“When you’re in a city like L.A. or New York… they’re fast-paced cities that can tear people apart,” Francis explains. At only 21-years-old, Francis not only chooses his words carefully, but each one exudes insight beyond his years.
Insightful words combine with insightful sounds and vocals on Before Nightfall. The record steers clear of what other 21-year-olds seem to be peddling these days with vocoder voices and electronic beats. The music itself lends a fresh outlook on what can only be described as soulful alternative with a heavy helping of classic rock; National Public Radio (NPR) has already compared Francis to the likes of Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle.
Francis’ voice radiates an authentic, haunting sound that reaches not only into the soul of the listener, but into his own, as well. Every note drips with a drawling sadness of the past but simultaneously conveys an urgency to cultivate an optimistic future. A listener doesn’t need to know anything about Robert Francis or his music to feel like he or she has been touched by his voice and his story.
Before Nightfall takes listeners through a 12-track chronicle of Francis’ love life. “It’s centered around a singular relationship that was set in L.A. that haunted me and consumed my life for about five years,” reveals Francis.
While he has no problem identifying the inspiration for his new album, his boldness recedes when asked to identify who this muse is or the problems surrounding their relationship.
“A lot of the record is about growing apart from the person you love,” says Francis. “Time changes people, especially when you fall in love at an early age and you both are still growing and changing. The theme of ‘Junebug’ is the dissipation of a relationship. There’s a lot of nostalgia on the record for better times.”
INTERVIEW CONTINUED BELOW
This nostalgia permeates through Francis’ lyrics, which are simple yet powerful in their ability to pack an emotional punch. Although not a concept album in the traditional sense, Francis chooses darkness to be his prominent metaphorical theme for Before Nightfall.
“It wasn’t a conscious decision until someone at [Atlantic Records] pointed it out to me,” Francis explains. “I think a lot of time spent back and L.A. and with this person… there’s a lot of darkness associated with it.”
The recording of Francis’ second album was very different from that of his debut album, One By One. Compared to the year it took Francis to complete One By One, Before Nightfall was completed by Francis and his band in just one week.
“[With One By One,] I was focused more on the arrangements than the actual bare bones songs,” explains Francis. “What I wanted to do with the new record was… [not hiding] behind any arrangements.”
The other significant difference, of course, was the demise of the “five-year L.A. love affair.”
“One By One was really innocent, and it was right in the heart of this monster, before it essentially fell apart,” says Francis.
Robert Francis may have been emotionally wounded during the writing and recording for Before Nightfall, but his opportunity to musically cash in on his experiences has left him excited for what’s to come. Just wrapping up a U.S. and Canadian tour in support of Noah And The Whale, he will be heading across the Atlantic to Europe for select dates in November and coming back to the States to finish out 2009.
“When I was a kid, I traveled Europe with my family, [and] I played a while back by myself in London,” Francis recalls. “But with my band this will be a real endeavor.”
Always ahead of the curve, Francis has already begun writing his next record; he plans to head into the studio once again after his winter and spring tours.