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Leefest 2016 Interview: Michael Spearman of Everything Everything

 
By on Tuesday, 2nd August 2016 at 11:00 am
 

“I guess it’s something we’ve had to learn, the learning of having to try and fill the room and when it’s an outdoor space, especially a big stage like The Other Stage [at Glastonbury], you have to sort of throw it to the back and exaggerate things a bit more”. Everything Everything drummer Michael Spearman (second anticlockwise from far right in the header photo) is currently discussing the band’s approach to playing festivals, especially after last year’s triumphant set at Worthy Farm. Spearman continues: “we’re still at that quite nice stage where we do sometimes play arenas with other bands or we play a small show, it keeps it interesting to mix it up. I think in general (singer) Jon’s always kind of adapting what he’s doing, working the space with a certain amount of charisma, which we like, [seeing] that in other bands that we see live. Watching Foals [their recent European tour mates] a lot, touring with them, they’re not stood there looking at their shoes, it’s quite an active engagement”.

Watching Everything Everything live is where you see the nature of their sound come to life. A live show filled with presence and projection, the band have no issue in staking their claim. “It doesn’t feel like we’ve trapped ourselves in to like a corner or anything. In a way, we’ve kind of made it so we can be unexpected, and people cannot necessarily know what they’re going to get from us live or on the record, but on the whole, we feel we’ve got a lot of freedom in these different areas”. This is a natural evolution for bands, especially as they release newer material. Elaborating, Spearman offers, “we’ve done three albums now and people know, for better or worse, what to expect with us a little but and I suppose that’s quite liberating in a way. We’ll also tweak the set list maybe a little bit just to make a slightly more direct engagement because some of the very small intricacies can get lost, kind of like in an arena. So I think we’ll always have our essence to us even if we play a totally different set list, we are who we are”.

Everything Everything performing live at the Low Four Studio launch in Manchester, May 2016
Everything Everything performing live at the Low Four Studio launch
in Manchester, May 2016 (watch here)

The power of Everything Everything has been strengthening since 2010’s ‘Man Alive’. Last year’s ‘Get to Heaven’ showed the band at their most unrelenting, something that Spearman agrees with. “I think the last record in particular, we didn’t want any let up until maybe the last song, and that was quite a conscious thing. The one before that (2013’s ‘Arc’) was a little bit more evenly paced, it had a bit more sort of time to it”. As their sound develops, so does the approach to give a lot more respect for those aspects that might even go unnoticed. “You know the Coen Brothers [film directors], they always talk about directing a film is totally tone management. You can’t have one scene that’s one thing and another that is too far the other way and still have a constant flow. We kind of think about that, not at first, because that’s just let’s write some songs, and then it just starts to crystallise and take some shape and you think ‘okay, we feel we want to have these songs on the record [and] not those songs’, so that we can do this with the record and that’s quite a nice feeling”.

In terms of the next natural progression to more new material, Everything Everything are already at work. with Spearman not revealing too much. “We haven’t really gotten to the lyrics yet, we’ve started writing, it’s coming quite easily, definitely easier than the last time”. Retrospectively, he remembers the process for ‘Get to Heaven’: “the first few months of the last record was a bit of a slog, and we were kind of starting to wonder what we’re doing. Then we had to sort of discard all of the songs that we had and start again, that was quite tough. This time, we kind of want to have fun with it and enjoy ourselves a bit, and so far that’s happening. We’re trying to be a bit more relaxed and easy going and, not to say the lyrics will end up like that, but in terms of the writing process, we’re trying to not put too much pressure on ourselves”.

This week also sees the band take to North America. With a sound such as theirs, Spearman describes the difficulties in translating such extremities to newer shores. “We’re quite specifically British, eccentric sounding, but I think some Americans like that. We’ve maybe made our lives a bit more difficult by being weirder than some bands, but then we wouldn’t feel like we’re not being true to ourselves. To be honest, we have a lot of work to do in America still, and we love going abroad and playing to different people, but we’re not at the same level that we are in the UK. And that’s okay, but it’s just a case of chipping away at it really.”.

