Two years ago, singer-songwriter David Francey did win two Canadian Folk Music Awards. He is continuing his prolific work despite personal challenges. FolkWorld inquired how it all began.
David: I began writing poetry as a kid. The performers that rang for me in my teens were the singer songwriters, so I began putting the poems to music. Eventually I shifted to writing songs. The lyrics came complete with a melody in my head. I had a full life in construction, writing songs all the while but not performing them. I wrote about the life I was living. I just needed to write.
What were your particular inspirations?
Bruce Cockburn, John Prine, Joni Mitchell, Planxty. They among others inspired me. Prine’s chronicling of our times, Cockburn’s musical genius. The lyrics of Joni Mitchell read like the best poetry Canada has ever produced. Planxty opened up Irish Music for me, beautiful melodies, unsurpassed, unforgettable deep and timeless.
You started late professionally at age 45, but your musical career is lasting 20 years after all. Looking back, what immediately comes to mind?
Many highlights. An astonishing number really. The first round of Folk Festivals was an unforgettable time. Joyous. Excited. Delighted. Road driven. A few nights were spent on the downside as well, just for contrast and to keep you humble. All the gigs mattered in their own way. Most for the joy of playing them and some for the lesson learned, noted, then laughed about. Keeps it all even. There is a near disbelieving element to where you find yourself sometimes. Thrilling. All of it.
I have been fortunate to have found an audience from the start. I made sure I played for listening rooms at the beginning. Better to play for 20 listening than 200 talking. It didn’t make any sense to me to do otherwise. It proved a good path.
A big challenge must have been your recent vocal problems ...
I am still recovering as we speak. It’s tremendously frustrating. I toured too hard for too long. It’s easily done when you are enjoying yourself and used to keeping marching. I am still writing which is an upside from this time off the road. I am making every effort to return to the circuit and the life. I miss it.
I'll keep my fingers crossed ... Is there any chance to see you in Europe?
I’ve played a lot in Australia but not in Europe. I play the UK regularly and I’ve been fortunate enough to tour Denmark and attend the Tønder Festival, all of which I enjoyed immensely. I would love to embark on a full European tour.
Anyway, you just released another album recently, The Broken Heart of Everything. How would you describe your current music?
I like the record very much. I love the songs themselves. I played with the Handsome Soldiers again. No better band of friends to record with. I see the album as a continuation of our past work together, the lyric and clarity up front and the band ticking over like a well tuned machine. I think the songs ring true and that’s what matters to me.
You're not only a folk musician, but a visual artist too. What painting style do you prefer?
I use acrylic paints with a very limited pallet. It’s limited because of my colour blindness, but I don’t feel it gets in the way. I manage to accomplish what I set out to do for the most part. I adore painting. I think we draw from the self same well when we paint or write. The feeling of completion and contentment are identical in my case. If I’m writing, I don’t paint and vice versa.
Thanks, David, for taking your time to answer my questions.
I really appreciate your asking them. Best down the road.
Photo Credits: (1)-(3) David Francey (unknown/website).