ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Francois Klark
With less than two weeks until Crescendo Live, we're spotlighting a new artist every day of the week to give you to a better taste of what to expect at the show November 23 at Adelaide Hall. Crescendo sat down with South African born, Canadian singer-songwriter Francois Klark for the lowdown on his new single, creative processes, and so much more. Get your tickets now for Crescendo Live at Ticketfly.
Tell us who you are and a little bit about yourself.
I’m a small town South African choir boy, graphic design drop out, Humber College music graduate who now calls Toronto home. I spend most of my time on mountains, anywhere that is close to trees and large bodies of water (very thankful for Lake Ontario), and behind my baby grand piano writing songs. I’m a massive science fiction fan, which might explain my love for using big synths and vocoder. I’m also a romantic, so recording music with just raw vocals, piano and a string section makes me very happy.
When did you discover your passion for music and how did you get started?
Music is closely tied to family for me. I remember music being part of our household for as long as I can remember. It was just another way of living everyday life. It was light-hearted, silly, beautiful - it was something we did together in our house. We could jump behind the piano anytime. Music was in the church pews as we would harmonize with my mom, it was at school in the choir, it was at barbecues with friends - it was everywhere.
The turning point for me came during my 2nd year of Graphic Design studies at the University in my hometown, Potchefstroom. I entered a song into the University’s songwriting competition. The winner got the opportunity to perform their song in the Sanlam Auditorium in front of nearly 1000 people. My song was selected as that year’s best original composition, which in turn meant that, well…somewhere I had to get the courage to play that big venue. Up until that point I have never sung in front of such a large audience and only ever played piano in front of my parents and siblings. I suffered from a fair bit of stage fright for most of my life, but somehow had the courage to step out on the stage by myself & play the song that night. The performance went well and I believe that that was the pivotal moment that changed the course of my life and that has led me to where I am today.
Tell us a little bit about your writing style and the creative process of making your debut single Spaceman.
I like writing songs with a strong narrative told in language that paints a pretty vivid image. I treat each song like a little short film that generally plays out in either an epic soundscape or a very intimate space. I like marrying live band, orchestral instrumentation, and electronic elements.
A lot about the creation of Spaceman was about letting go control over my usual creative process. I generally tend to write songs inspired by personal experiences but decided to write 'Spaceman' as a fictional story. The story however still explores a theme that is quite personal to me. I am also usually very meticulous about each lyric and phrase but took on a more free approach to the lyric writing. I took one or two stabs at a sentence and then just accepted whatever came out and settled on it as the final phrase. My co-producer, Kibwe Thomas, and I took a very simple approach to the production and tracking phases. A bit of a less-is-more approach. We kept the production fairly sparse and only did two takes on the vocals. We settled on the one we liked the best and refrained from selectively cutting and dropping in sections from other takes.
Are there any Canadian artists that have had a huge influence on you?
In my elementary school years, I listened to quite a bit of Alanis Morisette. She was the first artist to spark my interest in songwriting.
You’ve had success across the globe - What’s the process like of developing and maintaining an international fan base?
I’m not even going to pretend that I know how to maintain a global fanbase. You’re kinda catching me in the very early stages of my solo career. I’m learning as I go, and most of the time it feels like I’m learning everything a week late. I will, however, say that the internet has, as everyone knows, been a great tool in shrinking the world and connecting me with real people/fans wherever they may be. I think something that does help with maintaining the global fanbase is that I’m interested in other cultures, traveling and people’s stories and in turn making these aspects part of my music as well as my career.
You’ve shared the stage with the likes of Jon Bellion, Genuwine, Shawn Desman and Karl Wolf - Do you have any memorable moments from these experiences?
My most memorable moment from working with the artists you mentioned was the show with Jon Bellion. The show was at Tattoo on Queen West here in Toronto. I remember that night as the first time that I felt at home in front of an audience in my own town. Jon’s Toronto fans are the most supportive and lovely bunch of music lovers that I’ve encountered in this city. I was blown away at their reception of our show.
I’ve enjoyed working with the artist’s you’ve mentioned tremendously and there are things about each of them that I admire. I have to, however, mention that Shawn is likely one of the nicest people that you could ever work with in the Canadian music scene. Love the guy.
Your debut album is set to be released early next year - Can you tell us what we can expect from it?
The album consists of alternative pop anthems set to epic soundscapes as well as intimate stripped down ballads. My production partner, Kibwe Thomas, and I set out to seamlessly weave together electronic and live instrumentation. Soaring electric guitars, breathtaking orchestral arrangements, driving synths, grand piano, haunting African and native rhythms, hip-hop inspired production elements, experimental use of vocoder and raw vocals.
Do you have any advice for young aspiring musicians that are trying to get started in the industry?
Write all the time.
Surround yourself with truly genuine and good people.
Make true friends, not contacts.
Don't follow trends - trends will pass by the time you're ready to release your music. Be true to what comes naturally to you.
Find a purpose for your music - it wasn't given to you to serve you.