Photos by Brett Russell for Okayplayer.
First Look Friday: Embrace Ruby Francis' Fly Style, Music + Dopeness
A couple of weeks ago, we preemptively introduced you to this London-based, triple-threat known as Ruby Francis, which did pretty well if we say so ourselves. Her premiere, "Paranoid," earned over 70K plays on Soundcloud as a new audience of music lovers digested her delightfully silky-smooth brand of R&B. Alongside her on this audio-adventure is Shift K3y, a chart-topping producer behind "Touch," which hit #3 on the UK Singles Chart.
Since our post, though, Ruby Francis has been stacking plenty of new material in preparation for the release of her debut project. Influenced by the likes of D'Angelo to Stevie Wonder to Chaka Khan, Ruby Francis is an amalgam of funk jazz, heavy soul and gorgeous grooves. All in all, this talented musician has a style that's all her own, which means your ears and eyes will instantly welcome this English ingenue.
Personally, we are enjoying, appreciating and loving her music from across the way. If you haven't heard "Paranoid" and its unmistakable pop-tinged, future R&B sounds — then you'll surely appreciate this live performance of "Move," another stellar track from Ms. Francis. This week's First Look Friday subject is the real deal, as Ruby Francis proves to be a budding creative, she talks to us about her love of Joni Mitchell, how the London music scene can be tough and why one song in her discography was so true to life.
Be sure to keep you ears and eyes open for a possible new album from Ruby Francis! Enjoy!
Okayplayer: To music snobs the world over, you are making an impact on both sides of the U.S. What is it that the blokes in London are seeing and hearing that the world has yet to discover?
Ruby Francis: The music that London produces is reflective of the diversity and multiculturalism that we have. There are no barriers between wealth, age, sexual orientation or race. I feel that there is not much music that you cannot find in London. I mean, I can go into a bar one night and hear some folk music, then go into the same place the night after and it has turned into a Dancehall and Bashment night [laughs]!
OKP: For those who have a passion for music, they honed their skills and practiced their craft. Who are your most cherished influences in music and why?
RF: With my dad being a bass player and my mum massively into music, there was always a really huge range of music being played in my house. Stevie Wonder goes without saying, y'know, and I could write an essay on why he's one of my cherished influences. Chaka Khan is another [because] her voice and tone are absolutely incredible. I love her production, she's super-clever and able to create the catchiest songs. And although she doesn't quite fit in with the names mentioned, Bjork is another inspirations of mine. My parents love her and they always used to play her albums.
When I became about 12, 13-years-old, I got really into Pharrell [Williams] via N*E*R*D and followed whatever he released. He is so distinctive and I can really relate to his production when making my own songs and projects. Later on, I got into a lot of Neo-Soul music — India Arie, Jill Scott, D'Angelo — which you can probably hear through most of my own works. Around that same time I discovered Joni Mitchell and was completely blown away by her lyrics and melodies. The list [of influences] could honestly go on forever!
OKP: Your song, “MOVE,” is a very dope sounding song and has placed you on the radar of music snobs who have a heavy presence in the industry. Can you talk about how life was for you while developing as an artist in London? How have you reacted to your first bits of press?
RF: Thank you! Developing as an artist just happened quite naturally and I was lucky enough to meet the right people at the right time. It was always something from the age of two that I knew I needed to have in my life—one way or another—and my parents were always supportive of that. It wasn't until I met Shift K3y till I really knew what I wanted to do. He was the first one to show me that I could actually really pursue a career in the music industry and not just do it as a hobby on the side. It helped that he was actively doing it himself.
It does get tough, though, developing as an artist in London. There was no way that I could have thrown myself straight from school into a full-time music career coming from a working class background in an expensive city. I had to work, and worked in a retail store for four years, but now 100% of my time is on music. In terms of press, it has been really great to get some acknowledgment for my work! I'm so grateful that people are feeling my stuff! It is amazing!
