Keeping Yadkin Valley's Music Alive (and kickin')
Born in Italy to a Sicilian-American father and a Guatemalan mother, Cristina Vane has always had a tenuous relationship with identity and place. She grew up between England, France and Italy, and was fluent in four languages by the time she moved to her fathers’ native United States for university at 18. Despite this, (and perhaps because of it) she had no sense of belonging to any one culture or country. What she did have, however, was an intense love of music. Powered by her signature take on blues and rock, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Cristina Vane’s debut album, Nowhere Sounds Lovely, earned her praise from the likes of American Songwriter and Rolling Stone Country, which deemed it ‘mesmerizing stuff’. The 2021 release was written largely on a road trip across America. Since then, Vane has laid down roots in Nashville and had the opportunity to spend more time exploring internally. On her sophomore album “Make Myself Me Again”, Vane has found a way all the way around the country and right back to herself, both musically and personally. “I’ve been trying to peel back the layers, to understand who I am, and I think that process has translated to this record,” she explains, “The production is straightforward, more minimal, and a bit of a return to my rock roots but still paying homage to the music I’ve explored since then”.
After graduating from Princeton with a degree in Comparative Literature, Vane moved to Los Angeles where she worked at McCabe’s Guitar Shop, and spent every free moment working on her music, studying fingerstyle guitar with mentor Pete Steinberg. Those years pushed her into deeper exploration of country blues picking and old folk guitar styles. In the last few years she’s taken a deep dive into old-time and bluegrass music, adding clawhammer banjo to her arsenal of instruments.
After almost four years in Los Angeles, Vane began to feel stagnant, and decided that it was time to take her music on the road. During that time she had built up a solid following on Instagram, so she reached out to her network of fans for help in booking a tour. An outpouring of support ensued, and she was able to book a five month cross-country tour, playing at small bars, breweries, coffeeshops, and clubs, in peoples backyards, through these connections. She crashed with friends, kind strangers, or slept in a tent. She spent days off camping at National Parks.
Following her cross-country journey, Vane relocated to Nashville where she hoped to find a larger community of like-minded musicians. Working with Grammy-award winning drummer and producer Cactus Moser (known for his work with Wynonna Judd) on Nowhere Sounds Lovely was assurance enough that she’d come to the right place. “When it came to the album, I wanted it to be a reflection of who I am, not just of the old music that I’ve come to love”, she explains, “and I’m essentially a rock kid who is obsessed with old music.”
Her latest album, Make Myself Me Again, is no exception. One can hear Nashville’s influence throughout the album from the twang in her song “Small Town Nashville Blues”, to the country-influenced melodic songwriting on “Old Enough”. On “Oxbow Meander”, a co-write with banjoist Kyle Tuttle, the burning bluegrass and western-swing fiddle playing of Billy Contreras makes an appearance. But there is a little more of the “rock kid” that shines through on this latest work, songs like “Little Bit of Me” and “Strange Times” harkening to the classic and 90s rock she was raised on. She also added some hill country on” “Little Black Cloud”, a raw, hypnotic original tracked live.
Many songs on Make Myself Me Again delve into Vane’s personal relationships, and document her quest to find strength and independence in a new town. The album’s title track rings of tenacious resilience, with Cristina’s beautiful yet understated fingerstyle and slide guitar playing. It is the sound of the calm that comes with finally feeling at home with one’s self, conceived from the place of optimism that sometimes comes after a brutal shakedown. “Sometimes I lose, sometimes I win” sings Vane, “I’m gonna make myself me again…I’m giving up on giving in / I’m gonna make myself me again”. On the sassy single “How You Doin”, Vane channels what she calls “fuckboy energy”, and then turns it on its head, oscillating between the perspective of the wanter and the wanted. In “River Roll”, Cristina explores questions about the environmental crisis and our own self-destructive nature with a full string band accompanying her haunting clawhammer.
Despite the myriad of musical touchstones, the record remains cohesive, centering itself around Vane’s experiences and musicianship. “After being exposed to all of this music that I love, I’m slowly figuring out how to find my own voice”, she says, “It is the sound of growing up”. With class and adventure, Vane brings us all back home to ourselves on Make Myself Me Again, an album so honest that you’d be hard-pressed not to root for it, along with its vulnerable and tenacious creator.