On Sunday nights when I was at Messiah, the student board sponsored these Coffeehouses where students could perform. Some folks did comedy, some people recited poetry, and a couple of girls even tied cherry stems into knots with only their tongues. But the nights I most remember were those when this guy with a guitar got on stage and sang. His voice was so beautiful, and he played the guitar like he was caressing the face of the woman he loved. I loved every moment of his songs.

This guy is, thankfully, now a touring musician, and his name is John Francis. I am absolutely honored to have him answer some questions here on my little blog. Here’s what John had to say recently:

What got you started in music? When did you know this is what you wanted to do?
I suppose that it was church and my parents who immersed me in it. Folk, Gospel, Country and Rock music was played in my church. My Dad was the minister and Mom was too, and they played together each Sunday and also together at home. I was 11 or 12 when I felt the fire of music and performance and knew it would never leave.

What else have you done to support yourself? What did you do before you were a regularly touring musician?
I have worked in coffeeshops, bars, and I was a director of a teen program in South Philadelphia for a Boys and Girls Club.

What is the most beautiful thing you have ever experienced? How has that experience influenced you?
Falling in love and then falling deeper. I don’t know how it’s influenced me. It’s still happening. But I think its making me a better and more selfless man. I pray.

Because a lot of my blog’s readers are bibliophiles, what three books could you recommend?Moby Dick
> anything by James Baldwin
> anything by Jorge Luis Borges

If you were a spice, what spice would you be and why?
Cayenne, cause it burns and wakes up the dish.

If you imagined your perfect evening, where would you be? What would you be doing? With my girlfriend and closest friends drinking wine and talking / playing songs in a little wine bar in Ireland.

What advice would you give to artists? Practical wisdom? Esoteric insight?

If you are a songwriter/singer….play, play, play, play, play, and when you get tired play some more.
Same kind of thing applies to any art.

If you could pick an animal to represent you, what animal would you choose and why? A bear. American Indian symbol totem for strength.

How would you describe your sound? What brought you to this sound? Who are your influences? Springsteen, Cash, Townes van Zandt, John Prine, Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, Smokey Robinson….Look at my website for more influences. Rock, Country, Folk

If you could make a mixtape of ten songs, what ten songs would you include?
Depends what kind of mood I am in. If I made one right now, with the mood I am while writing this, it would be like this:
“Midnight Train to Georgia” – Gladys Knight and the Pips
“Now that You’ve Made Yourself Love Me” – Neil Young
“Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” – Bob Dylan
“Many Rivers to Cross” – Jimmy Cliff
“Case of You” – Joni Mitchell
“Lover, You Should Have Come Over” – Jeff Buckley
“This Years Love” – David Gray
“One More Goodnight Kiss” – Greg Brown
“I Really Got the Feeling” – Dolly Parton

I really love John’s music, and I hope you’ll check it out. If you’re in the Philadelphia area, John is playing at Yards Brewing Company with another of my favorites – Hoots and Hellmouth – on May 8th. That promises to be a great show.

John Francis