Chloe Foy on her debut album and the live performance gap in Manchester

Chloe Foy’s debut album Where Shall We Begin has been a long time in the making. The Manchester-based singer-songwriter’s latest folk release features haunting, introspective lyrics that tell a story spanning ten years.

I caught up with Foy to discuss the album, her difficult relationship with streaming services and the live music scene in Manchester.

Photo used with permission

“I had always envisaged my future in music being more of the classical kind like performing in orchestras or choirs,” she says. But in her teens Foy began playing guitar and found that she was able express difficult emotions and feelings.

Reflecting on her early tracks is an interesting glimpse into how she felt at the time. “It’s almost like you’re in therapy looking back at your former self and going ‘oh, that’s where I was at emotionally,’” she says.

Foy describes her music as “like a warm bath – sort of soothing – with elements of folk in it.” Her latest album is a meditation on grief and the loss of her father. “It’s the kind of thoughts that are triggered when you lose someone,” she says.

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“I experiment with different chords or tuning and just play around with them and then find a progression I like and start singing over it,” Foy says. “I rarely write lyrics and then come up with the music afterwards. I find that really hard.”

The music video for the album’s third track, Work of Art, is set in a world of colourful geometric shapes which Foy explores with a pair of binoculars. It’s inspired by the hues of Wes Anderson films, particularly Moonrise Kingdom. “With visuals, you can inform what people take away from that song and I like the ambiguity that can happen with the interpretation of songs,” Foy says.

After a pause in live performances, Foy is excited to begin her tour of England and Scotland in October. “I’m looking forward to seeing faces and real people,” she says.

Foy moved to Manchester for university and has performed at multiple venues in the city, enjoying the intimacy of smaller venues like The Castle Hotel, The Eagle and Gullivers. She is concerned about the lack of in-between venues for emerging artists, particularly after the announcement of the new £350m Co-Op Live arena which has a capacity of 23,500.

“They’ve got to think ahead because who’s going to fill those venues in however many years’ time when you’ve got two arenas in the city,” Foy says. She also points to The Factory which has a capacity of 5,000. “If you don’t give opportunities to build and have a place to start, how do they get there?” she asks.

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How audiences listen to music has evolved rapidly since Foy released her first single in 2013. As a consumer the ability to stream music has made listening to a wide range of artists more accessible, but for artists it’s a more complex dynamic.

“Three or four years after [the singles] were released on Spotify, they were put on playlists which ended up getting me millions of plays,” Foy explains. “This was a really important boost at that point in my career.”

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After deciding to focus on making her album, Foy noticed that her Spotify listens went down slightly. “You’d hope that would mean there are less passive listeners and more people who aren’t just there for a tokenistic single that had been put on a playlist.”

Foy’s gentle folk sound has been influenced by the music her parents brought into the house such as Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Bob Dylan. “I think in my early days of song writing I was trying to imitate what was popular at the time, but as I’ve gone along I’ve realised the value of those classic songwriters,” she says.

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Foy highlights Madison Cunningham’s Who Are You Now and Laura Marling’s Song For Our Daughter as albums she returns to time after time.

Foy’s second album is already underway and she hopes to release it in the next few years. After touring Europe and the US with Jesca Hoop in 2019, Foy felt that she “really got the bug” for touring. “I love playing in the US […] they’re all so warm and welcoming and enthusiastic. I’d love to build on that a bit more and tour more, that would be the dream.”

Where Shall We Begin by Chloe Foy is released on Bandcamp.