Rebecca's Music Monday... Robert Francis

What were you doing at 18? Thinking about getting wasted on prom night, filling out college applications or perhaps dreading your other life - wearing a hair net and asking “ do you want fries with that”? Robert Francis was not.  Locked in his basement (not figuratively) writing, composing, mastering the guitar and other instruments, he set out to make a record.

 

   

He MADE it. In 2007, at the age of 19, he self produced his first record “One by One” (Aeronaut Records). His croony vocals, more rough cotton than raw silk,  hinted at the “not quite completed” transition from boy to man yet secure enough in who he was to not let it bother him. He doesn’t need try to sound ‘good’ he just does. 

After the release of his first album, Robert was compared (by NPR no less) to the likes of Jeff Buckley, Steve Earle and Townes Van Zant even Bob Dylan which he agrees was a compliment but has no interest in hearing it repeated. Beyond his rugged yet sometimes breathy vocals, as a lyricist, you will find his old soul is laced with poetic metaphores transparent but anything but ‘obvious’.

In short order he was signed with Atlantic Records which aforded him some financial relief but, at the same time, added pressure to ‘produce’ a record that would equal the seccess of his first.  At the age of 21 his sophmore album “Before Nightfall” delivered.

With a few exceptions (a reference to drugs and social indifference in the gloomy, lamenting verses of Mescaline) he reveals nothing about teenage angst nor does it contain anti establishment retoric. Rather it chronicals five years of obsessing over a lost love.  When you listen, it’s as though he’s sitting next to you in a smokey bar nursing a beer.  You buy him a shot of Petrone and he rewards you with conversation that exposes without appology a deeply wounded heart. You connect.

Thanks to my sisters familiarity with his music, I first saw him at Mercury Lounge in NYC wearing his heart on his sleve and joking about how he was surprised anyone showed up because he thought his only fans were teenage girls in France. I kept thinking how is it I am seeing him here? there are what - 120 people in the room?,this guy could sell out Webster Hall!

After the concert I remember having a special moment with him outside on the empty sidewalk. (This is chronicled in my pink heart shaped diary hidden under my bed). Perhaps I should tell you about? All right, it involved him asking me for a smoke and my going weak in the knees when he lit his cigarette from mine! (lets keep that is our little secret shall we?)

Fast Forward: A year later, I did see him at a sold out show at Webster Hall (opening for KT Tunstall).  A few in the crowd (like myself) were not there for  “Black Horse in a Chery Tree” - we were there for “Mescaline”!

There was a final moment on stage which proved he doesn’t let anyone or anything change who he is. During his encore, I think it was a Bob Dillon cover, he finished the first verse and said ‘F-this’ it’s too depressing. We agreed with a collective chuckle. Robert humbly thanked the crowd, gave us a grin and stepped off the stage.

After the show, (hoping to recreate a moment from a ‘sidewalk’ past) I invited Robert outside for a smoke. Much to my dismay, he said, “thanks, (insert darling, love, honey) but I quit smoking”.  Heartbroken enough to write a song about it, or at least include it in my diary,  I pulled another ‘trick’ out of my bag and offered to buy him a drink. He fell for it and we toasted to his success with a double shot of Patrone. I got my picture and augtograph set list and reluctantly headed for the sidewalk – alone.  

His third record is set to be released any day now.  Word has it that it reflects the same ‘real time’ experiences of the first two. I guess we’ll get to know what he’s been thinking, living and “about” for the past two years. I wonder if there’ll be a song entitled ‘lonely lady smoking on the sidewalk’? Hum…

As far as long term goals, Robert wants to put out “diaries” in the form of records that he can listen to later in life and remember exactly what he was doing ‘that year’.  FYI I hope it’s not true but I just checked his FB and it seems he’s moving to Europe? Say it ain’t so!

Anyway, I’m waiting to update my diary and add another entry which reads ‘I just came back from a Robert Francis sold out gig and OMG he smiled and said “oh, it’s you, again,  I’ll have the usual”.

 

Where to find Robert:
www.robertfrancisofficial.com

Twitter: @robertfrancisTM

www.myspace.com/robertfrancis

http://www.facebook.com/robertfrancisofficial?ref=ts

 

Music:

Most Recent: Official Video for ‘Keep on Running’ from the Before Nightfall  - have a feeling this is what he’s talking about when he said ‘ah, can’t forget those French girls’!

Most Viewed: Official ‘Junebug’ - Before Nightfall -  I’ve never longed to be called an insect as much as when I hear him lamenting his lost love!

Most Haunting: “Mescaline” you’ll want to croon along when he sings “you’re a lo-oo-oo-oo-ve disaster, your heart beats faster when it’s with mine”

Most Unusual: “Dakota” ethereal poetic trip down a river of “what if’s” that hangs as delicately as a bird on wire.

A personal favorite: “Devil Mountain” he begs to be left alone soft and slow but in the end seems to lead a parade south of the boarder, trumpets blaring and accompanied by the vocals of a mangy street dog.


Most Personal: “Little Girl” a Lullaby-ish ‘good-bye song about letting go but states the obvious – he can’t.

 

Live:
“Climb a Mountain” – Watch it, you’ll get what I’m talking about! Raw, Rough and Revealing! Guitar lessons paid off!
Cover:
Rolling Stones “Wild Horses” - Have I saved the best for last? You be the judge…