Singer-songwriter David Francey is known for being a truly authentic player on the Canadian folk scene.
His songs chronicle the lives of everyday people. His astute observations and open-hearted style have earned him a loyal following.
Francey has never played the Harrison Festival of the Arts but he says he’s looking forward to his concert on the beach stage on Tuesday, July 15.
“It’s going to be a good time. We’re all looking forward to it.”
They’re performing at the festival as a “nice little trio,” says Francey, who is arriving with band mates Mark Westberg on guitar and Chris Coole on banjo.
He did a major tour with 50 dates in 2014 and then toured again, in the wake of releasing his 10th album last year, So Say We All.
“Four of us made the album live off the floor at Signal Path Studios,” he says. “It was almost a cappella with no overdubbing. That was how we always made albums before Pro Tools came along.
“I think it’s the only way to go.”
“Rain” about the failure and rebirth of love to the bittersweet hymn “So Say We All.” Capturing the dark times (“Pandora’s Box,” “Ordinary Man”) as well as life’s shining moments (“Satellite,” “Blue Skies”), the album is a perfect acoustic showcase of what makes Francey’s songwriting so special.
Poetic and fearless, Francey draws from his own experiences, delving into his recent depression (“Harm”) and singing about his colorful experiences on the road (“Cheap Motel”).
The album released was written after an intense year of personal loss. He said he wrote love songs to help him “crawl out of the very deep hole” he found himself in.
“I never expected to suddenly be without someone I love. I never thought he would peg out early.”
The loss of his friend threw him for a loop.
“The songs on this album seem to me to encompass what proved a very difficult year. From the heights of joy to the depths of grief, the lesson learned was to celebrate every day spent on this side of the soil and to keep marching no matter what comes our way. So say we all,” said Francey about the album on his website.
When you write because you absolutely have to, writing seems to help during troubled times as well.
“All my life things always go up and down, but writing seems to get me back on an even keel.”
He’s won three Junos and has had his songs covered by artists like Del McCoury, The Rankin Family, James Keelaghan and Tracy Grammer.
The carpenter-turned-troubadour is slowing down just a tad from his breakneck pace since his first album, Torn Screen Door, in 1999.
This summer Francey will travel to six summer music festivals this summer, down from his usual nine outdoor live events per season. Harrison is one of the festivals.
“I’m always incredibly busy in the summer.”
Francey was born in Ayrshire, Scotland and came to Canada at 12. As an adult he started working various manual labour jobs across Canada in rail yards, construction sites, and in the Yukon bush. All the while he was steadily writing poems, matching them to melodies he’d sing to himself as he worked.
“At the time, I didn’t care if anyone ever saw them,” he remembers. “But my wife, Beth, saw something in them.”
Since his shift into music making full-time in his 40s, he met with great success.
He’s been called a “folk poet” for his lyrical ways.
“I always had a yen for traditional and Appalachian music, and a great appreciation for poetry.
“My father was also a big Robert Burns fan who could recite poems off the top of his head. Writing poetry had value and worth.”
He can trace his love of the land, the history, and the people of his adopted country to weekend family drives exploring southern Ontario.
Music played a large part in these family outings. They sang traditional Scottish tunes as they drove through the Canadian countryside. Dad and sister Muriel sang melodies, while mom and David sang harmony.
He writes most of his own originals, and co-writes with Ashley Conn and Karen Payne.
Francey also had the honour of receiving the prestigious SOCAN Folk Music Award as well as taking home the Grand Prize in both the International Acoustic Music Award and in the Folk category for the John Lennon Songwriting Award.
David Francey, at Harrison fest on the beach stage, 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 15.