Friday, June 6, 2014

Acclaimed singer-songwriter Robert Francis coming to Chicago with new album in tow


After the release of his critically acclaimed third album, "Strangers In The First Place" in 2012, singer-songwriter Robert Francis almost abandoned his music career after he had a near nervous breakdown.

Fortunately for all of us, that didn't happen. The Los Angeles musician continues to make captivating music, as evident by his latest album, "Heaven."

Francis,, will perform June 15 at SPACE, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston. Also on the bill are Carly Ritter and Maxim Ludwig.

The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are available at

I had the chance to talk to Francis about the new album.

Q - Great talking to you. You've called "Heaven" a return to your roots and a rediscovery of why you wanted to make music in the first place. What were your goals for the album and do you think you accomplished them? 

The goals in which a record are built from often change as an artist moves further down the line to finish what he/ she started. One's original intent can wind up going so many different directions and it's hard to tell oneself not to follow these instincts when they make themselves evident and stick to the original goal.

That journey in and of itself is one of the main reasons I love making albums. I discover things about myself I would have never known otherwise. When all is finished, I think the main question you can ask yourself is if your finished product is true, and "Heaven" is the truest representation of myself during this record making process.

Q - The album follows a period in your life where you considered abandoning music. What made you step away from music and what made you come back to it? Is there a story behind the album's title? 

Music is the only thing I've ever known. It's been something that has consumed my life since I was an infant.

Where most people fantasize about levels of success or places they can travel, I began doing the opposite. I prayed for a normal life in which I could establish connections with people that lasted longer than one night in one strange city in a strange part of the world.

I suppose I just needed to stop for a moment to be able to step back and look at everything as a whole to remember why I loved it in the first place. "Heaven" for me is about the search for happiness and an equilibrium. 

Q - How did you put your current band together? 

We were all friends who grew up in L.A - which is rare I'm told - most people from L.A. leave L.A.

Q - You recently finished a tour of Europe with the new album. Were people receptive to the new songs? I've heard European audiences are sometimes more receptive and appreciative than American audiences. Do you find that to be the case? 

The audience has been very receptive to the new record. This usually takes sometime - especially with the language barrier - but as time moves on, I've noticed the audiences just continue to get more comfortable with the music.

I think in Europe - the whole festival mentality that exists here is completely different. This whole "Coachella diet," "Coachella workout," mentality is unheard of. People go to festivals to get sprayed with mud and lose themselves for a weekend. 

Q - One of your songs, “Junebug,” became the number one song in France in 2010 and top 30 song in Germany. Why do you think those countries responded so well to your music? 

Atlantic wasn't so interested in "Before Nightfall." I remember finishing it and people not knowing what to do with the end product.

But, the head of the French Warner Bros. heard it and flipped. He took a risk on it. 

And if you start having success somewhere, other people and places begin to follow. 

Q - It seems that roots music is very much in vogue these days. Why do you think that is? Are there any other musicians out there that you particularly admire what they are doing? 

I love Neko Case and I appreciate Angel Olson and James Vincent McMorrow. It's very funny to me because when I released my first album, very few people were doing this.

Q - I understand that you went to high school with Flea’s daughter and that through him, John Frusciante agreed to give you guitar lessons when you were 16 years old. What was that experience like and do you think that was just another reason why you decided to pursue music as a career? 

It didn't have much to do with me pursuing music but It was definitely a life lesson in spending hours with someone at the apex of their career in music.

Q - You are on an independent record label after previously being on a major label earlier in your career. Is it a better situation being on an independent label? Is it easier being a musician these days or harder? 

It's much harder being a musician now. There was no Facebook, Instagram or Twitter when I started.

It was the end of people really having time to listen. 

I love being on an independent label. I feel like I was able to use the major label experience to my advantage to get to a certain place, and now I'm in a place of total freedom.

Q - You released your first album, "One by One," when you were 19. How do you think your music has evolved since then?

I'm as schizophrenic as ever when approaching an album - but as a performer I've grown in ways I never thought I would. It took a long time to use this vulnerability to my advantage. 

Q - Do you have any dream projects or collaborations? 

I'm trying to get a guitar odyssey album going with the legendary Kitaro.