Starting out in New York, my travel sidekick and I Greyhounded it across the States in what became a three-month stint of laughs and Tacos. Hitting the California coast however, we soon discovered that Hollywood Boulevard was all doodads and brass stars devoid of all expected glitz and glamour; San Diego offered sweeping highs with bummed-out hostel lows; LA had us at a house party where we inadvertently became sister-wives and San Francisco refused to play ball entirely by draping the Golden Gate Bridge in a thin-though-effectively-dense strip of fog (otherwise known as "Karl"), thus rendering it invisible each time we went to ogle its architectural wonderment. In short, the West Coast was giving us zilch and success, we quickly learned, was getting out alive.
To give it its due however, stepping inside City Lights Bookshop scored a tick on the bucket list and the HOLLYWOOD sign looked perfectly iconic, but I had a hankering for the South since the moment Nashville welcomed me into its humid, country bosom and so I was a little loathe to give California a fair chance. This hankering, of course, boiled down to the chance meeting of a music man. But what, I ask, is travel if it's not to mess with your heart, throw your head in a loop and floor you by the weird workings of the universe?
A mild case of heat stroke or the result of a lingering PBR hangover, either-way I was buzzed by the easy charm of Music City, its music-rich story and the promise of fiery hot chicken on every corner. I could sense it had something up its sleeve ready to launch at us. Having checked into Music City Hostel, my sidekick and I let the heat ooze out of the day before taking to the rocking chairs on the porch and rolled out the beers, feeling all the while that we had somehow made it. Turns out we are pretty adept at adjusting to the slower southern pace of things. The neon beast that is NYC had nothing on us in that moment.
And then along came the aforementioned music man Foy and his sweet lady Marie, armed with a litre of vodka and case of Sam Adams. Having been introduced the evening before, Foy from "Norn Iron" and Marie from the heart of London, said they would fix a drink and come join us. There's something about the way the Irish travel - you hear the accent and at once you know forces will be joined and laughs will be had.
To fully understand my appreciation of this meeting I must relay that on my last night in New York I was offered a ticket to go hear Ed Sheeran at the Barclay Centre. Admittedly not his biggest fan, I have however sang along to Thinking Out Loud enough times to appreciate his gushy lyrics. We had 30-minutes to get from Midtown Manhattan to the Barclay Centre in Brooklyn before the main man himself was due onstage. Being a stickler for support acts I googled Ed's but the name failed to register. We would miss it anyhow.
Bag check, ticket scan and pint purchase complete, the rambunctious screams howled as the man of the hour stepped on stage. Faultless gig, Mr. Sheeran delivered.
Cut back to a lazy porch in Nashville, beers in-hand, chats flowing and Foy taking out his guitar to sing to his audience of three. A singer who writes or a writer who sings? Whatever, I'm hooked. The night bellows on and we request one more tune for the road? Absolutely! What a charmer, a first rate mini-stage performer.
I tell of New York adventures and the deafening applause at Ed Sheeran's gig. Foy and Marie exchange a look.
"I was his opening act at Barclay's," says Foy, eyes all atwinkle.
Foy Vance, here's to you and our lunatic mad-dash across America to catch your good-timing shows. A brass star-deserving talent if ever I knew one.