With his group Neal Francis landed on Friday November 11, 2022 from Beauvais to play on the stage of Sonic datesin Saint-Lô (Sleeve) at the Art plume workshops. This is the second date in France, a country where he had never played before.
How did the inspiration for your 2 comee album In Plain Sight ?
I live in Chicago (USA). At the start of the Covid pandemic, I found myself unable to do anything, not performing on stage. I rediscovered several demos that I had put away in my drawers, some of which were a bit dated. And I started working on it. That’s how the process started: I composed and created all the songs on the album in a church in Chicago.
Why choose to create in a church?
In fact, I was living there in this church: I was welcomed by the pastor who agreed to accommodate me since the church in question was disused. Later, the band’s drummer, Collin O’Brien joined me. We both live there. I landed here following a breakup with my girlfriend. And it was in this place that my inspiration came to me in October 2019. We made demos and started recording in the basement of the church where we built our studio. Nothing religious in there but all the same a necessary form of spirituality and the need for a bit of solitude, of distance, in an environment which lent itself to creation.
Exactly, how do you compose? The melody comes first then the lyrics or vice versa?
In general, I start from an instrumental in my corner and I make yogurt, lyrics without much meaning, before writing the text. I am inspired by the relationships I have with people, society. These are generally very personal sensations that I transcribe. I did everything on my own for this album, apart from the titles Problems and can’t stop the rain. The drummer has put a little of his own into it, but in general I arrive in front of my musicians with already complete demos, played on the piano, on which they come to graft themselves: drummer Collin O’Brien, guitarist Kellen Boersma and bassist Mike Starr.
What are your musical influences… very seventies it seems?
I grew up with the blues, some classical music, but Curtis Mayfield, John Lee Hooker, Ray Charles, Dr John, Fleetwood Mac, Norman Whitefield, DJ Rogers: artists whose aesthetics I appreciate. Steve Wonder, the Everly Brothers meant a lot to me. Without forgetting Marvin Gaye or, at Stax, Isaac Hayes the Booker T and MG’s
Why did you call on producer Dave Fridmann to In Plain Sight ?
I’m a fan. I have all the records he produced from the seventies to the eighties. It was my label that put me in touch with him. I asked him if he would agree to work on my album and he simply said yes. He grafted himself onto it while we were in the middle of a production session, he had all the material at hand to make something nice out of it.
What type of relationship do you have with France, its public?
I am a fan of French literature, of your history, of your culture. When I was younger, I studied architecture, before giving up around 21, to devote myself to music. And then my mother speaks French well: she studied near Arles and Avignon in the 1970s. I know French artists such as Serge Gainsbourg, Jane Birkin, Brigitte Bardot. I particularly like the album The Ballad of Melody Nelson. I also have the soundtrack that Michel Polnareff made for the film The three Musketeers hence my wink with the piece baptized D’Artagnan on In Plain Sight. At architecture school, I was very impressed by Lecorbusier, Art Nouveau and Bauhaus. I also like artist Melody’s Echo Chamber. I listen to it a lot right now. I hope one day to be able to write a song in French with the help of my mother. And, why not sing on stage one day with, as a guest, a French artist. It would give me a hell of a thrill.
Neal Francis at Art Plume at 10 p.m. this Friday, November 11, 2022. The group then plays at Béthune and at the Boule Noire in Paris