Das heute erschienene vierte Album Signs Of Life des nordirischen Songwriters Foy Vance fängt den Sound eines Mannes ein – eines Ehemanns, Vaters, Sünders, Trinkers – der erst kürzlich gelernt hat, sich mit den eigenen Dämonen zu arrangieren. Und die Gefühle auf dem zweiten Album des Musikers auf Ed Sheerans Gingerbread Man Records sind so echt, weil Foy während des Schreibens tatsächlich mit seiner Alkoholsucht und seiner Abhängigkeit nach Schmerzmitteln zu kämpfen hatte. “Das war für mich schließlich die erste Phase ohne Konzerte, nachdem ich davor 20 Jahre lang quasi nonstop auf Tour gewesen war“, erklärt Vance. “Und da erst wurde mir klar: Wow, ich trinke ja zwei Flaschen Wein am Tag – und dann noch mindestens eine halbe Flasche Wodka obendrauf. Morgens brauchte ich erst mal Kodein, um klarzukommen, und dann rauchte ich noch ein paar Joints über den Tag verteilt. Mir wurde also klar: Da kommen ja gleich mehrere unfassbar schlechte Angewohnheiten zusammen. Der Tod war mir schon ins Gesicht geschrieben: aschfahl und grau war ich, rauchte noch mehr, trank noch mehr, rauchte wiederum noch mehr… bis es nicht mehr weiterging.”
Geprägt von den Einschnitten und der düsteren Grundstimmung des Jahres 2020, ist Signs of Life ein Wiedererwachen: ein neuer Morgen, der die Nacht ablöst, neue Hoffnung, die Zweifel vertreibt, neuer Austausch, der die Isolation vergessen macht. Der Aufschwung nach dem Lockdown. Es kommt in einem kühnen Cover-Artwork daher, das Vance’ Wunsch widerspiegelt, alle Texturen einzufangen und zu feiern, die die Menschheit ausmachen. Aufgenommen mit einer 160 Jahre alten (!) Kamera, die Beeindruckendes mit Farbe und Schattierung anstellt, zeigt das Bild auf der Rückseite Vance als Boxer. Auf der Vorderseite trägt er ein Kleid, eine blonde Perücke und theatralisches Make-up. Dazu Vance: “Das sind einfach mal verrückte, echt umwerfende Bilder – und ich fand’s großartig, dass ich da als Mann und als Frau zu sehen bin. Weißt du, das Leben ist voller Extreme, es ist vergänglich, manchmal bricht es explosionsartig in die Realität ein oder ist genauso plötzlich vorbei. Es fühlte sich passend an, Bilder aufs Cover zu nehmen, die einen richtig umhauen.” Für uns hat der Songwriter ein Track by Track zu seinem neuen Album geschrieben!
This is the waking up to a harsh reality that my addictions were putting at risk everything I had worked hard for. A home, a family and a career. It’s about being honest. There was a time in my life that I felt like an oak but but there was no oak there when I looked, just a fragile sapling, but a sign of life nonetheless.
2. We Can’t Be Tamed
This song is essentially searching for an ancient type of love. One based in the mystery of folklore. A time before everyone was living out their entire lives on social media. When people saw beauty in the natural/supernatural world around them. Fairies and pixies and whitethorns and lions and owls.
3. Signs of Life
I wrote this on the eve of my youngest son’s due date. Just considering his imminent arrival and then that is it, he’s here every morning time after time. It’s fair to say the rest of the song is a letter to him and my other kids. Fatherly advice if you like.
4. Roman Attack
This is in reference to an argument that I started at THE MOST inappropriate moment. I went in hard just like a roman attack…”send in the horses” type thing. It is also trying to remember a time when we were more gracious with each other.
5. People are Pills
This is a song about the tyranny of the meek. You know those times when you draw alongside a friend because they need picking up and then they look to you for the rest of their lives as the one to make them feel good about themselves and all the time they are taking more and more from you. Time, resources, money…the lot… We all have a friend or two that we realised years later that you were never that close in the first place. It was more about geography and circumstance. And like most friendships formed in your 20’s you are mostly drunk at that age so you are a terrible judge of character!
