New York based JW Francis creates gooey, dreamy, warming bedroom pop. As New York gets colder, his music pokes at the thermostat, transporting the listener to a much warmer climate. His most recent music video for “Joe Fusco” is a charming representation of friendship, bopping between smooth jazz and pristine pop. Gearing up for international shows in France and England, JW Francis will also perform at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right on December 12th.
I caught up with JW, to hear about the story behind his name, who his special tour guest will be, and his hot take on the holidays.
How long have you been writing music?
Probably forever. Probably in the womb I was going ‘doo doo doo doo doo’ while my mom rocked out to Cut Your Hair. I’ve always been singing to myself but I started playing guitar when I was 12 years old when I Iived in Vermont and it was too cold to go outside. I joined a program called Safe Art which is an amazing group that does many amazing things which, at the time, included educating high school students about substance abuse and domestic violence. We would play music and perform skits in auditoriums of high schools, so my first songs were really mostly dark stories that ended with “you can call this number if you need help.” Around that time I got really into Nirvana and flannel and I became a little grungy punk, after that I got really silly and only wrote songs about fruit for a couple years. Then I chilled out and here we are.
How do you think living in New York influences the music you make?
New York is a magical place. There’s an energy here that I’ve never felt anywhere else before. I got my license to become a walking tour guide and took every class in college that had the words “New York” in them to try to wrap my head around this place and I never will and that’s why I love it. New York has influenced my writing because its given me a sense of awe that I don’t think I could have found anywhere else.
What’s your recording process like?
I like it to be a very busy day when I have a lot to do, and I drink lots of water so that I have to take frequent bathroom breaks, and I try to record the whole project in one sitting. I’m very good at putting pressure on myself. Granted, this is after spending a lot of time with the songs recording bad iPhone demos and listening, taking notes. It takes me a couple weeks to figure out exactly what I’m trying to do, but then when I know there’s a terrible urgency to it that I love.
For the 1st EP I recorded everything in my bedroom or my bathroom. Throw a bunch of pillows in the tub and a quilt over the shower rod and you’ve got yourself a vocal booth. I’m recording the next 2 EPs right now at the same time in 2 different locations, one with a group called Booth Avenue, and another with my friend Sahil Ansari at his space Dodge 112.
I love that your music sounds modern but from another time, almost like a beach vacation in the 50’s. What media has influenced you most—movies, books, music?
I chose the name JW Francis when I was a little kid because I wanted to be a writer like C.S. Lewis. Books inspire me because they become melded with my thoughts. Phantom Toll Booth, The BFG, Narnia – those books will always be a part of me, and the same goes for movies. I want to make movies and write books in the same way I want to make albums. I’m doing music right now because I love performing and being around people. Music has probably influenced me most though because that’s what I’ve spent most of my time doing so far.
You’re going on an international tour! What city are you most excited to perform in?
My dad is going to be playing with me in Nantes and Manchester, and I’m very excited for that. He’s a drummer, but he hasn’t played in a minute so he’s been practicing on a rock band kit at home. I’m very excited.
The holidays—stressful or fun?
There’s a spirit inside of me, and it’s called the holiday spirit. There are a lot of stressful things about the holidays, but every year I’m overwhelmed by a warmth of pleasant fuzzy feelings. That’s why I’m so happy to be playing so many shows around this time of year – to share those fuzzy warm feelings with people.