A letter from Foy:
So much has happened since last we spoke that it’s hard to know where to start. Sounds like a line in a country song. I stopped touring on the 4th November, 2017. The final dates were at Union Chapel, London. When I walked off stage that night I made sure I had some time on my own to savour the moment. That was the first time in over 20 years that I didn’t have any tour dates in my diary. Everyone around me kept asking if I was frightened by the prospect, but I have to be honest, it felt amazing. Liberating somehow. I took my hat off, wiped the sweat from my wee baldy head and thought to myself “thank fuck we’re done with that guy for a while.”
That was about 16 months ago as I type. It took a while to get into the rhythm of being off the road. Living in constant transit does something very peculiar to you. I still have my most worn clothes in a suitcase in my bedroom. Funny, I didn’t think that weird in any way until it came to mind to tell you. Marie told me I treated the house like a hotel when I first came home. I said “Darlin, come on now, calm down… let’s order a bottle of something from room service and talk about this…”
It took some time to calibrate my equilibrium, but I got there by brute force if nothing else. I got a studio space and clocked in like a miner Monday to Friday whether songs came or not. You don’t get that kind of time on the road. And it takes time to create songs. The wondering about it and the singing of it in your head is as important as sitting at the instrument, playing it through. More so sometimes.
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One method I employed was to dig out all the songs that I’ve written over the years that have never seen a release or ever been played live in most cases. I’d then record them to see how they sounded when shown a bit of love and occasionally given a bit of a pruning. I’m still doing that now actually, there are a lot of songs to scour through. I then make collections of familiarity. It was in doing this that I uncovered a handful of songs that I had labeled ‘Soul’ and ‘Americana.’ Pretty rudimentary in this day and age I know, but it was a rudimentary process.
The songs labeled ‘Soul’ were written at various times over the years with as much variety in the impetus to write them. I wrote one for Tom Jones after the guys that were working with him at the time asked me to. I wrote and recorded it in the back seat of my car after a gig in Brighton and sent it to them. Tom liked it but said it was too personal and would prefer it in the 3rd person. I can respect that. I wonder, can you guess which one it is? I’ll leave it to your imagination. When I had demoed these songs years ago I had given them (or more to the point, tried to emulate) the old school southern soul sound of Muscle Shoals. Impossible of course, but these were sketches of what the songs could be.
The only way to truly do it justice is to go to the source of that sound. The room and the musicians at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Rick Hall (El Presidente) along with a group of musicians called the Swampers and a Stirling cast of soul legends like Aretha Franklin, Ottis Redding, Wilson Picket, Percy Sledge, Etta James and The Staples Singers to casually name a few. That room at FAME housed some of the hardest working musicians and artists known to man. There’s something in that struggle that is in the energy of the music they created. You can feel the yearning even in the upbeat happy songs they play and sing like a whipped racehorse on the final furlong. Something in the rawness of this music really affected me from a young age and I had always considered making a record in this vein, but quite simply, I didn’t have enough of them at the time to warrant making an album. Certainly not enough of them that were up to scratch.
So when I saw this collection of songs I knew immediately where I needed to go to document them. I suppose that is really what this project is. Documenting songs that would otherwise go unheard.
It had to be Muscle Shoals and it had to be FAME. I’ll go into that in more detail on my podcast…and I’ll go into more detail on that in a minute. My Rick Hall was Ben Tanner and my Swampers were…well Swampers in a couple of cases. Of all the musicians that were on that session, two were Spooner Oldham and David Hood. Names revered by those that know. I had a few moments looking out of the booth at these two in particular and couldn’t help but think of the amount of time they had spent in that room making music that changed my life for the better!
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Regarding the collection of songs called Americana. They proved intriguing as some were very old and written somewhat wryly, but a good few were songs written in the last 6 months that felt like they belonged to these older ones in some way.
I have always been such a massive fan of American Folk Music in all its many forms. There is a certain candidness to it. My Dad loved this music and would learn it on the guitar and we’d all sing it. Sounds like the fuckin Waltons about now. I’m sure someone was being scowled at as another one was clipped as we sang ‘Grandma’s Feather Bed’ by John Denver, but in my memory it felt like a hoedown and I loved us all singing at the top of our lungs. Certainly I did anyway. It was hard to get me to shut up by all accounts.
Again the room and the musicians are paramount to capturing songs like this. A good sounding live room and a group of musicians that have been raised in the traditions of that music. So I of course went to Sam Phillips Recording Studios in Memphis with a group of folks I refer to as Matt Ross-Spang & The Memphis Secrets, and in two days we cut 11 songs to tape.
This is a long winded letter, but still I am brushing over so much regarding the making of these records. I’ll fill you in over the next couple of months. All this to say, I am releasing a lot of new music over the next year. Music that is very important to my past and to my present. Music that pays homage to the deeply rooted traditions that influenced my own approach to Song.
Last but not least, we’ll also be announcing some live shows…
I hope this finds you and yours in fine fettle.