THE man has had a busy past couple of months…
what with performing at the Royal Wedding and promoting his new single, Free to Be Me! I ask James Francis what it was like singing on that big day and the inspiration behind his latest tune; whether there is more material coming down the line – Francis talks about his faith and how Gospel resonates in him.
I ask whether there is a new artist we need to check out and whether he gets time to detach away from music; which albums are important to him; if there are going to be touring dates approaching – he gives some useful advice for upcoming songwriters.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
My first single, Want It All, says a lot about who I am. I'm an ambitious creative who wants it all – a great career full of good music and amazing experiences! My music is a fusion of Soul, Hip-Hop and R&B. I can't say it fits neatly into any one of those genres because I love to experiment and push creative boundaries.
Free to Be Me is my second release and also speaks volumes about who I am. Whether it’s the colour of my skin, the area I grew up in or my faith; people have always tried to box me into some sort of stereotype. Free to Be Me is my way of responding to that: I feel it's important that we can feel good about ourselves and celebrate our identity.
The video for Free to Be Me is out. What was it like making the video? What is the story behind the song?
Making the video was a lot of fun. The video director, Chalky, was great and had a lot of good ideas for me to work with. As it was a public road, we filmed very early in the morning when I could play about more and not be disrupted by cars and passers-by etc.
Is there more material coming along? Are you working on anything else?
Yes. I'm working on another single and an E.P. As well as an artist, I'm a songwriter at heart so I'm always experimenting and creating new material.
When did music come into your life? Do you remember which artists captured your imagination?
When I was growing up, singers like Luther Vandross and Stevie Wonder inspired me to sing. It wasn't until my mid-teens that I started taking it seriously and joined the Aria Vocal Academy, started by the late Eugene Johnson
It seems like Gospel and Soul are important. Do you consider yourself to be spiritual and have a religious side?
Yes. I am a Christian; my values and faith are grounded in that. Although, I wouldn’t say my music is strictly Gospel: the content is based on my view of life which is seen through a Christian lens.
What was it like performing for the Kingdom Choir at the Royal Wedding last month?! What was the day like?
I love being a part of the Kingdom Choir. We’re such a great bunch of friends that we have almost become like family. To have had the privilege of singing at the Royal Wedding in such great company was amazing. We got driven to Windsor by police escort and, even though we arrived super-early, the atmosphere was already full of excitement and celebration when we got there.
What you didn’t get to see on T.V. was us singing as the Royals were leaving the church. All the celebrities were clapping along as we belted out This Little Light of Mine. It is definitely an experience I will never forget.
The rendition of Stand By Me reached number-seven in the iTunes Charts. Was that quite an intense and unexpected moment?!
Most definitely. Our focus was to do you a great job for the Royals and make their day special. We had no ambition of entering the charts. So, when it happened, it was a really nice surprise. We truly feel blessed by the response we’ve had.
Are there going to be any tour dates coming up? Where can we see you play?
The best place to see me sing at the moment is online. On my YouTube channel, you’ll find links to my official music videos and some acoustic versions too. I don’t have any events lined up at the moment but you can sign up to the mailing list on my website to make sure you’re one of the first to know when dates are announced.
Do you have any ambitions to fulfil before the end of the year?
There are exciting things lined up for both my solo career and my work in the Kingdom Choir which include travel and performances at some significant venues. By the end of the year, I at least hope to have stamped a good few pages in my passport!
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
Singing at the Royal Wedding will definitely be a memory I’ll never forget and a story I will pass on to my children for years to come.
Which three albums mean the most to you, would you say?
Michael Jackson - Thriller
Stevie Wonder - Songs in the Key of Life
Musiq Soulchild - Aijuswanaseing
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Definitely, focus on creating the best music you can. It’s not about copying other people or trying to fit into the latest trend. Put your own mark on the music industry and don’t be afraid to be different.
IN THIS PHOTO: Sharlene-Monique
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Sharlene-Monique is a great new artist who is also a part of the Kingdom Choir. She has a unique, soulful jazzy voice and her new E.P., Destiny, is definitely one to download.
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
My wife and I recently had a baby boy; so much of my chill time at the moment is taken up with changing nappies and keeping him entertained. When there is a little quiet time we like watching movies.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
One of my favorites at the moment is Get You by Daniel Ceasar (ft. Kali Uchis). It’s my go to song when I want to chill and relax.
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