WITH an incredible new single out…
it is a great time to speak with the talented singer-songwriter, Alex Francis! The Hitchin-raised artist talks about All I've Got's creation and release. I ask him about the upcoming E.P., A Stronger Love - it is released on 1st December and shows what a strong and promising talent Francis is. He talks about his music tastes and what we can expect going forward.
I ask how his new E.P. differs from These Words (his previous release) and the sounds he was raised on; the three albums that mean the most to him; whether there are gigs before the end of the year – and the advice he would offer new songwriters.
Hi, Alex. How are you? How has your week been?
Great, thanks! I’ve just returned from a short tour of Europe with Paradisia in Paris; Antwerp, Hamburg and Berlin.
Great times were had!
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m Alex Francis. I’m a singer and songwriter from North London.
All I’ve Got is your new track. What is the story behind the song?
All I’ve Got is quite a (pretty) personal song for me. I’m being honest about the fact that the way I live my life, in a material sense, isn’t how I want it to stay forever but, even for the stresses and strains that might weigh heavy in my day-to-day - it’s clear to me that I already have the most important things that I need.
It is taken from the forthcoming E.P., A Stronger Love. What are the themes and issues you explore on the E.P.?
Each song on A Stronger Love tries to strike a positive mark on some of the emotionally difficult parts of life. Each song deals with this in its own way and I approach this through a variety of different narratives - all of which I’ve experienced to some degree.
How would you say your new work differs from (E.P.) These Words? Do you feel you have strengthened as a songwriter?
I think the body of work on the new E.P. has a little more relativity throughout.
There are a lot of different emotions in These Words. I wanted to delve into several different themes whilst maintaining the same ‘sonic identity’ throughout; whereas, on A Stronger Love, I’ve chosen four compositions of mine that feel like they live together - and we’ve thrown a lot more dynamic into the arrangements.
I’m really happy with as a progression from where I started earlier in the year.
Gus Pirelli produces A Stronger Love. What was it like working with him?
Gus is a fantastic listener and he really understood my vision for this E.P., especially sonically. We took a bunch of chances in the studio and created some great moments - out of methods that might have been a little ‘unorthodox’ for me before!
This E.P. is also the first time I’ve used my band on record - so that was extra-special - and Gus helped direct the flow of how we’ve interpreted everything live into a really rounded recording.
It seems, in your new music, you prioritise what you have over what you can buy/possess! Do you feel quite blessed right now?
That’s a great question – I’m quite an optimist, generally...even in my darker moments! I’m very lucky to be surrounded by people who value people more than anything. There’s a lot of love in my life. Those two things combined are, essentially, what stimulates me to live the way I do and appreciate everything for what it is - rather than constantly chase what it isn’t. (That certainly doesn’t drown my ambition though!).
I believe in making the very best out of what you have - because doing that will make you realise just how amazing it is.
What was the decision behind moving from Hitchin to London? What is it like, as a songwriter, working in London?
London happened pretty organically for me. It wasn’t a ‘huge decision’: more so the fact that, after I moved home from studying music in Brighton, the creative connections that I was making were in London - and that a bit of a ‘domino-effect’ up to the present day!
Who were the artists you fell for at a young age? What kind of music were you raised on?
Loads of old Soul records on my mum’s side and all the great rootsy Rock stuff on my dad’s. That was the main mesh, along with loads of commercial radio-play, as you do when you’re a kid!
There were a few early musical obsessions, too – Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones and Meat Loaf to name an eclectic three...
Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?
I’m really struggling to stop playing Theo Katzman’s second solo record, Heartbreak Hits, at the moment. I found it last year and it’s been a regular feature since – he’s been doing his own thing outside of Vulfpeck for a while now – but this record came to me late; hence why it still feels super-fresh! I’m also enjoying the new Sam Smith record; Game Winner by Joey Dosik - and a record called A Song for Every Moon by Bruno Major.
I run a playlist on my Spotify page called Earssentials - that I’m constantly updating with new stuff that grabs me.
IN THIS PHOTO: Joey Dosik/PHOTO CREDIT: John Hanson
If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
Another great question – there are definitely more than a defining three for me but, straight off the bat, I would say Michael Jackson’s Thriller
For its power, sleekness and ambition. A total reset of the popular bar for the time - and still today.
Secondly; I’ll go for Exile on Main Street by The Rolling Stones
For its unashamed bravado and ragged beauty; amazing songwriting and, personally...I consider this to be most of their best writing on one record. Controversial!
Thirdly; I’ll take Donny Hathaway - Live
As it is quite honestly the most amazing documentation of a show I’ve ever heard on record. I’m a big fan of live albums and this is totally where I’d want to come from (if I ever made my own). There’s so much vibe and the mix is amazing - for picking out little nuances and gems in all of the arrangements. The band are incredible on this - and Donny’s interpretations of popular songs, mixed with his own ballads, are a total dream set-list.
Can we see you perform anywhere soon?
Yes! I’m launching the new E.P. this Friday (1st December) at Thousand Island (formerly Upstairs at the Garage), in Highbury, with the whole band – we’ve got some great support performing, too – so get down early!
Tickets are still on sale here.
Is gigging important? How much of a thrill do you get from performing in front of crowds?
Massively. I believe that songs grow to their full proportion and potential when they’re performed live. There’s where the real lifeblood is: in front crowds that love them as much as you do. That’s a huge ambition for me - as far as the journey (so far) goes and what’s yet to come...
Nothing beats the adrenaline of a great live show.
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
I think the most useful thing I could try to say would be to stay true to your art and stay focused: there’s so much hubbub in creative industries that it’s easy to get sidelined or sidetracked onto a path that isn’t necessarily ‘you’. Surely, the thing that’s going to interest people the most is ‘you’- rather than your version of something else?!
Christmas is not too far away. Do you have plans already - or will you be busy working?
Plans are being hatched!
Christmas is always a family affair that usually involves way too much wine and way too much cheese. There’s usually a load of football to played too (which I love). I’m working with some new writers in December and I’m very excited about that. It’s going to be a creative month and we will be hard at work promoting the new E.P. (out 1st December on Spotify!)
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Hard Work – Theo Katzman
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PHOTO CREDIT: JPBoardman