If you happen to live on the American side of the pond, you can catch Everything Everything starting tomorrow night in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Wednesday 3rd August 2016 – The Sinclair – Cambridge, MA
Thursday 4th August 2016 – Music Hall of Williamsburg – Brooklyn, NY
Saturday 6th August 2016 – TIME Festival – Toronto, ON, Canada
Monday 8th August 2016 – U Street Music Hall – Washington, DC

 

Interview: Matthew Hitt of Drowners

 
By on Thursday, 28th July 2016 at 11:00 am
 

“Well, it was more about liking the way the word looked written down than the fact it was a Suede song”, Drowners frontman Matthew Hitt says about his band’s unique name. “Having said that, that whole Britpop thing has influenced my writing, lyrically. I think Jarvis Cocker and Damon Albarn are master songwriters, and I regularly revisit their records.” Hitt and his New York City-based band released their second album on Frenchkiss Records, ‘On Desire’, in June. You can read my review of the long player here.

Their eponymous debut album, which was released in winter 2014, was described by Q as standing in stark contrast to the electropop saturating the airwaves that year. “When I started writing the songs for the first record, I feel like every band I went to see in New York were drenching themselves in reverb, and there was a lot of like drawn out 4-minute songs,” explains Hitt. “So I guess I was trying to do the opposite of that and have everything trimmed and clipped into the bare essentials. My attitude to that has since changed, but it was really a reaction to the bands I was seeing live at the time. Nowadays, I think we just try to write music that is some sort of reflection to who we are and what we feel as a group.”

Hitt quickly dismisses the cliché of the difficult second album. “It wasn’t really that difficult because by the time we came to writing it ,we all had ideas we wanted to try, and that meant things were exciting again. After touring the first record, we were all ready to start working on new things. When we first met Claudius [Mittendorfer, their producer for ‘On Desire’], we talked about wanting the record to have an atmosphere to it in the way that [Echo and the Bunnymen’s fourth album] ‘Ocean Rain’, for instance, does.” Working with Mittendorfer turned out to be a comfortable for Drowners. “He was very helpful in showing us how to technically achieve these different sounds. We all got along with him, and so the environment in the studio was pretty light and fun. We would try a lot of things out and constantly bounce ideas. I just look back on it being a really fun experience.”

Something that one will latch onto quickly while listening to ‘On Desire’ is the pairing of lyrics on painful subject matter regarding breakups with oddly joyful sounding instrumentation, especially in the guitar work, reminiscent of Johnny Marr’s exemplary playing in The Smiths. Hitt concurs with this. “Yeah, that painful lyric / joyful music thing is something I think we all love about songs in general. It’s certainly present in The Smiths, and for that reason, they are a big influence. I’ve been a lifelong fan, so it makes sense that it affects my musical vocabulary.” When I ask him what other artists had guided them along in the making of the new album, he says, “While we were writing this record we were also listening to a lot of Roy Orbison, ABBA and Echo and the Bunnymen, so I guess they all influenced it too.”

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZgmPsicWQw[/youtube]

The stories told in the songs on ‘On Desire’, in particular ‘Someone Else is Getting In’ (see live video from SXSW 2016) and ‘Conversations with Myself’, are hard-hitting on the emotions and seem very personal, which Hitt says is true to some extent. “I think they’re a combination of personal experience, things I’ve overheard people say and things I’ve read about. I think the songs that are on the record were chosen because they shared themes. The main one, I think, being the idea of desiring something. I spoke to Erik [Lee Snyder, Drowners’ bassist] a lot on this record about the types of things we wanted to sing about so I got some ideas from him. Um…otherwise, it’s the same thing I always do: keep a notebook of lyric ideas and browse through it to see if anything ‘fits’ with the music we had written.”

A standout track on the new album is single ‘Pick Up the Pace’. I asked Hitt if he could tell me about the writing of it. “Well, Erik and Daniel [Jacobs, Drowners’ drummer] wrote the music for it, and we recorded it at Electric Lady Studios. I walked around listening to the recording for a couple of weeks, trying to figure out the top line. I wrote it the lyrics one morning and recorded it that afternoon. I guess it’s about lack of communication in general, and the evasiveness that can come from that.” The Welsh-born singer even brought in part of his upbringing to add personal flavour to the track. “In my mind, it all takes places in the village I grew up in, hence the reference to terraced houses.”

