"I'm really happy to come out and put my soul in writing,” says Nan Vernon, who can now not only be heard on record with the release of her first album, Manta Ray (on the Anxious label), but also at Moles this Friday.
But of course, a bared soul is easier said than achieved. By her own reckoning, Nan’s been building up to it for twenty years.
She remembers exactly when she decided on a career (there were surprising British connections from the outset). She was five, put Downtown by Petula Clark on the record player, listened awestruck, and told her sister, “I wanna be a singer.”
Nan was born in Toronto, Canada, but her family moved to Los Angeles when she was eight as her father John Vernon’s acting career began to develop. “He was Clint Eastwood’s enemy in The Outlaw Josey Wales, the dean in Animal House, he was in dozens of Hawaii Five-O’s, always playing the bad guys,” says Nan.
When she left school she joined a band called Babushka. Nan spent five years with them. “At first we were singing harmonies with a keyboard and a drum machine,” she says. "Then it grew to two drummers, three bass players, four guitarists, all on stage together. We were kind of coffee-house strange, I guess.”
At one point she took a six-month sabbatical from the group to tour with Andy Summers, the former Police guitarist. Which led to Dave Stewart, the by-then post-Eurythmic proprietor of Anxious, to ask her to audition for his new band.
After twenty minutes she was pronounced a Spiritual Cowboy and moved to England for the Cowboys’ tour of 1990-91. “It was when I came here that I started to get my own identity as a writer and Dave was the catalyst,” she says.
Over the following two years. Nan recorded enough material for two albums before settling on the Manta Ray tracklist. “Unrequited love, marriages breaking up, those times in a relationship when you know you’re going to have to move on into the unknown, that’s what the whole album is about,” she says.
No doubt those who hear her at Moles will learn a little more.
Bath Chronicle, August 3rd 1994