s Gingerbread Man label (after Jamie Lawson), and it transpires the young Ed was a huge fan of Foy’s attending dozens of his gigs with his dad.
‘Apparently I met him one night in Norwich and signed a CD for him, but I don’t remember meeting him,’ admits Foy. ‘It was only later when we met up again that I found out.’
With his new label’s backing, he was able to hook up with producer Jacquire King, as Foy admired his work on Tom Waits’ Mule Variations album, which took him to Music City – Nashville.
‘Nashville happened because that’s where the producer lives and he was working in a studio he knows really well. I didn’t really think too much about it being Nashville, or being anywhere, and that’s the way it was with the first two records too.
‘With the first album, Hope, I got what was available and the only thing I could afford was a cottage in the Mourne Mountains (in County Down). And the second time around the only thing that I could afford was close and made sense was in Donegal. So this time, there was no real rhyme or reason to going to Nashville, it’s just where the producer was.’
I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be signed to a major label if it wasn’t for Ed Sheeran – they would never go near an artist like meFoy Vance
Since signing with Ed, the company Foy keeps is rather more starry – there’s stories of him trading riffs with Sheeran, Jay Z and Beyoncé in the basement of Snow Patrol’s New York bar.
‘Don’t be thrown off the scent by hobnobbing with the stars,’ he gives a throaty chuckle.
‘That never means much, but it’s going well, man. It’s going as well as I could expect, but I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be signed to a major label if it wasn’t for Ed Sheeran – they would never go near an artist like me, but they’ve really taken me on board and got behind me and the record, even though they know I haven’t got any big singles, and I’m not going to be competing with Justin Bieber. As far as I’m concerned that’s a great place to be. That’s more than enough for me.’
He also has Elton John listed as executive producer on the album.
‘That was a tip of the hat, a thank you as much as anything else – he was involved in the early days. Before Ed was involved, we were talking about doing a project together, it just made more sense to go with Ed’s imprint on the label side, but I wanted to keep Elton involved so I would be sending him songs and he would be giving me feedback.
‘It’s good to have someone like him who’s so steeped in music to have ideas to bounce off.’
Has he ever had the chance to write with Elton?
‘It’s never even crossed my mind to bring that up. When I’m in Elton’s company I just sit and listen and every now and then I’ll throw a couple of names out so I can get some great stories – he’s played with them all.’
The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea
Wednesday, November 18