ALEX FRANCIS TALKS ED SHEERAN, TOURING & THE POWER OF MUSIC 0 180

Having opened for the likes of Stereophonics and with a number of as yet unannounced festival dates for the summer coming up, singer-songwriter and guitarist Alex Francis is starting to make waves. While supporting US music YouTuber Megan Davies on her first headline UK tour, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with him after the first night show in Manchester to chat favourite songs, future plans and his admiration for Ed Sheeran.

TITL: Guitarists have long since been a staple of the music industry, but what is it about the instrument that makes you connect with it so strongly?

Alex Francis: That’s a great question. When it comes to outside my voice, it’s my instrument. Guitar playing has always been a vehicle of sorts for me I guess. I didn’t go into music just to play guitar – my brother plays really well and he’s developed an amazing style – but I came into guitar playing later on. I like it and I was interested by it, but I was never on a quest to learn “Stairway To Heaven” or anything like that. I started singing from a young age and I decided that I needed an instrument to be a vehicle for that. It could have been the piano; I’m trying to chase that path as well at the moment. My sort of genesis of guitar playing, stylistically…I like the idea that I have a feel for how I do it. I don’t really know how best to describe what that is. I just use it as a vehicle to carry what I’m doing.

TITL: There’s a very Ed Sheeran-esque sound and tone to your voice, particularly when it comes to certain songs in your set…

AF: I love Ed Sheeran..

TITL: Given how he’s, I’d say, easily the most modern, successful guitar player in the world right now, do you ever feel any pressure to sort of live up to that and find yourself maybe one day selling out a stadium like Wembley or the Etihad, like he has?

AF: I think what Ed Sheeran is doing is phenomenal. Being able to do that – sell out shows at Wembley and here in Manchester as you mentioned – is incredible. What makes him so admirable, when I think about it is the fact that he’s presenting those songs in their most basic format. Now I’m all for production, I love all that stuff and I do it with my own records, but that guy can present his music in such a bare bones kind of way and it’s the truth and the power of a strong melody and great lyrics. When I think about him, it fills me with great hope that you can be a great songwriter with your lyrics and your narratives, your melodies and it’s still strong enough to connect with people on that scale. I’m a great admirer of Ed Sheeran; I think he’s doing a great thing not even just for a genre but music as a whole; the way he writes such great songs that people are receptive to – there’s a power in that.

TITL: I’m assuming you’ve played bigger shows than the one you did tonight, so taking that into account, how do you personally feel about playing smaller, more intimate venues like this one?

AF: I’ve been very lucky to play some really big theatres and arenas and to go out with other acts that are doing that but to be truthful, I get a kick out of every single version of a venue. Like tonight, for example, it doesn’t and didn’t matter to me how many people were here; we had a cool crowd tonight. I’m just want to connect with people, like I have with you. We hadn’t met each other until tonight, but we connected, and I’m glad to be able to talk to you about this. For me, I guess I’m looking for connection. There was a fella I was talking to just now and he asked me what it was I wanted from this and what I wanted to do…I’m just happy to give my art out to people. I want to be able to connect; that’s the only thing I really want. I like to give this out, I want it to be public and I just want to connect with people..on any level.

TITL: It’s been said over time that many things can bring people together and connect them with one another, but I guess music is a key part of that. Music has stood the test of time whereas many other things and ‘ideas’ per se haven’t..

AF: You can trace music back…it’s primitive. You can go back to a caveman hitting a club against the side of a wall because it meant something and people responded to that. I believe in the power of music. I’ll say this as well, sometimes playing in front of a really, really big crowd is sometimes much, much easier than playing in front of a small one because you don’t have such a level of attention that maybe you’d hope for, when compared to large audiences. We’re stripping these songs really far back, and as you were saying about Ed Sheeran earlier, you give people the bare essence and if that’s strong enough, then hopefully you’ve got something good. I wouldn’t speak for Megan but I’m sure she would come from the same place.