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISjkphX07WU[/youtube]

Earlier this summer, Drowners toured in America as support for another band we’ve covered a lot here on TGTF, The Joy Formidable. Hitt says it was a great experience. “The tour was a lot of fun. It was a few weeks before the record came out, so it was interesting to see what kind of reactions we were getting to the new songs that most people hadn’t heard before. The Joy Formidable are lovely people and we had a couple of nice evenings with that lot.” As for the rest of the year, the band will be pretty busy getting ‘On Desire’ out there live to the masses. “We play Lollapalooza at the end of July, and then [there’s] more touring. I know we’re heading to the UK and Europe in October, which I’m pretty excited about. I love touring the UK.”

And lest you think that Drowners would ever rest on their laurels during these dog days, think again: “I know we’re also keen to start writing more new tunes, so I suppose that’s how we’ll spend our summer.” But what if they’re tired of having their heads down, of being studious musicians working on new material? Matthew Hitt has a solution that will work in a pinch. “We always listen to ABBA’s greatest hits in the van. Full-on Swedish singalongs.”

‘On Desire’, Drowners’ sophomore album, is out now on Frenchkiss Records. The band appears in Chicago at Lollapalooza this coming Saturday, the 30th of July, at the BMI stage at 3.20 PM.

 

Interview: Chris Cain of We Are Scientists

 
By on Thursday, 21st July 2016 at 11:00 am
 

The ever hard-working duo of Chris Cain and Keith Murray, better known as We Are Scientists, are back at it again. Having just released their fifth studio album ‘Helter Seltzer’ in April, they’re hitting the road. Hard. With dates completed in the UK and American already, they’re embarking once again to the fair British shores for a few small festival dates before a much larger and focused album tour in October. One of the festival dates coming up is at LeeFest, based in Kent (the one from the advert on TV for UK readers), one of a small explosion of smaller festivals appearing over recent years. We managed to get a phone call with Chris (pictured left at top) during this hectic season, where he spoke to us about the difference between playing to smaller festivals than larger ones. Also discussed was the new, slick We Are Scientists look and the new album artwork that is, shall we say, for your own interpretation.

Chris Cain has one of those voice that kind of lends itself to being father-like but also an air of humour, which is just one of the reasons why a We Are Scientists show is one of the best investments you could make. As previously mentioned, they are returning to the UK for a run of those quaint, smaller festivals before embarking on a larger tour later in the year. On the subject of the differences between those behemoth festivals that shadow the festival season, compared to those smaller, metropolitan festivals that are sprouting up everywhere, Cain muses, “A smaller festival shares some characteristics with a club show, where you know you feel more of a connection with the audience. And ultimately, that’s our preferred type of show, where it’s a few hundred to maximum a couple of thousand.” Elaborating further, he offers, “once you get into [playing to] 20,000 people, which we’ve played a handful of times, it’s cool, it has its own thrill to have that many people doing anything in sync with each other, with the energy there, that’s the only good thing about larger festivals.”

We all know that atmosphere at festivals is the most important part. It’s why we attend them as music fans. There’s a certain feeling that can only be found when surrounded by several thousand of your fellow music fans, rather than a concentration of specific band fans. Cain says, “It’s that specific moment and that vibe. There’s so many other things that you lose when you play to that many people. And I also think as an audience member, there’s so much that kind of disappears, although that crazy energy of being in sync with many thousands of your fellow man is pretty cool. Luckily we have both in the world.”

