‘Free and Easy’ family effort

Tara Bradbury
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Larry Foley’s solo CD, nominated for an East Coast Music Award, features the voice of his late grandfather

The thing about creating an album yourself — from the performance, recording, engineering and producing — is that if it tanks, there’s no one to blame but you.

In the same way, if that album happens to get nominated for an East Coast Music Award alongside the likes of Bruce Guthro and Tim Chaisson, there’s only one person to take credit for it: you.

“It’s a bit scary, really. It’s like you’re in a workshop with a chunk of wood and you just start chipping. You look around and it’s like, whoa — there’s no one else here but me,” said singer/songwriter Larry Foley, whose latest solo record, the first he produced and engineered himself, is vying for the 2013 ECMA for Roots/Traditional Solo Recording of the Year.

Called “Free and Easy: Songs From Newfoundland, Ireland and the Sea,” it’s the second solo album for Foley, who has been making music for about 20 years and fronts bands such as The Punters and the 8 Track Favourites. His last record, self-titled, saw six original Foley tunes; “Free and Easy” was meant to be a collection of local folk songs, right from the beginning.

What ended up being included in his definition of local and folk grew a little abstract, with a version of country musician Steve Earle’s “Gulf of Mexico.” Earle wrote the song in light of the BP oil spill in the Gulf in 2010, said to be the largest accidental marine oil spill in history.

“Well my granddad worked the shrimp boats/From the time that he was grown/And he scrimped and saved and bought himself/A trawler of his own/He was rough and he was ready/And he drank when he was home/And he made his family’s living on the Gulf of Mexico,” go the song’s lyrics.

Foley heard the tune and felt it was the ultimate folk song, and thought it would resonate with Newfoundlanders.

“It’s about the grandfather, the father and working on the sea, and the oil industry,” he said. “I thought it was a song we could all relate to, but I hope it’s a song we never have to write about here.


Foley’s own grandfather, William Foley, served as a major influence on the record, though he died in 1987. Foley has just one self-written song on the album: “Spyglass,” about an old brass possession of his grandfather’s Foley remembers from his childhood.

“I was fascinated by it as a kid. It was hung up on the wall, and I was never really allowed to have it,” he explained. “When I was working on this CD, my father and I had a conversation and I said, ‘Where did that old spyglass ever go? Where did it come from, anyway?’ I sort of brought that spyglass to life in a song that wrote itself in about five minutes. They always say you should write about what you know, and as I started talking about this spyglass and my childhood memories, it came out. The song tells the tale of where it is now.”

Foley’s grandfather is featured on the album, his voice taken from a tape of “Sweet Forget Me Not” that Foley remembers being recorded in the kitchen. He remembers, as a child, desperately wanting to take part in the recording. On the album, Foley used the tape to create a duet of the song with his grandfather.

“The tape ran out at the end and it always bugged me that it wasn’t finished,” Foley said. “I contemplated singing the last verse by myself so it would be complete, and as I got into it, I made a duet out of it and added instruments to it. I intended it to be a Christmas gift for the family — I felt it was a little too personal and not something I really wanted to put out there for mass consumption, but people really identified with it. I ended up putting it on the CD.

“When ‘Sweet Forget Me Not’ came out, he and I went to the record store and bought it and listened to it all afternoon. I swear, I never, ever had to learn the song because it was just up here,” Foley added, tapping his head. “For him to be on a CD that’s nominated for an award is pretty cool.”

Other tracks on “Free and Easy” include “McClory,” “Island Lady” and a self-arranged version of the iconic Ron Hynes’ tune “Sonny’s Dream,” which Foley admits was a daring song to include, but one he loves and has been asked many times by audience members to record.


When he’s not performing with his bands, Foley is dad to a two-year-old, and hosts three radio programs: “Potluck” on KIXX Country and “Homebrew” and “Cabin Party” on Big Land FM radio station in Labrador. Because the shows are request-based, it’s almost like doing market research into the type of music audiences like, Foley said.

He’ll head to the ECMAs in Halifax in March, and is looking forward to it.

“I’m most happy about that nomination for my wife, really,” he said, laughing. “Living and putting up with a musician is not an easy task. I think being nominated is as good as winning, because at least it acknowledges the work, and shows that I’m doing something sensible with my life.”

“Free and Easy” is available at Fred’s Records, O’Brien’s Music and other local stores.

To see a video of Foley performing “Gulf of Mexico” in The Telegram’s studio, visit www.thetelegram.com.



Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Organizations: Roots, The Punters, BP

Geographic location: Gulf of Mexico, Labrador, Ireland Halifax

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Recent comments

  • Tina Burke
    January 28, 2013 - 12:33

    It is indeed an honour to be nominated. Thanks for putting off such enjoyable shows. We saw you at Holy Heart last night and it was the best concert we have seen yet. Thanks for the show and we hope you win the award!

  • Crystal
    January 28, 2013 - 12:11

    Congrats Larry! It's great to see a fellow Newfoundlander follow your dreams while staying true to who you are and what you believe in. You have an amazing family and are obviously an amazing man who works hard and deserves success! :)

  • Ann Bishop
    January 28, 2013 - 11:16

    Great album got it at costco awhile back. Love the song with your grandfather. Great to hear that someone local is up for an award. We are very proud of you.

  • Michael
    January 28, 2013 - 10:19

    Got this album last night at the 8 Tracks show at Holy Heart. Great album and the boys put off one amazing show. Keep it up.

  • Marion Lewis
    January 28, 2013 - 08:36

    We love Larry's music and his radio show on Sundays very happy to hear he is nominated for an award.

  • Marg St. Croix
    January 28, 2013 - 07:49

    Great Job Larry! Congrats!

  • Erica Yetman
    January 28, 2013 - 07:29

    Excellent job on this article! The ECMA's made a great choice - Larry Foley is awesome singer whether it is singing his own songs or anyone’s songs. Mr. Adams I feel sad that you cannot support local musicians making a life out of this. I hope you realize from reading the article Larry has a family and works very hard at what he does - you do not get nominated for an East Coast Music Award for not being extremely talented. As frustrating as that might be for you to admit Larry is an excellent talent and most Newfoundlanders are extremely proud to call him one of their own. I hope someday you lose your grudge with people trying to make a life for themselves in an extremely hard career. Hiding behind a computer making rude comments is not going to get you an award nomination. Stop being a hater.

  • James Adams
    January 27, 2013 - 01:04

    Larry Foley playing someone else's song "Again".Surely the Telegram can find someone better than this guy to interview.

  • Herbert & Anne Marie Barry
    January 26, 2013 - 15:02

    Just read the article in the Telegram re Larry's new Album "Free and Easy", and went to the Telegram Site to view the video: Thought it was really nice...great job Larry! Herbert & Anne Marie Barry Jean de Baie, Burin Peninsula