TITL: Megan mentioned earlier that it’s the connection to her music that she cares about most when it comes to people’s reactions, and that she once got a message from a soldier overseas who listened to her songs to help him sleep.

AF: Oh wow. People respond to the power and the connection, primitiveness of music.

TITL: Speaking of the connection so many of us have to and with music, which song do you personally feel most emotionally connected to?

AF: That’s a great question. Do I only get one?

TITL: Yes.

AF: You can’t do that to me!

TITL: I can…I did it to Megan earlier…

AF: I tell you what, I’ll give you one song but it won’t be the only one I can think of. I would say…maybe “Case Of You”. Actually, let me scratch that one. Let me think…I love “Man In The Mirror” by Michael Jackson. I love that song – there’s something really ethereal about that song. It puts the hairs on my arms up every time I think about it. He accesses something in that track. I’m not talking about him…I mean he was an artist, but there’s something in that song…a message. It’s a message that people try and do a lot; it’s been tried in other songs and been done well, but I think the message in that track is incredible.

TITL: Just in case you wanted to know, Megan chose “River” by Joni Mitchell..

AF: Ah! And yours?

TITL: “Everybody Hurts” by REM.

AF: Incredible…incredible.

TITL: I can come back to that song at any time, no matter what mood I’m in, but especially when I’m feeling a little low, and the message of that song – the reminder that I’m not alone, really touches me. And I think it does for a lot of people.

AF: It’s a beautiful song. Michael Stipe has such a beautiful turn of phrase to his lyrics. It’s such a relatable lyric, isn’t it? It’s one of those songs…kinda like one of those Motown tracks from back in the day when they were so simple but so profound.

TITL: It’s proof that you don’t need heavy instrumentation or production to get a message across or make a song connect with an audience. If the lyrics are honest and heartfelt enough..

AF: I’m really into those kinds of songs. I feel like we’ve got a common thread here; we’ve been talking about Ed Sheeran, “Man In The Mirror” and now “Everybody Hurts”…they’re songs that just give you the message straight up and down.

TITL: There’s something almost therapeutic about the message in those songs..

AF: Exactly and we understand what it means to have a connection to a song in that way. Some people do, some people don’t. It’s like that Bob Marley quote: “The greatest thing about music is that when it hits you, you feel no pain.” It’s a great way of putting it.

TITL: So how did this run with Megan come about?

AF: I have a great agency who work wonders for me in the UK and do the same with Megan. I met Megan for the first time tonight. We’ve been talking and conversing via social music. I listened to her music and my agent pitched it in, saying he thought it’d be a really cool fit. For the last few months, I’ve been going out with artists who are trying or starting to break through over here, which is very much what we’ve been trying to do with my music. I love what she’s doing and I love the way she approaches her own music, the songs that she covers. She’s got a really individual style of doing that. It’s really cool, the way she blends all the music and the rest of it. I was like “yeah, let’s do it..let’s get on board.” Any opportunity to tour. I was just talking to Kelsea (Megan’s manager) earlier and saying the same thing. I love being on the road, wherever I am and the same goes for Gee my guitar player.

TITL: How have you found audiences to be different or similar when playing shows here and elsewhere in Europe or in the States?

AF: As far as the US is concerned, I’ve done literally a handful of shows over there. I haven’t done a massive amount. I’ve been spending a lot of time in Europe in the last 18 months. One thing I have found is that in my experience, being a relatively new act to a lot of people, I tend to feel like, especially in Northern Europe, they’re very receptive to music that isn’t perhaps on their radar. In the UK, I think we’re quite choosy about what we like, but I’m the same. I was born in Hampstead; I’m as English as it gets. You kind of have to ‘earn’ it a bit more over here – don’t get me wrong, I haven’t got a problem with doing that, and that’s part of the path we’re on. I feel like people can get on board with your music for a little bit less in Europe, but at the end of the day, I just want people to connect with the songs. As for the US; I’m dipping my toe in…I’m going to be in Austin next month playing SXSW. Excuse my French but it’s a bit of a clusterfuck of opportunity…so I’m gonna try and be in as many places, meet as many people as I can.