6. Time Stand Still
This is born out of a desire to stop time momentarily and catch my bearing. It’s also about the reality that we all know it doesn’t matter what happens, time moves on irregardless. I wanted the stillness to write the record but found myself spinning out. This song really helped me slow down the time a little, or at least feel as if I did. The voice in the verses is the voice of my manager giving me the pep talk I need to get myself together. The chorus is my replying with a hopeless mantra.
7. If Christopher Calls
Christopher was Marie, my wife’s father, who passed away suddenly a few years back. When it happened, Marie was in London and I was in Scotland. Her mum had phoned her to say Christopher had dropped in the kitchen but they weren’t sure if he was dead. Marie wasn’t there, she was a few miles away and just talking to her mum on the phone, trying to tell her what to do. Marie then called me and when she explained the situation it was clear to me that he was already dead. But she was still holding out hope that he would be alive when she got there, and I let her think that, rather than tell her what I was certain to be true. And it was. He died immediately. Her hope of hearing his voice again was heartbreaking. She then came to Nashville with me while I was recording an album, and every day we would wake in the morning then go and sit out the back with a coffee, and that is where I would leave her – and that is where I would find her when I got home.
This song is about my daughter Ella. She was on the road with me for a couple of years. After that it was time to stay at school and I went on tour on my own but it didn’t take long to see that me not being there wasn’t working. So I made a plan to get home and stop touring for a while and get a system in place for her as that is precisely what she needed.
This is another song that refers to Ella. The bigger picture is how easily our compassion can be passed around like a peace pipe. And how often our compassion is skin deep. It is not unthinkable to imagine a man tearing up when he sees a TV advert for starving children and then feel intense anger if in the middle of the advert the power cuts out or the TV breaks. This song takes place during the morning when I was reading a newspaper about the over 90 innocent men, women and children who had been massacred in Syria. It really upset me. I was mostly angry. However, that whole day I was more sad than angry. I was sad that I sent Ella to school without her New York hat as that was her lucky hat. I was sad because when she asked for that hat and told me the importance of it I didn’t understand what she meant at that moment. I no longer dwelt on thoughts of dead Syrians but of a small girl feeling vulnerable at school because her Daddy had to send her off in a rush. After she left for school I made her her favourite pack lunch, found her New York hat and delivered them to her class.
10. Hair of the Dog
I had my first extended period off the road for twenty years, and I realised: wow, I drink two bottles of wine and at least a half bottle of vodka a day. I’d start the day with codeine to get myself sorted, and I’d smoke joints throughout the day. I’m showing all the signs of death, getting ashen, grey, smoking more, drinking more, smoking more… I hit a wall. The idea for Hair Of The Dog had been around for a while. I was smiling as I wrote it. I thought it was a bit too on-the-nose, but then, the situation is on-the-nose. And the feel is a tip of the hat to the woozy-ness of the beginning of this journey. I want it to make you almost feel a bit seasick.
11. Republic of Eden
This is about waking up to the lies and hyperbole of religion and seeing the wild and mysterious truth of nature and the universe around us. It is about finding truth for yourself on your terms. About learning from the failures of religion. Learning from the innate being of a lion. Learning from science and the reality that we are all quite literally one thing when you break it all down to it’s components.
12. It Ain’t Over
I wrote this song over 20 years ago. I had just returned from a year living in Lanzarote and had come home to Belfast to start focusing on building a career. My brother was studying literature at the time and sent me books to read. As chance would have it – other than the Irish writers I loved like Beckett, Joyce, Kavanagh, Yeats etc – I was drawn to the French writers Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. This song refers to always telling the truth just like Mathieu Delarue who was a character in The Age of Reason. Reading these existentialist writers completely flipped my view on reality in a great way. It made everything feel a little abstract and uncertain at first, but then I leant into the uncertainty and found it far more beneficial to have questions rather than answers.
I wrote this song a long time ago too. This is about my Dad who passed away nearly 24 years ago now. When I woke in the morning he would be there cup in hand asking what I wanted for breakfast. What is more than that he always woke me with a smile! The song is I suppose also about my searching for something to fill the hole that he left. I filled that whole with songs but sometimes I filled it with things that were detrimental to me.