The rise of smaller, city-based festivals has definitely increased the ability for bands to both tour while gaining new fans, as well as bringing an atmosphere otherwise reserved for large fields to towns that would normally go amiss. These smaller festivals are certainly more suited to We Are Scientists, as Cain mentioned. “City festivals are cool because you’re still playing in a club, but you have this sort communal spirit of a festival where a bunch of people are out for a couple of days to listen to music and that’s kind of the focus of everyone’s lives which gives a kind of a festive atmosphere than a single club show can provide.”

big We Are Scientists Helter Seltzer cover

‘Helter Seltzer’, the reason behind all these shows, features artwork that is particularly, we’ll go for inexplainable, even by Cain himself. “I’m not sure I can completely claim to understand the artwork, it was a very much a collaboration with our artist who is a weird New Zealand recluse who I’ve never met face to face. He did our last record as well, he makes all of our merch designs and he re-did our Web site for this record. Very talented, a drawer as well as a builder of Web sites, but also very crazy, strange fella with highly peculiar tastes. So this album artwork was very much his reaction to the music.” The best advice we can give is to listen to the new record whilst staring intensely at the artwork. Without blinking. If you manage to make any sense of it, leave a comment here or send us a postcard.

Moving onto their current live show. If you haven’t seen We Are Scientists before, then you are greatly missing out. And this time around you’ll notice they’ve suited up, making the well-oiled machine that is We Are Scientists an even smoother watch. “It was kind of an arbitrary decision, we had a friend take some photos of us, because we needed press photos around the time we were announcing the new album and we decided to wear those outfits, just all black.” For some reason this look seriously suits the duo, ridiculously so. Cain continues, “then we really liked how the photos turned out and thought, ‘are we really going to pack five black outfits?’ So we decided we would. It kind of hasn’t been as much of a laundry nightmare as I thought it would.”

There is literally no reason to not catch We Are Scientists on tour this year and if they aren’t coming to your town, get some friends and travel. They’re worth it. Catch them at Kendal Calling this weekend in the North, followed by their appearance back in the South East in Kent for LeeFest Presents: The Neverland 2016.

 

Interview: Foy Vance (Part 3)

 
By on Thursday, 7th July 2016 at 11:00 am
 

This is part 3 of TGTF’s interview with Northern Irish singer/songwriter Foy Vance about his new album ‘The Wild Swan’. If you need to catch up, parts 1 and 2 of the interview are right back here and here.

Along with the previously mentioned ‘Noam Chomsky is a Soft Revolution’ and ‘Casanova’, the slow-burning track ‘Burden’ also found its way onto ‘The Wild Swan’ after the fact. And like the current single from the album, ‘Coco’, ‘Burden’ was written for someone Vance knows. “A friend of mine was going through a bit of a tough time. He’s one of those guys that carries everybody else’s burden and sort of forgets about his own. And again, I never wrote that with an intention of using it for a record or anything. [But] it felt like it had a place on there.”

Writing and publishing personal songs about friends might seem a bit of a risky avocation, but Vance was unconcerned about any possible gossip surrounding his songs. “I always write about my friends,” he confessed. “I would say a good 70% of the songs I write are for my friends or people that I know and love the most. They’re mostly funny, you know, songs that I send to friends for birthdays or Christmas. But there’s a few songs on [the new] record that are specifically written for people.” He did caution, however, that the songs shouldn’t be taken as a literal commentary on any specific situation. “You know, some of it’s written, then it becomes something else. That’s the thing about songs, they’re entities in a sense, they kind of they go on and become something else in the hands of listeners.”

Vance continued, “You know, there was other songs, like I say, ‘Noam Chomsky’ and ‘Casanova’, that weren’t planned for the record but then they found a home, and there was a couple of others that were meant to be on the record that just didn’t feel like they belonged in the end of it. You can’t really overthink these things. If your plan is too rigid, I think you miss a trick, you know, ‘cos life’s not like that.”

‘Noam Chomsky’ became a pivot point in the conversation when I asked Vance if he was including the song in the set list for his current stripped-back supporting slots. “I haven’t been actually,” he admitted. “I like to do that when I’ve got the full band together. [Otherwise] it sort of misses the guitar player. He’s got that lovely little ’50s, slightly slapback, echo-y sound. He plays this little lick and it’s hard to play that song without that, really.”