OKP: Can you also talk about the importance of the music industry scene in London? How do you see it evolving in the next five years?
RF: London is responsible for producing some incredible music dating back over 100 years. I'm lucky to have been born-and-bred here, y'know? It is important to have such a mixture of music and people all in one place. I think that you'll start to see a movement here consisting of real music and artistry, similar to Los Angeles and what's happening for Kendrick [Lamar], Thundercat, The Internet, etc. In fact, it is already happening here with the likes of Alfa, Emmavie and Dornik to name a few.
OKP: What are some elements that you’ve learned about yourself that comes out in your music?
RF: It usually works the other way around, I learn something and then I write about it in song. I'll go through life events, write about them, but I don't then listen-back and realize something new about myself. However, when listening to songs that I've written years ago, I can hear how much I have grown from then. Even if they aren't directly about my life at the time, they do bring me back to the time in which the song was written.
OKP: What was the first song that you ever wrote entitled? Can you talk about what it has come to symbolize since you’ve entered the professional life?
RF: The first song that I ever wrote was actually with a friend when I was about nine, 10-years-old. Being soppy, thinking that I knew all about love, the song was proper cheesy. [Laughs] The first line of the chorus was, "Love is sweet, love is blind, love is cool, yours and mine..." [Laughs] I was a cheesy child, but [at that time] who isn't?
OKP: How can your music speak truth to power in an age where people are so quickly digesting sounds and disposing of artists in a nanosecond?
RF: In all honesty, it is for you, the listener, to decide. My own aim is not to make my music stand out, it is not my goal to sell out stadiums and have 100 top ten records. If that did happen, that would be a bonus [laughs]! But, on the real, my music isn't for those who will get bored and click the next button on my track. I really hope that my music is relatable and digestible to those who are willing to listen intently and to offer them a sound that is unique and memorable.
OKP: Collaboration is uniquely a key to the success of certain creative individuals who wish to change the game. Who would you want to work with this year and why?
RF: I would love to work with the amazingly talented, super-cool, singer-writer NAO. I love her sound and her vibe. I hear she makes her own beats, too, so big up to the female producers! I'd also want to work with Syd that Kid from The Internet. Her sexy tones, her skills behind the boards and she's just an awesome person to be around. Last, but certainly not least, Little Simz. I love her flow, her tone and the beats that she raps over are ill. I've never worked with a rapper before, so that is something I definitely want to do. Kaytranada, MXXWLL and Chloe Martini are others I want to get into the studio with, and so the list goes on.
OKP: What is the overall message that Ruby Francis is trying to present in her music?
RF: There is not really an intentional thought out message behind my message, really. I just write and make beats that tend to reflect how I'm feeling at the time. That doesn't necessarily mean if I am happy it will be a happy song, but I do write freely. I guess I just want to make those feel good vibes! I hope that my audience can dance, sing along to my tunes and remember them for years and years to come.
OKP: Can you break down the inspiration behind your “On My Knees” song? Could you speak on the creation and production of that song for the masses?
RF: The inspiration for "On My Knees" came from both Rae Sargent and myself. We started by making the instrumental, then once we had it kicking he asked me what the song should be about. We both agreed that the vibe was quite sexual and intimate, so that became the theme. The phrase "on my knees" just sort of came out [laughs], but it was only after hearing it in playback that I realized it had a double entendre [laughs].
OKP: How do you see yourself changing the music industry for the better versus all of the bad stuff that goes on within it?
RF: I'm definitely not out to purposely change the music industry, but I definitely won't let it change me. Taking that sort of stand can accidentally lead to changing it. When artists out there say, "No, fuck you!" they are usually the ones that make the everlasting waves!
OKP: If the reader’s learned one thing from this First Look Friday chat with Ruby Francis — what would it be and in what octave would it sound like?
RF: For those who haven't listened to my stuff, I've hopefully made you curious to see what my music is about. I am here to offer you music to forever dance, sing-along to and vibe out with!