IF YOU are going to rope in a producer for the very first time in your career, who better than David Holmes - the Belfast musician who has provided the slick, super-cool soundtracks for the Oceans movies in recent years, among others.
Holmes indeed produced his own record in 2008, the flabbergastingly good ‘The Holy Pictures, and Bangor troubadour Foy Vance, coming to Limerick this weekend, has teamed up with the busy Belfast DJ-turned-Hollywood maestro for a forthcoming album release - a collaboration that has us turned inside out we are so excited at the proposition.
Vance, you see, is something quite unique, an Irish folk-soul singer who channels Ray LaMontagne, Otis Redding and Tom Waits, whose his 2007 debut album ‘Hope’ was an astounding first effort - raw, visceral and uplifting, while Vance’s soaring vocals would send a shiver down the most hardened of spines.
Where Hope flowed like a live session, seeped with soul, blues, gospel and jazz influences - the product of growing up in Oklahoma and spending time in Alabama - the expected Vance/Holmes collaboration is billed as finding Vance “in an introspective mood with a deeper, textured sound bathed in synths and atmospheric soundscapes”.
Vance just laughs at the description, but it is clear that working with Holmes has inspired him to a flow of songwriting - differing from his normal process.
“Yeah, it is a different sound (to Hope), actually, very different,” Foy says.
“We have created a sort of sonic identity for the record that is probably a bit more cinematic - as you can imagine - and the interesting thing about this record is, most of the songs I would write, wouldn’t be songs I would release, they are just songs for myself to think about things, or discover something, and they were actually all the songs that he picked.
“When I played him the songs that I thought he would want to produce, he just didn’t click with them, but every time I played him one of these songs that I usually keep to myself, he said, yes, let’s work on that. So it is a different in many ways, but I guess it has the same bloodline.”
Being instructed by Holmes couldn’t be more radically different to the recording process for Hope, which saw Vance decamp to a cottage in the Mourne Mountains, “open a bottle of wine, put some mics up and record”.
“I think what I was doing in the cottage was more of a voyage of discovery, I would play all day and do loads of things and capture the best bits and go with it, whereas with David we are looking at songs and thinking about what they best deserve,” he explains.
“He has a real vision, so it has been different, but really good, I have really enjoyed taking direction and being an actor - being directed so to speak.”
The collaboration sprang from a several short film projects, which Vance is also working on, as well as a theatre project - and another “rootsy, soul” album he is putting together himself.
“That has been on the go for a while and it is still there, I imagine I will probably record that later in the year, depending on how things go with the record I am doing with David,” he says.
“It is good for me, it has always been the way I think I work best, having a few irons in the fire! I like to move on quite quickly, move fast - yet it is a beautiful, very meditative process, because you carve a vision for the songs. I also need something that I just do without thinking about, and the soul stuff is very close to home for me, it makes sense, I don’t even think about it, I just do it,” he adds.
While he is currently offering some of his ongoing works in progress as free downloads, Vance has little time for the “industry”.
“I have never felt like I am part of the music industry, songs are too important to me, if it wasn’t for songs in general, I don’t know where I’d be, probably in jail,” he laughs.
“It means too much to me to treat it like a commodity, life is too short and too precious. The first label I set up was Wurdamouth Records, and the whole point was that people would tell others, and that way you don’t have to get involved in the industry.
“If you are not good enough, then people won’t tell people and they won’t turn up to your gigs and you will soon know about it, so I would rather think about the giving away of tracks as more about giving them to people and seeing what they think,” he adds.
Foy Vance plays Upstairs in Dolan’s this Saturday, June 11.