Vance has just wrapped up his tour with Elton John in Europe as well as a last-minute supporting slot for James Bay. He has scheduled a slew of summer festival dates, including a recent appearance at Glastonbury and upcoming sets at T in the Park, Latitude and the Calgary Folk Fest in Canada. But he seemed most excited about another support slot he’ll be playing in North America later this year with pop singer/songwriter Josh Groban. I was somewhat surprised to hear about that combination of artists, but Vance was optimistic. “Surprises are good,” he said. “I think it’ll be a different audience, but the thing is, you can never underestimate an audience.”

To emphasise his point, Vance related a colourful tale from his earlier days of touring, around the time of his first album ‘Hope’. “I was at this festival in Middlesborough in England, and I had been paid to do a slot in a really cool venue. It was a funny one because people weren’t sure whether they were meant to like it or not, because they hadn’t heard it on the radio yet. Everyone was standing around sort of looking at each other, you know. And when I got offstage, the promoter of the venue was in a tizz and I said ‘What’s up, man?’ He said, ‘A band have pulled out and I need to fill a 35-minute slot, but it’s in a death metal venue.’ And I said, ‘I’ll do it if you like. I’m happy to go and give it a crack.’ And I went in, and I started with ‘Back in Black’ by AC/DC on my acoustic guitar and then I did ‘Black Hole Sun’ by Soundgarden. But then I spent the rest of the time doing my own set, which at that time was quite acoustic-y, singer/songwriter-y. And it was a great gig, one of the standout gigs [for me]. They were just absolutely open [to my songs]. So you can never underestimate an audience. I like playing to different audiences, whether it be Elton John’s audience or Ed Sheeran’s audience or James Bay’s audience or Josh Groban’s audience. You know, people are people are people.”

Following the Josh Groban tour, Vance will begin his own headline tour in Australia, where he will be accompanied by Kyle Lionhart. In late September, Vance will return to the U.S. for a run of headline dates beginning at the Valley Bar in Phoenix, Arizona, where I caught him live last summer. The American tour, with support from Trevor Sensor, will continue through October, ahead of Vance’s UK and Irish dates with Ryan McMullan in November and December.

Vance paused the discussion of his upcoming tour schedule to sing McMullan’s praises for a moment. “He is absolutely great. Actually at the minute he’s getting songs together for a new album. I hear a lot of people, you know travelling as much as I do, and doing gigs, and I often enjoy what I hear, but it’s very rare these days that I get completely floored by someone. When I first saw him, I saw him in a terrible sort of set, it was like a conference room for Hoover salesmen, in an old kind of crappy hotel with a terrible PA. But the second he opened his mouth, I was just completely transcended. And it’s just so rare these days that I get that blown away by a vocalist who sings like his life depends on it. I couldn’t help but reach out and say ‘Listen, do you want to work together, do you want to come on tour?’

The second half of 2016 looks to be exciting but exhausting for Vance, with non-stop touring through the end of the year. “Yeah, it really is so busy,” he remarked. “You know, I get home for two days, and then I’m away, and then two days and then away. I’m pretty much gone until the 10th or the 11th of December. But listen, a man of my age and skill set, I’ve got to make hay while the sun shines.”

We look forward to seeing Vance “make hay” on the road later this year. In the meantime, our thanks to Robbie for coordinating this interview. TGTF’s complete previous coverage of Foy Vance is back this way.

 

Interview: Foy Vance (Part 2)

 
By on Wednesday, 6th July 2016 at 11:00 am
 

This is part 2 of TGTF’s interview with Northern Irish singer/songwriter Foy Vance about his new album ‘The Wild Swan’. If you missed part 1, you can find it right back here.

“We had plans when we went in,” said Vance of the Nashville studio sessions for ‘The Wild Swan’, “but they were constantly changing, and I think that’s the way a record should be made. You need to evolve, be [receptive] to what’s happening in the room, and not go in with a definitive plan. You can have ideas of what you think it’s going to sound like. I mean, unless you’re U2 and you can take a year and a half to make a record. Then you can make it sound exactly like you wanted it to sound in your head in the beginning.”

