Published on August 5th, 2010
The Western Star Staff Writer
CORNER BROOK — David Francey’s route to the top of the Canadian folk music scene has been far from typical.
Born in Scotland, Francey moved with his family to Canada when he was 12. While music was part of his life growing up, it wasn’t until after spending 20 years as a carpenter that he decided to try his hand as a musician.
Even then, Francey continued to work in construction until his debut album “Far End of Summer” was named Best Roots and Traditional Album at the 2002 Junos in St. John’s, a surprise win which prompted him to make the switch to music full time.
“I said maybe we should be doing music because we just won a Juno for crying out loud,” Francey said with a laugh recently from his home in Elphin, Ont. “So it was a leap of faith in a sense but to tell you the truth, I thought the time was right to try it. And I guess it’s worked out the right way.”
While he admits he misses the work and the friends he made while on the job, crafting songs is far less taxing on the body.
“When I was getting up on stage and maybe feeling sorry for myself for being on the road, I’d be thinking to myself ‘well, I’m not getting up in the morning and doing a couple of roofs or wheeling cement all day,’” he said. “So everything for me was a treat. The things I got to do and the people I got to meet, they were something to look forward to every day.”
Francey will get the chance to meet some local fans Tuesday when he plays a gig at the lower level of the Bar Room. The trip will be his second to the city and as someone who’s enjoyed visiting many of the country’s tucked-away corners, he said he’s looking forward to the experience.
“We’ve made it out to phenomenal places, the west coast of Newfoundland being one,” he said. “There’s also Iqaluit up there in the north, I’ve been there a few times now. I was up in the Yukon working in the bush as a young man, but it’s certainly a lot nicer to go up as a musician.
“The last time I was up in the Yukon I was staying in a really nice place and right across the road was a little mission place where we stayed the first day we got into Whitehorse looking for work. I thought ‘boy oh boy, it was a different person that walked that street,’ ... but it wasn’t, really”
A songwriter who tends to write from his own experiences, he said his eyes are always open for interesting subject matter. Francey said while the country is a vast, sprawling one, he’s noted a certain spirit that unites its citizens
“I’ve certainly met kindness from coast to coast. People have time for you here,” he said. “I find Canada’s a great country for that. People will take the time for you and they just want to help you out, more or less. It doesn’t matter where you are, you get that feeling.”
As with most of his shows, Francey said his Corner Brook appearance will feature a mix of old and new songs with an attempt to honour requests. Backed by Craig Werth and Jeff Somers, fans will note Francey’s stripped down, no-frills style.
He said the stark arrangements are a deliberate attempt to present music as simply as possible to audiences.
“I liked the Stones like everyone else but my real love was just straight ahead, folk music or singer/songwriter stuff,” he said. “When I got into recording I thought the same thing. The lyrics and the melody are the most important thing and the more you crowd it out, the less chance of those things getting heard.”
Now just eight years into his musical career and with three Junos and more than his share of critical acclaim under his belt, a modest Francey said he often has to pinch himself when thinking about the heights he’s reached.
“Every single day, I can’t believe it,” he said. “Even at these festivals, you’re sitting there on stage with Buffy Sainte-Marie and all these people you’ve known and listened to your entire life. It seems unreal when you’re up there and it’s almost humourous because you’re like ... how did I get here?
“But I’ve been really well received by everyone I’ve run in to. The audience makes you feel like you belong and the people you’re on stage make you feel like you belong there so, obviously, you do. You have to accept that at some point along the line, this is what you’re doing now. It’s a great thing and a great gift to get.”