Foy Vance

I Wrote That: Foy Vance on his Ed Sheeran and Max Martin collaboration 'A Beautiful Game'

The Northern Irish singer-songwriter on his Ed Sheeran partnership, his experience of sync and winning an Emmy for Ted Lasso.

Hollie Geraghty
  • By Hollie Geraghty
  • 27 Mar 2024
  • min read

When Foy Vance was approached to write a song for the season three finale of Ted Lasso, the brief was simple. ‘Write a Bohemian Rhapsody: a modern anthem for the ages,’ the Northern Irish musician recalls to M. '[I was] like, "Wow! Well here, let me just finish making this cheese sandwich and I’ll get right on it!"'

Drafted in by music supervisor Tony Von Pervieux and Marty Silverstone, president of global sync at Primary Wave Music, Foy partnered up with producer Max Martin (Taylor Swift, Katy Perry songwriter) and his close friend Ed Sheeran to write what would become A Beautiful Game. The finished track, which featured in what could well be the last Ted Lasso episode ever ('So Long, Farewell'), won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics back in January.

But being asked to work on a song for Ed, his musical collaborator of more than 10 years, was initially met with a bit of healthy scepticism from Foy. 'I thought, as is often the case, "Am I being baited here for Ed Sheeran?"' he recalls. '"To get Ed in on it?" It turned out, though, that the collaborative might of the trio had been sought to create a track that would meet the high emotions of the beloved Apple TV+ show’s curtain-closer. 

As ambitious as the original concept for A Beautiful Game was, the songwriters just ‘laughed at that and threw it out the window,’ Foy says, before then starting from scratch. Though Foy hadn’t seen the wildly popular football-themed show when he was tasked with writing the song, its feel-good premise alone gave him enough inspiration to decipher what the track needed. ‘It’s a cumulative song, and so it was very obvious where it wanted to go,' he explains. 'It wanted to tie up some loose ends. It wanted to talk about passion, the highs and the lows, the wins and the losses.'

When Foy called up Ed — who was already a huge Ted Lasso fan — to tell him about the commission, the singer was immediately on board. They set aside around three days to write the track, but managed to pen the lyrics to A Beautiful Game within an hour. ‘The song actually poured out,’ Foy says now.

Foy, who is signed to Ed’s own Gingerbread Man Records label, first connected with the Suffolk songwriter in 2011 when they met at a live music venue in Dublin and spent the evening trading songs on the guitar. Already a big fan of Foy’s at the time, Ed then invited him on his UK tour, marking the beginning of an enduring friendship and creative partnership. It was during that tour that Foy unknowingly helped co-write Ed’s 2015 song Touch And Go, which he assumed was just a product of a casual jam session: ‘I was like, "Wait, so that was co-writing?’’'

Fast forward to A Beautiful Game, where the pair were able to seamlessly slip into their established creative rhythm. ‘It’s a very good flow,’ Foy tells M. ‘I've written with Ed now for a good few years, so we have a shorthand.’ Their fellow co-writer Max Martin, meanwhile, shaped the production side of things, making for an efficient collaborative process. Poetically describing their confluence of ideas as a ‘mellifluous washing machine’, Foy says that it also involved the right amount of organised chaos. ‘[Max] sat at the tools for that,' he reveals. 'Ed and I then floated around the room, pacing up and down, shouting out ideas, singing stuff into our phones, or singing stuff into each other’s faces.'

After so many years of working alongside Ed, is there anything he’s learned from the prolific songwriter? ‘Tenacity is the first word that comes to mind,’ Foy tells M. ‘What I gleaned was [to] go, move forward, keep going, don't stop. You’re not going to run out of ideas. Keep ploughing the field.’

A Beautiful Game not only made for a note-perfect addition to the Ted Lasso finale, but it went on to win an Emmy. ‘I didn't expect it,’ Foy tells M about the honour. ‘When my manager texted me saying, "You're nominated for an Emmy", I honest to God thought, "What have I done? I must have missed a meeting or been late for something, and he's just taking the piss out of me."'

Foy attended the ceremony as the writing team’s representative with the sole intention of just enjoying the night out, but when A Beautiful Game was announced as the winner, he quickly had to ‘piece together a speech’. ‘If I’d have woken up in the morning with my eyelids stapled to the pillow, I couldn't have been more surprised,' he adds with a laugh.

Ted Lasso isn’t the first TV show that Foy’s music has featured in: he’s also had his music synced in the likes of Grey’s Anatomy and House, while Ed’s cover of Foy’s Make It Rain featured in Sons of Anarchy. Sync, Foy says, offers a big opportunity for artists to get their music heard while also helping fund their art. ‘For artists, it's another platform to get songs out there that wouldn't fit through the very contrived hole you need to navigate to get on to mainstream radio,’ he explains. ‘It gives artists an outlet to just be artists.’

When it comes to songwriting itself, though, Foy says that the creative process can never stem from a place that prioritises motivations like fame and money over the craft itself. He’s already raring to get back writing his own new material, with the hopes of recording as early as this summer.

‘It's a wondrous art form: you create universes for other people to inhabit and inhabit other people,' he says. 'I think if you do that for the joy of it, and nothing else, it's a win-win. If nothing happens, you've still created this universe. If something happens from creating that universe, then it's high-fives all around.'

Foy Vance will perform live in London and Belfast in November as part of the 'You & I UK Tour' - find out more here.