TITL: So aside from this tour and SXSW, what does the rest of 2019 have in store for you?

AF: We’ve got some pretty tasty ones in the diary for the summer festival circuit. Some of it’s still unconfirmed and I’ve been sworn to secrecy, so if you’re sniffing for an exclusive, I’m hard pressed to let the cat out of the bag. There’s going to be festivals all summer and then I’m going back to Germany in September; doing a little run of headline dates there. We actually rejigged the dates because the Megan opportunity came up, so I’ll be there in September and then I’ll be in New York that month too. I should probably mention too that I’ve got a single out right now called “Whatever Happened..”

TITL: Go on, give it a plug..

AF: It’s out now on Apple Music, Spotify. We played it tonight. And, we have another one dropping on May 3rd so keep a look out for that. There’s a video dropping in a few weeks. Social media is AlexFrancisMusic..check it out.

TITL: Looking further ahead, and given, as you’ve said, that you’re a relatively new artist, what’s the long term goal? What’s the big ambition?

AF: It’s actually really hard to know. It’s kind of tricky to pin down quite what that should be or what that is. All I can really say is that I’m going to try and keep developing what I’m doing. I want to try and become more familiar to people. I’m not trying to conquer the world, I’m not trying to get 10 million listeners on Spotify…I just wanna keep playing shows and have people connect with the music. This is so cool because you didn’t know me from Adam today and I just met you, and you were like “I wanna hear what he has to say”…sometimes I ramble and talk crap, but this is so much of the reason I want and wanted to come out and do this kind of tour with Megan and again, I don’t want to speak for her, but I think she would vibe on this as well. You want to access people, you want to meet people and talk to people. I got a really lucky opportunity to go out with Gee and the rest of my group and open for Stereophonics in Europe. This time last year we were still out…and it was cool. Sometimes it felt like a film…being whisked around all sorts of places, and it was so exciting to do it. We had such a blast every night and we got to get my music out there to people, hoping they’d connect with it.

TITL: I asked Megan the same question and she said, very much as you have, that her ambition is to get her music out there and have it connect with people.

AF: Exactly – for me, the connection is what matters. And, if I’ve got an end goal, it’ll be to do this until I can’t do it anymore.

Check out “Whatever Happens” below and for more information on Alex Francis, visit his website, give his page a like on Facebook or follow him on Twitter. Header photo credit: James Boardman.

Previous ArticleNext Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

BRIT AWARDS 2019 WINNERS REVEALED 0 43

Mastercard BAU 2019

HOME
WINNERS
NEWS
VIDEOS
PHOTOS
HISTORY
TICKETS
SHOP
PRICELESS

BRITs 2019 WINNERS
Tonight we celebrated the achievements of British and international artists and musicians over the last year, live on ITV from The O2 Arena, London!

Jack Whitehall was back on hosting duties for the second year to present an exceptional night of entertainment for the 12,000 arena guests and the millions watching from home. A grand total of 13 awards – designed by acclaimed architect Sir David Adjaye – were handed out during the show.

Presenters on the night included: Paloma Faith, Annie Mac, Suki Waterhouse, Khalid, Jared Leto, Liam Payne and Winnie Harlow.

Multi-award winning actor and performer Hugh Jackman kicked off proceedings with a dazzling rendition of ‘The Greatest Show’ from the global music sensation The Greatest Showman, resplendent with over 100 circus-themed dancers. Calvin Harris made his BRITs debut with a collaboration with Dua Lipa, Sam Smith and Rag’n’Bone Man, and the show also hosted performances from George Ezra, Jorja Smith, Jess Glynne with H.E.R., Little Mix with Ms Banks and The 1975. P!nk closed the show with an incredible four song medley following the presentation of her Outstanding Contribution to Music award.

Winning British Group for the second time, The 1975 also added the much coveted Mastercard British Album of the Year award to their BRIT tally, for their third No. 1 album A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships.

