Robert Francis recalls the voice of simpler and more truthful era when people were crazier and sang about shit that mattered. Maybe that's because his debut album, "One By One" was recorded and released a month shy of his 20th birthday, maybe it's because of his unique musical childhood.
Growing up in Los Angeles as the youngest in a family of musicians, Robert possesses a maturity far beyond his twenty years. From the time he was born, he was surrounded by music of all genres thanks to his eccentric classical-record-producer and pianist father, a Mexican mother who frequently invited her sisters over to sing Ranchero songs, a Hari Krishna brother, and two older sisters who were in various rock bands that played in clubs all over the city (his sister Juliette Commagere is the singer of L.A. indie band Hello Stranger which Robert played bass in for a stint).
As a child, Robert was allowed by the owners of the above mentioned clubs to sneak in and watch his sisters perform, not to mention sneak in a drink here and there. On one occasion, at Harry Dean Stanton's birthday at The Mint, the eight year old Robert was caught outside noodling on one of Harry Dean's guitars by Harry Dean himself. Rather than getting upset, Stanton instead invited Robert on stage to play with him on a duet with Chaka Kahn. One could say that Robert started living the life of a rock star when he was only 8 years old.
At this early age Robert showed a tremendous musical gift and was known around school as a guitar-playing prodigy. He could also play any other instrument he picked up, and did so on his first record, playing everything from drums, banjo, bass, piano and mandolin to his most natural instrument, the guitar. Ry Cooder gave him a vintage National when he was only nine, and John Frusciante took him on as his only student when he was sixteen.
Robert attended the prestigious Crossroads School for the Arts (where one of his idols Gillian Welch attended), but during that time he felt that school was compromising his artistic integrity and he was disillusioned by the culture of money, so he dropped out by the eleventh grade, dedicating himself full time to music, boozing and driving his parents crazy by turning their home into a 24 hour youth hostel. Buying a 1968 Chevelle and in turn breaking down all over California, he tried to get his girlfriend at the time to run away with him, get married and have children. But at fifteen years old, she could not be coerced.
Torn by love and finding it to be, as he simply put it, "surprising and disappointing," Robert rescued a pit bull and named him Poncho, (an homage to Townes Van Zandt's "Poncho and Lefty" who is the subject of track one "Mama Don't Come") and toured much of the U.S with his sister, her boyfriend and their traveling, guitar slinging fisherman buddy. He traveled to Mexico and stayed in the remote towns where his mother was born and raised, and experienced once again a lot of psychotic, but writing-material-worthy-heart-break.
Writing and producing all his own material, he injects one hundred percent truth and emotion into each of his songs. He is often compared to a young Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle or Neil Young. With this Aeronaut Records release "One by One," Robert Francis fills a colossal void that has been desperately missing from this generation of musicians. Surely it will only be a matter of time before he is listed alongside his idols in other people's bios as one of the great American songwriters of his generation.