Foy Vance has kept a busy schedule this year. From Muscle Shoals, a collection of Americana songs recorded in the titular capital of Alabama’s soul-music scene, arrived in June, followed in September by To Memphis. Although both albums were tracked in the American South, the songwriter remains a busy road warrior across much of the globe, playing gigs in England — where his record label, the Ed Sheeran-run Gingerbread Man Records, is based — one minute before heading elsewhere — say, his native Bangor, Ireland, or perhaps AmericanaFest in Nashville — the next.
In today’s conversation with podcast host Chris Shiflett, Vance expresses the desire to slow down his touring, dig deep into his songwriting efforts and spend more time at home with family. Below, we’ve collected some highlights from the newest episode of Walking the Floor, followed by the episode in full.
Vance is a hot-chicken expert.
“I’m partial to a chicken tender with buffalo sauce, or Hattie B’s — you ever had that, in Nashville?” he asks Shiflett, referencing one of Music City’s most popular purveyors of spicy, cayenne-coated chicken. “I don’t eat it that hot anymore, to be honest,” he adds. “It used to be a challenge. I used to have wings in Wimberley, which is about 50 minutes outside of Austin. I had to sign a disclaimer to eat that shit, ’cause it’s just so hot. I think that’s the last time I ever had something that hot, to be honest. I learned a lesson.”
From Muscle Shoals and To Memphis were originally intended to be separate EPs. Due to a handful of productive days in the recording studio, both projects turned into full-fledged albums…with encouragement from Ed Sheeran.
“The original idea was to be in and out in 10 days,” Vance remembers. “Fly into Alabama: two days recording, one day mixing, get five songs. Have a day off to drive to Memphis. Two days recording, one day mixing. But in Muscle Shoals, I got six songs, so I was on course. I picked five out of that. But when we got to Memphis, it was so magical. We just floated through the songs, and it was so magical. They played themselves, almost. We got the whole album in two days. So then, Ed — my label boss — he said, ‘Why don’t you just go back to Muscle Shoals and record four more, and then release two albums?'”
He was raised in Bangor, during one of the most troubled periods in Northern Ireland’s history.
“There’s a car bomb that went off in Bangor, and as the crow flies, I was 500 or 600 feet from it,” he says. “The windows went in on us, when we were sleeping. So that happened. But at the same time, it was kind of a lot of fun. We were just young. I didn’t understand the political situation. I was just a kid, going, ‘Holy shit, look at the streets!’ I was running through it, thinking, ‘This is wild.’ There was trouble, but no more trouble than you see anywhere else, really.”
It took years of professional gigging before Foy Vance considered himself a professional musician.
“I never saw [music] as a way out,” he admits. “I never thought that I could do it. I was already doing it for a couple of years in a band, playing covers in pubs, when I realized, ‘Well, hang on, this is the only thing that I do.’ Music was always front and center for me, but I didn’t realize I could do it for a living until my early 20s.”
Looking ahead to 2020, Vance envisions a year spent making music — closer to home, that is.
“I want to be at home a lot more,” he says. “I want to make a lot more music, put a lot more albums out. Maybe two or three more records next year. . .I like the idea of maybe [touring] 12 weeks a year. I’m about to turn 45 next month, and I’m just a bit too long in the tooth to be traveling around the country for eight months a year with eight other farting blokes in a bus.”