Name: JW Francis
Occupation: Singer, songwriter
Current release: JW Francis just published the video to his song "Holy Mountain". His second full-length album Wanderkid is out October 1st on Sunday Best.
If you enjoyed this interview with JW Francis, his official website is a great point of departure into his unique songworld. He is also on Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud and bandcamp.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
It sounds cheesy but impulse to create comes from a desire to express the magic and joy I feel on a daily basis. My dreams play a huge role, a lot of times I’ll hear melodies right before I fall asleep or right when I wake up.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
Usually I’ll hear the song in my head and I’m trying to chase that sound.
The best part about working with my friend/producer Sahil Ansari is that he’ll bring his own ideas to the table and we’ll end up with a song that sounds totally different.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?
Here’s generally how it works for me:
- I’ll sing a little “doo doo doo” into my voice memos on my phone
- I’ll sit down and write a real song based on the voice memo melody
- I’ll make a demo in my bedroom and try to get it as close the finished product as I can
- I’ll take it to Sahil and we’ll re-record the whole thing together
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
The spark can come wherever whenever but when I want to sit down and make a demo I like to have my favorite things around me like pics of family and friends little funny stones I keep in my pockets, things like that.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
Pretty much I always start with the music and try to sing the first thing that comes to mind.
When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?
Lyrics usually come last. I’m always changing the words right up until I record it. Sometimes the lyrics keep changing after the recording, but that’s because I have a terrible memory.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
I am an anti-perfectionist. I like to let the song evolve as naturally as possible, throw a bunch of ideas around and then just choose which ones to keep.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
This definitely happens to me. Sometimes I’ll write 4 or 5 different choruses for a song before picking one. I’ve learned to put a lot of trust in my gut and go with what sounds I like.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
I’m currently walking the Appalachian Trail and I actually find a lot of similarity between the flow state you enter out here after walking for hours and the flow state I’m in when I’m creating. I’ve really only found that feeling when I’m walking, performing, recording/writing or spending time with friends and family - so those seem to be the places I belong.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
You never finish a work. You just eventually let people hear what you’re working on. I view all the songs as one big ongoing project, so it’s never really done.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
If I’m releasing something it’s because I’ve already finished the next thing. I usually like to stay 2-3 steps ahead, it gives me a real sense of giddy excitement because it’s like “if you like this just WAIT”
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Every action is a little piece of art. Sometimes when I walk I feel like I’m writing a poem. I would say the strength of music lies in its ability to express pain and joy, where language fails.