With his seemingly effortless piano playing, smooth voice, and self-aware songwriting, Neal Francis captures a perfect mix of his unique sound and retro inspirations. The Chicago-based musician just released his new album In Plain Sight, which deals with topics very personal to him. The album deals with addiction, relationships, and Neal’s inner demons all while shimmering 70s inspired sounds back his powerful lyricism — if you’re a fan of Fleetwood Mac and Electric Light Orchestra this album needs to be on your radar. Neal is currently on tour to promote the new album and we sat down with him at Outside Lands to discuss traveling and his feelings about the new music.
Melodic Mag: You’re one of the first acts of the day today at the festival and you’re releasing a new album in a week. How are you feeling?
Neal Francis: I’m super excited, yeah. I was nervous for quite a while because we’ve had the album finished for quite a while. But now I’ve ridden the wave of hating my own material and now I like it again.
Is there anything that you know is going to be a fan favorite on the album?
Well, I don’t know, I think that we’ve already seen that “Can’t Stop the Rain” is doing well. It’s got the solo from Derek Trucks and everybody loves him. I personally think that- were you going to ask if I liked it personally?
Of course! Is it your personal favorite then as well?
(Laughs) Well okay, so that was like the, you know, logical single for the label. But I really think that my best work is “Asleep”, which is a B-side, as well as this track called “BNYLV”, which is like this sort of 6 and a half minute epic funk jam. I’m really excited that people are going to get to hear those.
Do you think as a musician there’s a sort of dichotomy between what the fans like and what you enjoy playing more?
No, I enjoy playing it all! You know, especially “Can’t Stop the Rain” — it’s just a banger, you know, I wrote that with David Shaw and he’s the master of 4-Chord rock bangers.
You have a very prominent 70s aesthetic on stage and in your songs — do you have any specific inspirations for your work? Maybe Elton John or musicians of that sort?
Oh, I love Eton John! No question about that. Elton John was also influenced by a guy named Leon Russel, he’s a huge influence on me. I don’t know, I love sounds from the Bay Area — we’ve got Sly Stone, J.J Cale, Electric Light Orchestra, Supertramp. I love so much stuff though, we could sit here and talk for hours.
Other than the album, is there anything exciting coming up that you want to share or promote?
Yes, I’m going to be on tour in North America until mid-January, going on tour in Europe, and then coming back and doing more North American dates in the spring. You should definitely catch one of the shows if you can.