The Scotsman Sessions #284: Foy Vance with Seán Óg Graham

Welcome to the award-winning Scotsman Sessions. With performing arts activity curtailed, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on scotsman.com, with introductions from our critics. Here, from “some old ruins on the road out of Kenmore” Foy Vance delivers an al fresco version of new track Republic of Eden, accompanied by Seán Òg Graham

There have been a number of landmark moments in Foy Vance’s life and work, not least turning the heads of both Ed Sheeran and Elton John in the past decade. The former is now his label boss at Gingerbread Man Records (Vance was his second signing) and occasional co-writer (you may have heard a jaunty tune called Galway Girl….), while the latter produced his 2016 album, The Wild Swan.

Vance had a good decade of releases under his belt prior to the Sheeran/Elton intervention, several of which have caught the ear of film and television producers. Vance’s debut single Gabriel and the Vagabond featured on the soundtrack for Grey’s Anatomy, and such is his natural Celtic soul that his songs have regularly graced the small and silver screens.

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Vance originally hails from Bangor, Northern Ireland, but spent some of his formative years in the southern States, moving around with his preacher father. He has mined that spiritual connection in recording two albums, From Muscle Shoals and To Memphis, in the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

Foy Vance and Seán Óg Graham

But Vance has also found a spiritual home in Scotland, moving to Aberfeldy eight years ago at a low ebb and building back steadily since then. He has credited his relocation to Perthshire as a life-saving step, one he felt the benefit of through the pandemic.

“Lockdown happened just as I had cancelled any gigs in the diary and turned down anything coming up as I wanted to lock myself away and make [new album] Signs Of Life,” he says. “So when it happened I just got to work as planned, only now the world was quieter and that was somewhat helpful - as much as I hate to say it in light of the impact on the world.”

Vance did stick his head above the parapet last December with a very atmospheric concert film. Hope in the Highlands was a cut above your spontaneous lockdown livestream fare, featuring a fireside performance recorded in Aberfeldy’s historic Dunvarlich House, spliced with footage of a wigged Vance in the surrounding woodland.

For his Scotsman Session, he moves from cosy hearth to “some old ruins on the road out of Kenmore”. Accompanied by Seán Òg Graham of fellow Sheeran associates Beoga, he delivers an al fresco version of album track Republic of Eden, which he says is “essentially a read on belief structures and the futility of holding them as an absolute.”

Signs of Life has only just been released but already Vance is working on his next album and is planning another Americana tribute. “I think lockdown has revealed a new way forward for me,” he says. “I enjoy the regularity of being at home instead of endless tours. I enjoy the creation of new music more than the replication of old music - as much as I adore that. And I like seeing my family every day. So I now want to focus on writing, release and occasionally...touring.”

Signs of Life is out now on Gingerbread Man Records. Foy Vance plays the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh on 26 March, https://www.foyvance.com/

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