Using his life experiences growing up in downtown Toronto as a source of inspiration, Langston Francis is on his grind as a young artist discovering himself and the world of music around him. We caught up with Francis on the heels of his debut single release to talk about his foray into music, early influences and his direction as an artist.
G—You are still in high school. Do you find it hard to juggle your new music career with school?
Langston Francis—It’s challenging. For example, I had two exams in one day, then a show at night and I was feeling under the weather. I have school every day, so it definitely gets hard to juggle things sometimes, but it’s sort of something I just have to take in stride. I’m just so grateful for all the opportunities I have.
G—Can you tell us a little about your first single, “FCKD IT UP”?
LF—I wrote the song and beat when I was 14. At the time, the song had a certain meaning to me. We ended up finishing the song about 12 months later, after that it took on a whole new meaning. As I grow up and change and have different life experiences, music feels like it resonates with me in different ways. I don’t know if every artist feels like that, but for me, I feel like the songs grow with me. This song in particular, I feel, can fit into many different situations in my life, family or relationships.
G—Let’s talk about the video; it’s interesting how you pieced together so many different types of visuals. How did you come up with the idea?
LF—The idea for this video was not only conceptualized by me; the director of this video, Elliot Clancy Osberg, and I collaborated. When we met up initially we walked around my neighborhood talking about different visual ideas. I wanted to keep this idea of youth culture and rawness; I didn’t want it to feel polished, because that just wasn’t me. It’s just about my friends and I hanging out – we didn’t cast anybody. We wanted to capture the mood and vibe of the song.
G—Can you tell us about your musical journey and how you were discovered?
LF—The first person who picked me up and got me working on music in a more professional way was my manager, Miles Jones, who I also collaborate with on everything. He’s sort of my musical mentor/manager. I met him through a family friend at a community BBQ. He had heard I played music and we started talking. I ended up later reaching out to him on Facebook. At the time I was in the eighth grade, and we made some demos together. He eventually got it into the hands of someone at the label, and that’s how everything kind of went from there.
G—Do you play any instruments?
LF—I play the guitar and the piano and I like making beats with different machines, like synths in the studio. Basically anything I can strum I can play.
G—When did you start writing your own music?
LF—I started playing guitar at five. My dad got me a guitar for Christmas and I was just messing around. The first real song I wrote was in grade seven. Before that, I had written something [that] I showed my [current] manager so he could get to know me.
G—Who do you consider your musical influences?
LF—When I was younger and I first started getting into music, I spent almost all my time on the internet, just watching videos, and I loved looking at people covering songs, and that’s what sort of inspired me to sing. Initially, from the ages of nine to 12, I was listening to Ed Sheeran all the time nonstop, and that’s what got me into performing on the street, getting me to want to write songs, and picking up the guitar and sort of doing what I do. When I met my manager, he really introduced me to an era of music I didn’t really know about, and that’s when I got into rap, hip-hop and R&B – even just getting into old Kanye and more classic artists. So I would say my two biggest inspirations are Ed Sheeran and Kanye.
G—How do you feel living in Toronto has affected your creative process?
LF—I feel like growing up in Toronto, especially downtown, has had a major influence on me. There is a lot of talk right now about artists from Toronto that are [up-and-coming], but a lot of them are from the suburbs. I find that within Toronto, especially depending on where you grew up, like Scarborough or the East End – these suburbs – you’re going to have a different experience versus growing up in Kensington Market in downtown Toronto where I grew up. Even within Toronto, a lot of people are starting to describe a ‘Toronto sound’, but so many different variables can affect you. Walking through a busy market, seeing the different vibe there can influence you. When I was younger, I would just walk around observing all the different architecture. I didn’t realize it then, but little things that aren’t musical at all have influenced my music.
G—You’ve recently played a string of live shows in Toronto, how would you compare this performing experience to your background in busking, playing live music on the streets?