A true ‘Giant’ of British music, Calvin Harris bagged his first ever BRIT awards, having been nominated 16 times in the last ten years. Winning British Single, along with Dua Lipa, for their No.1 smash hit ‘One Kiss’, the multi-million selling DJ was also honoured with Best British Producer, in acknowledgment of his immense chart topping success over the past twelve months, collaborating with some of the biggest artists in the world and responsible for some of the biggest hits of the last decade.

More BRITs firsts on the night saw a win for George Ezra for British Male Solo Artist and Tom Walker in British Breakthrough Act, the latter a public vote. Rising star Jorja Smith, who won the Critics’ Choice award in 2018, came away with British Female Solo Artist.

The BRITs Global Success award, identified by global sales success of a British artist, was awarded to Ed Sheeran for a second year, continuing to celebrate the phenomenal success of his third album Divide – certified sales alone account for 10.5 million, and overall Ed has sold an estimated 150 million records to date.

Ariana Grande was announced as Best International Female and Drake won his second BRIT award for Best International Male. Best International Group went to The Carters, their first as a group – although Beyonce and Jay Z have both won BRIT awards as individuals previously.

British Artist Video of the Year was once again determined by public social vote and this year the winner was Little Mix for ‘Woman Like Me’, which the girls performed earlier in the show.

WINNERS & SPEECHES

BRITISH MALE SOLO ARTIST – GEORGE EZRA (PRESENTED BY DANIEL STURRIDGE & PALOMA FAITH)

BRITISH FEMALE SOLO ARTIST – JORJA SMITH (PRESENTED BY H.E.R. & NILE RODGERS)

BRITISH GROUP – THE 1975 (PRESENTED BY NATALIE DORMER & VICKY McCLURE)

BRITISH BREAKTHROUGH ACT – TOM WALKER (PRESENTED BY ALICE LEVINE & CLARA AMFO)

INTERNATIONAL GROUP – THE CARTERS (PRESENTED BY JACK WHITEHALL)

INTERNATIONAL MALE SOLO ARTIST – DRAKE (PRESENTED BY JACK WHITEHALL)

INTERNATIONAL FEMALE SOLO ARTIST – ARIANA GRANDE (PRESENTED BY JACK WHITEHALL)

BRITs GLOBAL SUCCESS AWARD – ED SHEERAN (PRESENTED BY ABBEY CLANCY & ROMAN KEMP)

BRITISH ARTIST VIDEO OF THE YEAR – “WOMAN LIKE ME” BY LITTLE MIX FEATURING NICKI MINAJ (PRESENTED BY BROS)

BRITISH PRODUCER OF THE YEAR – CALVIN HARRIS (PRESENTED BY ANNIE MAC & SUKI WATERHOUSE)

BRITISH SINGLE – “ONE KISS” BY CALVIN HARRIS & DUA LIPA (PRESENTED BY LIAM PAYNE & WINNIE HARLOW)

MASTERCARD BRITISH ALBUM OF THE YEAR – “A BRIEF INQUIRY INTO ONLINE RELATIONSHIPS” BY THE 1975 (PRESENTED BY JARED LETO)

OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO MUSIC – P!NK (PRESENTED BY KHALID)

TALKING NEW MUSIC, SOCIAL MEDIA & ULTIMATE AMBITIONS WITH MAYA LAVELLE 0 72

With her album Hobo due out soon, 2019 is shaping up to be a big and important year in the career of Maya Lavelle. After first coming to notable attention after her debut single featured in a hugely popular TV series (read on to find out which), Lavelle’s career has gone from strength to strength. Prior to Hobo‘s release, and having just dropped the video for latest single “House On A Rocky Road”, Lavelle spoke to ThisIsTheLatest about her admiration of Tim Burton, her tour plans and her ultimate goal.

TITL: Who is Maya Lavelle in a few words?

Maya Lavelle: Maya Lavelle is a singer-songwriter and producer that conjures phantasmagorical sounds that turn our world into an enchanted forest with quirky eccentric characters.

TITL: What would you say sets you apart from other artists?

ML: My phantasmagorical style.

