B&L: What animal do you associate yourself with (given our ties to oxen)?
David Francey: A crow. I’m drawn to beautiful things that catch my eye. I always will be. On the other hand, I’m not above picking through the detritus of life either. It’s a constant search for inspiration amid the highs and lows.
B&L: Why music? Why do you seek it? Why do you create it? How’d it come calling to you?
Francey: I’m drawn to music and painting. Music came out of writing poetry, which I’ve done since I was 10 years old. In my teens I began making up tunes and singing the poems to myself. I was listening to Joni Mitchell, Bruce Cockburn, and John Prine a lot. Hence the progression to writing songs. Writing has always served to sort out the emotional side of life for me. I can’t write about something that doesn’t move me, good or bad.
B&L: Was there a moment or experience that led you to try your hand at making this your life? What keeps you inspired to keep going?
Francey: I was press ganged into music by Beth Girdler, my wife. She was the motivator behind it. I had no urge to pursue music as a livelihood.
I keep going at it because I feel what I write still rings with people… that I still have something to say. If I ever feel otherwise, I’ll stop.
B&L: What’s the making of a great show? What do you look or hope for as you step foot on that stage?
Francey: I hope for a listening audience. That’s half the battle. Then I try and sing songs worth listening to.
I want people to leave the concert moved and ultimately happy.
B&L: Okay, let’s talk about the latest record, “Empty Train.” What were the goals when you set out to make it?
Francey: The goal was to make the best record we could make and to enjoy doing it. I like to think we did that.
B&L: You like trains? My four-year-old LOVES trains. I prefer them to be empty (so he’s not bothering anything while he’s running around in them), but your vision of an empty train is something far different. Care to expound upon the meaning a bit?
Francey: I’ve always loved trains. I grew up at the end of the Steam era in Britain so it was a given.
I thought the Empty Train was an excellent metaphor for failed love. The inspiration came from the trains running empty through Ashcroft, BC. As lonesome and sad a sound as I’ve ever heard. Perfect for expressing the emptiness I feel when you’ve been left behind by love.
B&L: What do you enjoy about traveling around and playing your songs? What’s the best mode of travel? Car, plane, bus, bicycle? Walking?
Francey: I’ve always been smitten by wanderlust. When I read John Stienbeck’s “Travels With Charlie,” that put me on the road for good.
I hitchhiked across the country and up to the Yukon several times – the first being when I was sixteen. On that trip I also hopped a freight train from Thunder Bay to Sudbury. It remains one of my fondest memories. Now, for me, driving is the preferred mode of travel, since you can’t take a boat or a train everywhere.
B&L: You’re a “carpenter turned songwriter.” How does carpentry play into the way you pen songs? What sort of precision and patience goes into both art forms?
Francey: I’m a better songwriter than I was a carpenter. Mind you, I wrote a large number of songs while on the job site. I am infinitely more patient and precise when it comes to songwriting. I like carpentry. I love songwriting.
B&L: Are you a patient man in general? Are there facets of life you’re not so patient with?
Francey: I am extremely patient when it comes to songwriting, in that I will and have waited years for the right word. I never put a song out without making every word count. I’m constantly paring a song down. Overwriting is an anathema to me and the most common trap people fall into. Less is more to me.
B&L: What’s one tune (or, heck, a couple) that exists out there in the ether that blows you away that you kind of wish you had written yourself?
Francey: “Hejira” by Joni Mitchell. “Sonny’s Dream” by Ron Hynes. “A Fond Kiss” by Robert Burns. “Hard Times Come Again No More” by Steven Foster, to name a few. They all ring for me. They all strike the heart.
B&L: What can folks expect when they come out to see you perform at the Stone Church this Thursday? What excites you about getting back to the good ol’ Granite State?
Francey: We’ll play a lot of “Empty Train” and a good selection of older material. In New Hampshire I have good musical friends like Ben and Sarah and a dear musician friend in Craig Werth. He’s one of the finest songwriters and players I have ever had the pleasure to play with. A true humanist and a great heart. It’s evident in his beautiful writing.
B&L: Question number 12. If you could have a dozen of anything, what would that dozen of something be?
Francey: Beer. Or fried whole clams.
David Francey will visit the Stone Church on Thursday, May 12th. Newmarket resident/musician Craig Werth will open the show. For tickets and more information, click here.