Vance singled out one song on ‘The Wild Swan’ as a turning point in the album’s recording process. “There’s one song in particular on that record called ‘Casanova’, which wasn’t even on the list of songs to record. We were recording another song called ‘Upbeat Feelgood’, and we played it live three or four times, and it became apparent that no one was feeling upbeat or feeling good. We were starting to get into our parts a bit too much, thinking about it too much. So I said, ‘Listen, keep the tape rolling, and we’re going to have a three or four minute departure here.’ And I started playing ‘Casanova’, which actually the bass player had never played before in his life, he didn’t even know what it was. But in that one take, you know, we got it. So that transformed that day, and it sort of transformed the record a little bit.”

As it turned out, the ‘Casanova’ departure indirectly resulted in the album’s first single. “There was another song that I had only half-written called ‘Noam Chomsky is a Soft Revolution’. I had one verse for that, and I thought I should finish that song off because [musically] it ties in with the ‘Casanova’ thing.” In spite of its seemingly cerebral title and subject matter, Vance described ‘Noam Chomsky is a Soft Revolution’ as “essentially a 12-bar rock ’n’ roll song. I think the only thing that makes it cerebral, or makes people think that it’s trying to be cerebral, is the mention of Noam Chomsky. I guess I like that juxtaposition.”

Elaborating on the inspiration for the single, Vance became a bit philosophical himself. “I love Noam Chomsky, I love listening to him. I remember reading these interviews with him, and he’s so articulate and brave. But there’s something about listening to him, ‘cos he has that soft [tone], he sounds like your granddad saying ‘Would you like a cup of tea, son?’ Yet he’s telling you these devastating sort of truths, you know, about how he sees the political structure, the corporations and terrorism and all kinds of stuff, but it’s all so softly spoken and gentle. He’s quite an anomaly. He puts me in mind of all those other people who I feel were revolutionaries in their own right, who saw the status quo, saw the way things were and thought ‘No, I’m not going to have it like that, I’m going to say it how it is and how I see it.’ Take any one of those people named in [the song], you know, there’s Willie Nelson or Muhammad Ali or Dostoevsky, all of these people spoke from their hearts. I guess that’s what that song’s about. And ‘Noam Chomsky’ is just a beautiful thing to say.”

The next single to be taken from ‘The Wild Swan’ is another one with a melodious name in its title, the sweet-tempered ballad ‘Coco’. The song was inspired by the young daughter of American actress Courteney Cox, who is romantically involved with Vance’s friend and Snow Patrol keyboard player Johnny McDaid. I suggested that it might be considered questionable for a man of Vance’s age to be writing songs about such a young child, and he bristled a bit, perhaps because his own daughter is near the same age as the eponymous Coco. “I guess being a daddy myself, you know, I’ve written lots of those songs. I’m a big fan of Paul Simon, who is the master of sweet and innocent. I love his writing, absolutely love his writing. That song about Coco, she’s just such a sort of enigmatic wee girl, you know, just full of the joys of spring and full of the mayhem you would imagine of a 12-year-old kid, or 11 she was at the time. I wrote that for her just messing around one day. We were on holiday and my daughter was with us, and they were hanging out, and I picked up the guitar and was just singing silly songs, and I started singing that to her. And then the second I got to the end of it, I thought, ‘That could actually be a song’, so I wrote it.”

Despite what people outside his social circle might think, Vance had absolutely no reservations about including ‘Coco’ on ‘The Wild Swan’. “There was a guy, a critic here in the UK, who took it like it was a chat-up line, and I was thinking, ‘I don’t know where you come from, mate, but where I come from, that’s not the done thing.’ I know in an age of this media mayhem that we live amongst now, they’d like to portray all that kind of nonsense, but at the core, it’s an innocent song.”

‘Coco’, the latest single from Foy Vance’s album ‘The Wild Swan’, is due for release this Friday, the 8th of July, on Gingerbread Man Records. Vance recently performed ‘Coco’ in live session for The Telegraph, which you can view here. Tune in to TGTF tomorrow for the conclusion of this interview.

