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Nothing in Vain when Everything is Vane

Cristina Vane: From Rock to Ole Time

by Kara Martinez Bachman


Cristina Vane plays clawhammer banjo, but she has as much old time in her as she has plugged-in rockstar. She’ll jam like Slash from Guns N’ Roses, and she’ll study the country vibe of Jerry Reed. She’ll lay into some Delta blues that sound like Blind Willie Johnson. She’ll play slide on a resonator or craft something that seems like a mix of all things.

It’s not odd, she seems to think. She’s just doing what interests her, without regard for shaping an image. It’s just all her, exploring what tickles her fancy. It’s all about being her authentic self, always.

“I feel as though my authentic self is …multidimensional,” Vane said. “And it follows that my music is multidimensional.”

It’s no surprise that her music reflects a variety of experiences and interests. A life of living everywhere—and nowhere—informed her paradigm. Today she calls Nashville home, but Vane was born in Italy; lived as a child in Paris; spent some time in England; schooled herself in New Jersey, and grew as a performer while busking on Venice Beach.

While living there in L.A., Vane – whose roots were in rock and even punk – became fascinated with – and began to delve deeply into – blues, bluegrass, and Americana forms, styles, and instruments.

“I got a job at a guitar shop and got my first cheap resonator,” Vane recalled. She soon found a guitar mentor, then began going to open mics and busking on the boardwalk in Venice. “Then I went on a six-month tour,” she said. “I did ten shows a month or so, living out of my car and tent.”

According to Vane, these itinerant meanderings are part and parcel of who she is and has always been and seem at the core of that authentic self she seeks to share with listeners.

“It’s been a constant sense of not really being from anywhere,” she said, relaying how floating cross-culture is a motif that might make her music more expansive. “It puts me in the role of a sort of cultural observer. I spent a lot of time watching…when I’m out touring, it’s a lot of observing. This country is so big, and that’s cool to me.”

Sometimes, Vane will have people ask about the fact that she’s a woman playing the blues, and this rubs her the wrong way. Why can’t a woman play the blues? Why even ask that question?

“I fundamentally believe that women are treated differently,” she said. Vane saw this even as a youngster. “All the people I saw living the rock star dream were men,” she said. “Women aren’t even involved [in rock] unless they’re groupies.”

Vane recalls that she always wanted to live a life similar to Slash from Guns N’ Roses. For women musicians, there were few female role models to relate to. There were few examples to emulate. “Who’s my Slash?” Vane asked rhetorically.

Over time she has updated her goals, and the result is a well-rounded constellation of influences and interests. “I love rock music,” she said, “but I also play soft banjo. I play clawhammer banjo, so part of my set is old-time music.”

Vane has released two albums, the most recent being the May release of Make Myself Me Again. Vane said it has done well—people like what she’s putting out there. “It’s been really good,” she said. “I’m pretty small fry, so I get excited when it’s played on the radio. People seem to like it.”

As for the future, Vane said she’ll probably take a little break from heavy touring in the near future and will “hunker down for the winter” and work on her next record. She gives no specific timeframe for when that’s projected to drop but assures it probably won’t be until sometime in 2024. She’s recorded two records in two years, and there’s no rush on the third.

“I’m really grateful,” Vane said. “I’m grateful that now that I’m trying to make a living doing this, there are people whose support helps keep the dream alive.”
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