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in interview with JW Francis, happy indie cupid

Colorful personality — right down to his outfit, pink tracksuit and patterned t-shirt — the New York-based artist J.W. Francis, is preparing to release his third album on January 27 Dream house. A solar album of pure love with indie sauce. During a stay in Paris, we wanted to meet him to discuss this particular new opus, where J.W. pays tribute to his audience but also to his new life as an artist. Between St. Valentine and Joseph E. Stiglitz.

Why did you choose the nickname J.W. Francis. When we google your artist name, we only come across sites of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Not for that — laughs — it has nothing to do with it. When I was little I wanted to be a writer like CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, JK Rowling. So I told myself that I only needed two letters and my name. I imagined my nickname when I was a child. Sometimes people approach me in concert and ask me if I’m a Jehovah’s Witness!

You release a new single “Casino” and announce the release of your third album dream house, next January 27. How do you feel ? Is this one more special than the others?

Yes, it comes from a project that I do every year around Valentine’s Day, it’s a dialogue with the fans and the people who listen to my work. Basically, I make an Instagram post saying: “I can write a song for one of your loves, just send the name and a reason why you love him”. I wrote a hundred songs for this project. This album is a selection of the best songs. It was hard to sort out, because there are a lot of them that I like. And then on the other hand I trusted my ears and what I felt.

And what kind of statements did you receive?

Sometimes I receivedI like his laugh” and that was it, I had to work with it. But most of the time they sent me a paragraph, “she did all that, we had children together”. The longest statement I received was nine pages. It was a bit surprising to read people’s lives, very intimate things, to see that they trusted me to make a melody with it.

Is there a request you received that really resonated with your own experience?

Yes, it’s a bit sad. There were quite a few people who wrote to me saying “I don’t have a Valentine’s Day partner but can you write about self-love?”. I then asked them why they loved each other. And that really touched me. I haven’t had a Valentine for a few years, not that I’m depressed—laughs—but it spoke to me. These texts are distilled in the album.

How did you work from this material to make this album? Have you modified songs by adding your own vision of love, are there texts that you have kept raw?

There’s only one song on the album that I haven’t touched the lyrics to is “Sweet As A Rose”, one of the singles I released for Valentine’s Day ago some months. Everything else, I had too much to say about my life and my mind. In fact, I wrote the album after I left my job — I was an assistant for the economist Joseph E. Stiglitz who works on inequalities, he was my hero —. And started to live like a real musician. I felt excitement, gratitude, a sense of freedom too, to live in the moment.

It’s a project you do every year, why did you come up with the idea of ​​making an album of these songs now?

The idea was still there. I have a connection with the people who listen to me and who support my work. And I wanted to thank them, but also question this link between the artist and the fans.

What relationship do you have with your fans?

It’s love ! It really is something that shines. I too am a fan of many people. I know very well what it can feel when I write songs for them. And then sometimes when I’m touring and I don’t have enough money for the hotel, there are people who put me up. We go for walks, rides together. Right now, I’m totally there for them. I know what it is to be a fan and I love artists who know their limits and who are there to tell: “yeah that’s how I play”. There is no secret.

Casino” has just been released: can you tell us more about the single?

It was a birthday song for a friend. But I wanted to rework it to talk a little more about my life. I explain that I bet on the music. When you’re a musician, sometimes you can feel like you’re playing the lottery. So I’m talking about the casino, playing the game and then seeing if it works or not.

After three albums, should it work? And then especially with all the lovers that you have gathered, we hope that they come to support you.

Yes — laughs. At every concert someone approaches me. Sometimes the person is still in a relationship, sometimes they have separated from their partner. They are there “oh you created a song for Juliette!” and I answer them by singing the song. I don’t forget the songs I write to them.

How does love sound to you? Because when you imagine an album about love, you think of something very sensual and languorous. And your album is on the contrary very happy.

In fact this album does not really come from experiences, but more from the imagination. I put myself in the shoes of people who were in love. And I found it very beautiful. I loved writing songs from other perspectives. I talk about my life and my feelings in the album but not really about my love experiences. Everything was viewed with rose-colored glasses. I love writing stories and imagining the most beautiful love there is.

It’s not a heartbreaking album.

No, that’s the next one — laughs!

You grew up in Paris. And we call Paris the city of love. Does your romanticism come from there?

A little. I spent 6 years here, from when I was 13 to 19. My parents still live in Paris. At school we learned the poetry of Rimbaud and Baudelaire, etc. It inspired me a lot. But the album that is most inspired by Paris is the next one. I wrote it during confinement. It’s a bit more depressing.

What were your musical inspirations for this album?

There are quite a few. Cate Le Bon, a lot. Van Dykes Park, an artist from the 60s, but who was not very successful. And I don’t know, with Spotify, I love listening to the music of people who haven’t really been successful in their time. It makes me very sad – laughs. I wonder “Why ? The music is good, am I going to experience the same?” And then there is something very beautiful. “No one knows about it, but it is there and it exists, someone will find it”. Afterwards with my producer, we don’t try not to mention other artists or bands when we record, to focus more on the emotions.

Did you change the melodies of the original compositions? Have they drastically changed?

The first song of the album “Going Home to a Party” is originally half as fast. And in fact, I found this phenomenon very simple: to increase the speed. And I did that on a lot of songs on the album. And it was great! I’ve never found something so simple that changes the song so much.

And how did people react when you told them that you were going to rework their songs to put them on the album?

I haven’t told them yet — laughs! I contacted the people for whom I originally wrote the singles that came out: ‘Sweet As a Rose’, ‘Our Story’ and ‘Casino’. And I love their reactions. I am surprised every time. That’s also why I changed the lyrics of the original songs, talking about me. It’s a sacred thing, which stays between us and which I don’t want not show everyone. But we have this secret between us, they know the original.

What should your audience expect from this album?

At a bop every six weeks, until the album’s release in January. I’m a little afraid of disappointing people whose songs I didn’t choose. Maybe after the release of the album, I could do a volume 2 but only with demos…

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