TITL: Which artists might you say you’re most inspired or influenced by and how to those influences filter into the music you make?

ML: Tim Burton, aesthetically, had a big influence on my music. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman struck the idea in my head that later developed into “House on a Rocky Road”. I love the paintings of the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch, and the sculptures and buildings of Antoni Gaudi. Park Guell in Barcelona is probably one of my favourite places to go to. How I translate these impressions into music is not easy to explain. For everything I see, I kind of immediately have a sound in my head.

TITL: Who or what is your biggest inspiration when it comes to music and song-writing? With that in mind, could you choose what you feel is the greatest song ever written?

ML: That’s a tough one. I can’t choose one song but I love “Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush and “Eleanor Rigby” by The Beatles.

TITL: Your debut single “This Ain’t The End” was featured in the film The Rift but is perhaps more known for being used in an episode of hit show The Walking Dead. What impact did having the song featured have on your career/fanbase and how did the inclusion come about?

ML: Fans of the Walking Dead went crazy over it, feeling that the lyrics fit a pivotal and highly anticipated moment in the series perfectly. I denied the rumour but that didn’t stop the fan frenzy.

TITL: You held an intimate listening party for your new single “House On A Rocky Road” in London on February 3rd. How was that?

ML: That will actually happen on the 6th March – we decided to move the date.

TITL: Ah, okay. You’ve just released the video for the track, with the visuals inspired by Tim Burton and The Brothers Grimm. Can you talk me through the creative process for both the song and the video? Where did the ideas for them come from?

ML: The song was partially inspired by remarkable characters from my life which are my grandfather who was a man of style and honor, and my grandmother who is a character I really relate to. And the concept for the video was inspired by the lyrics of the song. I worked on this with director Tamara Kotevska who had so many great and creative ideas. I love Tim Burton and his dark and whimsical aesthetic. I think it fits perfectly with my music.

TITL: Your first full length album is due out soon. Without giving too much away, what can you tell me about it?

ML: Hobo is a conceptual album. The overall concept is an escape from boredom, inspired from my experiences while living in Amsterdam, Los Angeles and London. The characters I’m singing about in this album are lonely, searching for love and care, just like Hobo. They’re all coming from different dimensions to meet in the House on the Rocky Road which is in Darkwille County. Hobo is the only character who can travel through all the dimensions and he changes the light bulbs on the streets of the Universe.

TITL: Do you have a favourite track on the album and if so, which is it and why?

ML: My favourite is “Zombie Town”. This song represents a post-apocalyptic future we are heading towards by neglecting the outcome of global warming and I wrote this out of great concern from current events that are taking place.

TITL: Do you have any tour/performance plans in the works?

ML: Once my album is out in June I would like to tour in the US and Mexico.

TITL: How do you feel about social media? Do you think society and the music industry is perhaps too reliant on the likes of Twitter and Facebook, or do you believe such platforms are now vital tools, given the technology-obsessed world we live in?

ML: Big changes can bring both good and bad sides. What I like about social media is that is has opened up a two way conversation between artist and audience. The audience has a bigger part to play than ever before. Today the real value is actually in this interaction. This way I can communicate and approach each of my listeners as individuals, as a person and not only as a consumer of pop music.

TITL: Do you have any other plans or projects lined up for the coming months?

ML: We are currently editing the music video for my next single “Dancing with a Bottle”, which we shot in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Palm Springs.

TITL: Finally then, what’s the ultimate goal for you as an artist? What one ambition do you most want to achieve and, along a similar path, looking much further down the line, what one thing would you most like people to say about you/remember you for in terms of your career and artistic legacy?

ML: The goal is to take people on a peculiar journey with my music where they can indulge in, and feel free from anything that’s holding them back. I hope I can bring and leave something genuinely new to music and provide musical elements that are challenging, original and exciting. I hope to create ideas that can powerfully move people.

Check out the video for “House On A Rocky Road” below and for more information on Maya Lavelle, give her page a like on Facebook or follow her on Twitter. Header photo credit: Miljana Vukovic.