LF—I think it’s interesting comparing the two, because when you’re on the street performing for hundreds of people at a time, you’re performing for everyone but you’re also performing for no one, because no one is there to actually see you. So I think performing on the streets is a really interesting way to get your chops up and learn how to play on stage.
G—Any plans for a full album release or any new singles coming out in 2018?
LF—As of now, we have a new single coming out hopefully in the next month or two. There are no plans for a full-length project right now, but we have tons of songs recorded, and hopefully in the next six to eight months there will be more singles released.
G—What kind of sound can we expect from these new releases?
LF—I feel like my musical direction is forward, and especially with these projects, I want to have something that’s sonically cohesive when creating this body of work. It’s definitely important to fit together in a certain way. But I try not to go into it with a premeditated idea of what it needs to sound like, and even with “FCKD IT UP”, I didn’t even think it would get radio play. So I go into just making music I like, and the coming singles, I don’t know what people will say about it. Maybe they will think it’s a different sound, but I just try to stay consistent. The important thing is that it’s genuine stuff coming straight from the heart.
Garland Jeffreys’ album, 14 Steps to Harlem, grew out of a soulful period of retrospection late in the artist’s life and career. As a veteran songwriter, Jeffreys started writing provocative, ahead-of-its- time, genre-bending songs in the early 1970s, with lyrics focused on everything from relationships to racial diversity to political turmoil. Now in his seventies, the New York musician is looking back on his life with an album that takes on bold topics and includes a title track inspired by his turbulent relationship with his father. Jefferys spoke with Georgie about his latest release, his relationship with Lou Reed and his somewhat unconventional approach to songwriting. Georgie—14 Steps to Harlem is a great album. Garland Jeffreys—Thank you. I’m very proud of the record. I took some chances in recording it but had confidence that it could be something special. You don’t know a record is good or bad until it’s done – then you know. I worked on the album with my co-producer, James Maddock, who’s a great artist in his own right. G—The title track, “14 Steps to Harlem”, stood out to me. I read that it was written with your father in mind. Did the experience of writing about your dad
Since his 2005 breakthrough, Breaking Kayfabe, Cadence Weapon has been an artist to watch. The two-time Polaris Music Prize nominee, writer, producer and rapper is known for his innovative musical style and has made waves worldwide. Following a five year hiatus – which included a move from Montreal to Toronto and a stint as Edmonton’s poet laureate – Cadence Weapon returns with a new self-titled album. Cadence Weapon is armed with furious flows, big collaborations and themes that include dance-party politics and dystopian futures. For his latest effort, the rapper is noticeably more focused and is reintroducing himself in a big way. Georgie caught up with Cadence Weapon to talk about the new album, his musical journey, and the L-word: legacy. G—Your new self-titled album is being called a “reintroduction to Cadence Weapon.” What does that mean? Cadence Weapon—I feel like I’ve matured a lot more and the music really reflects that. There is a reason why this album is self-titled. It feels like a rebirth for me; it feels like my first album in a lot of ways. I feel like the creative process for this album is what I’ve always wanted to do in my career. I was
Québécois singer-songwriter Gabrielle Shonk locates a raw vulnerability within an indie-folk sound on her debut self-titled LP released this past September. Tracing through her own experiences with a voice that pierces and taunts in equal measure, the 29-year-old has earned comparisons to the likes of Alicia Keys, Fiona Apple and Adele. To kick off the new year, Georgie caught up with Gabrielle by phone at her home in Quebec City. G—Could you tell us a little about your background? Gabrielle Shonk—I am French Canadian. Actually, I was born in the States in Providence, Rhode Island, and we moved to [a suburb of Quebec City] when I was five or six. My dad is American and my mom is from Quebec City. G—Is French your first language? GS—Yes. I went to school in French and everything; my whole upbringing was in French in Quebec. G—Your English is absolutely perfect. GS—I would say English has always come more naturally to me; I love both though, but my main musical expression language is English. G—Who would you say are your greatest musical influences? GS—I like a lot of old stuff, from the folk scene: Tracy Chapman, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. I