With the release of his new album, The Breath Between, singer-songwriter David Francey returns with more than just a collection of new songs. He returns with a changed voice. For a number of years David had been dealing with voice issues, culminating in a complete stoppage of singing on doctor’s orders. The muscles in his throat had worn down from 20 years of recording and touring. The only treatment was vocal rest and exercises. With one artistic outlet gone, David turned to his other passion, painting. He embarked on a cross-Canada tour with his artwork, selling originals and prints at galleries from coast to coast. He did manage to record the Juno-nominated album, The Broken Heart Of Everything, in 2018 but his voice problems have persisted.
“I was quite unnerved by the whole thing,” he said at this year’s Folk Harbour Festival in Lunenburg, N.S. “Losing your voice is a bit drastic at this age and for doing what I do.”
Oddly enough, what helped him through this difficult time was the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown that saw every touring musician staying home. Another help was David’s friend, filmmaker Tony Girardin. Tony had purchased a little church with the intention of turning it into a studio and got David to do some paintings for the walls. While David painted Tony played David’s albums and soon enough David was singing along to himself.
“I was in a perfect place to sing, and I rediscovered my voice!”
Assisting David to create The Breath Between were longtime bandmates Mark Westberg and Darren McMullen, plus singer-songwriter Terra Spencer, who plays and sings on the album. Terra also has a couple of co-writes with David. But an added treat for David was working again with Dave Clarke and Geoff Somers, who toured and recorded with David in the early years of his career.
“I’d written a song about John Prine passing away, and the first person I thought of was Dave Clarke,” he said. “It’s been really nice to have both ends of my musical life represented on this album.”
During the time of COVID David wrote a lot of songs, but something strange did happen. He couldn’t come up with melodies for a couple of songs, so he sent them to Terra.
“I think she’s one of the best writers I’ve ever heard anywhere,” he said. “What came back were these beautiful melodies. I couldn’t have asked for better.”
Over the years of his career, David Francey has toured with a wide variety of accompanists. Starting with Dave Clarke and Geoff Somers, he’s shared stages with Shane Simpson, Craig Werth, the trio of Kieran Kane, Kevin Welch and Fats Kaplin, Mark Westberg, Darren McMullen and Chris Coole, and lately with Jess Weddon and Chris Murphy. While skilled musicianship has always been important, the primary consideration for David has been how they are as people.
“I always go for the ones that strike me as wanting to do this music, who get the music and understand what I’m trying to do,” he said.
David’s reputation as a songwriter has been another boon to his career. James Keelaghan recorded David’s ‘Red-Winged Blackbird’ back in 2000. Most recently, the Chicago-based bluegrass band Special Consensus included “Highway 95” on it’s new album, Great Blue North, an album featuring their interpretations of Canadian songs. In between, David’s songs have been covered everywhere from North America to Ireland, Scotland and Australia.
‘A huge believer in Terra’
“People covering your tune is the biggest thrill you can have!” he said.
The thrill peaked when bluegrass artist Ronnie McCoury recorded David’s song “Borderline” for the 2017 Grammy-winning album The Travelin’ McCourys.
With the release of The Breath Between, David is embarking on a month-long tour with, Terra Spencer opening the shows.
“I’m a huge believer in Terra” he said. “I want her in front of my audience ’cause I think they would love her as much as I do.”
For more on David Francey and The Breath Between, go to davidfrancey.com.