 

Interview: Foy Vance (Part 1)

 
By on Tuesday, 5th July 2016 at 11:00 am
 

Up to this point, 2016 has been a busy year for Foy Vance, and the Northern Irish singer/songwriter doesn’t show any signs of slowing his hectic pace as he swings into the year’s second half. Vance released a new album, ‘The Wild Swan’, back in May, after signing with his friend and colleague Ed Sheeran‘s Gingerbread Man Records. Following the album release and a sold out, one-off show at London’s Hoxton Hall on the 12th of May, Vance played a string of support dates in the UK for legendary pop superstar Elton John. We at TGTF caught up with Vance for a quick chat about ‘The Wild Swan’ during that run of dates, just before his pre-show soundcheck at the Echo Arena in Liverpool.

Vance was affable and relaxed on the afternoon of our interview, despite the impending soundcheck and the grand scale of the evening’s show. The novelty of the occasion might have worn off for Vance, as he spent the early part of this year touring with John in Australia. Still, he clearly relished the moment as he related that initial experience to me. “Do you know what, Carrie, embarrassingly, that is the first time I had ever heard Elton John live, when I was supporting him [in Australia]. He was an absolute revelation. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen him live, but if you get a chance to, make sure you don’t miss out, because he’s phenomenal. The thing that just hits me, and I think hits everyone that goes to see him, is just how many great songs he plays, just song after song, and you end up thinking, ‘Wow, he wrote that’. It’s a great show, very inspiring.”

It’s perhaps well-known by now that Vance’s connection with Elton John was formed via their mutual friendship with pop phenom Sheeran. “Ed had played him [John] some of my songs, and he liked them. And then I went to his house for dinner one night in L.A., me and Ed and Elton, and he said, ‘Why don’t you come on tour with me? And I said, ‘Let me check my diary.’”

Vance, of course, accepted the offer, and later gave John the ambiguous title of Executive Producer in the album credits for ‘The Wild Swan’. “He was a sounding board for me,” Vance explains. “That was a tip of that to him, for taking me on tour, being there when I was writing new stuff or [when] I’d pull out older songs that I was thinking about. It wasn’t even so much that he would lead the charge on that album. I always feel like the buck stops with me, no matter how many opinions I get. I always have to make the last decision. I think that’s the way it should be. If you’re making art, you need to be a bit of a fascist about it, you know. But it was great to have someone like him to bounce these songs off, and get feedback from someone that’s a wee bit of a musicologist. Because Elton listens to so much music, he’s got a lot to say about it.”

After the Australian tour, Vance travelled to America to record ‘The Wild Swan’ at Nashville’s Blackbird Studios, with acclaimed producer and sound engineer Jacquire King at the helm. King has worked with a number of well-known artists in recent memory, including James Bay and Kings of Leon, but Vance cited a different influence for the collaboration. “You know, the reason I wanted to work with Jacquire was not actually for the records that he’d be most known for, Kings of Leon or James Bay, it’s not those albums that really drew me to him, to be honest with you. It was a couple of records that he did with Tom Waits, one in particular called the ‘Mule Variations’. Not only is the album exquisite, you know, from a songwriting point of view, and from a performance point of view, musicianship and all that, but [I found] the sonic identity, the sonic quality of it so inspiring. So I’ve known of Jacquire for a long time because of that record, and when I went to meet him, we had a good chat about the kind of sound that I would want, more to those type records than the sort of newer stuff he’s doing. And he got it, you know, he got where I was coming from and I think he did a great job of capturing what we did.”

Vance deliberately took an unstructured and spontaneous approach to the actual recording of the album at King’s Blackbird Studios. “I guess I prefer an approach that’s a bit more like a collaboration with the space. As soon as you went into that room, it started to sound a certain way, so we started to play a certain way. You play to the space, and I played the songs that felt right.”

Head back to TGTF tomorrow for part 2 of my interview with Foy Vance about his new album ‘The Wild Swan’, including his thoughts on the next single from the album, ‘Coco’. In the interim, you can gain more insight on the making of the album in Vance’s new video ‘Finding the Wild Swan (Part 1)’ below.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/ES7RcpIHJ4k[/youtube]

 
 
 

About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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