“I just want to assure people that as black as it gets, every wheel turns and at some point or other, we all come out of it.”
“I can drop into a depression and stay there and often the only way I get out of it is to write my way out.”
On this episode, a conversation I had with one of the most respected and acclaimed contemporary Canadian songwriters. He’s able to write songs that convey simple thoughts and ideas in beautiful, poetic ways. He’s written about love and sorrow and joy powerfully and perfectly.
David Francey (www.davidfrancey.com) was born in Scotland, but his family moved to Canada when he was 12. The value and importance of hard work was instilled in him early. Until the release of his debut album, Torn Screen Door, which was released in 1999 when Francey was already in his 40s, he was a carpenter and construction worker, working on job sites, rail yards, and far flung places across Canada. All the while, he would make up melodies and words in his head, content to sing them to himself and maybe a few close friends.
At the urging of his wife, artist Beth Girdler (bethgirdler.smugmug.com or www.bethgirdlerbees.com), he started performing and made an album of some of the best songs he’d come up with. Since Francey wasn’t much of a guitar player at the time, he hooked up with Quebec acoustic guitar master Dave Clarke (daveclarke.ca), who provided tasteful, melodic, and interesting instrumentation. The reaction was immediate. Within a year, he was in demand at the biggest folk festivals in Canada.
After three strong albums, Dave Clarke stepped back to dedicate himself to his solo albums and his band Steel Rail. Francey went on to make an album with Nashville heavyweights Kieran Kane, Kevin Welch, and Fats Kaplin.
That was all within the first 5 years of his recording career, when Francey was on the road far more than he was home, as he was touring the world and taking his songs and stories all over the world.
Prior to the release of his 2013 album, So Say We All, Francey fell into a deep depression, brought on by the death of one of his closest friends. It was writing, and the love of his family that pulled him out, and he’s been honest about his struggles with depression since then in songs, poems, paintings, and conversation.
The wear and tear of nearly 20 years of constant touring finally caught up with Francey around the time of his 2018 album, The Broken Heart of Everything. He’d been struggling with his voice, but being the dedicated worker that he is, he just pushed through. It really started to fail him during a Canadian east coast tour and he knew that he’d pushed it too far. He drove straight home and resigned himself to the fact that he wouldn’t be able to sing for quite some time. He dedicated himself to his other hobby, painting.
The terrible irony is that he was just preparing to resume some of his tour dates in early 2020, before COVID-19 put a stop to those plans. For the meantime, David Francey remains at home with his family, where he paints and writes songs and poetry until he can get back up on stage and do what he does best once again.
Tune in to the July 4th edition of Tell the Band to Go Home, where David will talk about the new material that he’s been working on, as well as introduce us to some of his favourite songwriters at the moment, including Terra Spencer and Chris Coole.
David’s albums are available at his website and on iTunes.
“Lonely Road” is from the album The Broken Heart of Everything.
“Harm” is from the album So Say We All.
“Paper Boy” is from the album Far End of Summer.
“Broken Glass” is from the album Skating Rink.