Polymathic artist Miles Francis is already known amongst musicians as one of the best kept secrets of the NYC music scene. Since they started playing – first the drums at 6, then guitar, bass, keyboards, other percussion – they have been an audiophile of the highest order.
As a working musician, Miles has collaborated and performed with Sharon Jones, Amber Mark, Angelique Kidjo, Allen Toussaint, Tunde Adebimpe (TV on the Radio) and many others; toured the world with Will Butler (Arcade Fire), Antibalas, and EMEFE; and appeared on shows like Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and The Late Show with David Letterman. Following 2018’s Swimmers EP, Francis has released two new singles in 2021 – “Service” & “Popular” – from a project to be announced later this year.
Getting to know Miles
What is the most useless talent you have?
Being able to recall all the band members’ names to most early 2000s pop groups. For example, everyone knows 98 Degrees as Nick Lachey’s band but what about Justin Jeffre, Jeff Timmons and Nick’s brother Drew? Why is this information still in my brain? I don’t know but I have no choice but to embrace it as a talent.
Do you sing in the shower? What songs?
I love finding the resonant note in the shower! Every shower (or any echo-y room, really) has a specific resonant frequency, which you can find by humming up and down slowly. If you hum loud enough on the resonant frequency, the sound fills the room in a really intense and beautiful way. So yeah, I do that… or I sing new melody ideas. Depends on the mood!
If you were to write an autobiography, what would the title be?
I Am At Your Service: The Rhythmic Twists and Melodic Turns of A Popular Kid Named Miles – aka ME!
As a kid were you ever frightened of a monster under the bed or in the cupboard?
I was deeply (DEEPLY) afraid of Jim Carrey’s The Grinch when I was a kid. I still remember the first time I saw the trailer on TV. There was a scene showing his hairy hands crawling along the floor. I literally couldn’t fall asleep for weeks (maybe longer) because of that movie trailer. Eventually I grew to absolutely love that movie and I now regard it as one of Jim Carrey’s most brilliant performances!!
What would you bring along to an idyllic picnic?
I know the answer is supposed to be food/drink related but my answer is A KICKBALL. A few years ago I embarked on a mission to make all my friends fall in love with kickball again. So, I bring a kickball to any park occasion. It’s been catching on – there will be a kickball renaissance. My dream is this: one day I show up to a picnic without my kickball. We eat and drink and hang for a while – then, my friend taps me on the shoulder and shows me their own kickball. “Hey,” they say with a knowing smile, “do you wanna get a game going?”
Do you enjoy recording and production?
I’ve been recording myself since I was a kid – it is one of my greatest joys. When I’m recording a song, I like to imagine I’m putting on different hats – there’s the songwriter, the lyricist, the different instrumentalists, the producer, the engineer, etc. – and each of those roles are doing a balancing act, keeping the others in check. Sometimes all the parts fall into place without any effort, but sometimes they disagree, which leads to decisions. For example, maybe the guitarist really wants a specific riff in there, but the singer feels like it is getting in the way – so they call in the producer, who listens to both options and eventually decides the guitar riffs gotta go. I love navigating all of those micro decisions when recording and producing my music.
What is your favourite song to perform?
I finished my upcoming album in quarantine, so literally ALL of the songs are going to feel amazing to play live. Now that I’m slowly starting to book shows again, I don’t really know how I’m going to contain my excitement to play all of these songs live. It is going to be a special experience for sure.
Do you plan your music releases, or do you just finish a song and release it?
The visual presentation of my songs is part of how they live in the world. I like to pay extra attention to that stuff, because it’s an opportunity to deepen the world of the music and the attitude and message of the songs. The music video, the photography, the outfit, the makeup, the color scheme – you can go as deep as you want! So yes, I plan all my releases.
What do you enjoy most about being an artist?
Being an artist is about expressing my truest self. It’s about showing myself to the world in ways that I could never express with language. It’s healing, it’s frustrating, it’s vulnerable, it’s fun. It’s my way of being a kid again, of accessing a ‘beginner’s mind’ mentality and just reveling in a feeling or a notion. It’s an outlet that I am very grateful for. Everyone should search for that outlet. We need to get it out!
What draws you to your preferred genre?
I really love the idea of melding all of your influences, subconsciously or consciously. We as humans have the gift of being able to listen to a vast array of music from all over the world, across every spectrum of sound and existence. Then, when we make our own music, we send all of the music that’s resonated with us through our personal bodies and minds and lives, and out comes our version of music. I have no choice but to make music that marries all of the different eras and phases of my music listening. Pop melodies, Afrobeat guitar/bass parts, funk drums, glam vocals – and that’s just one possible combination. It’s different every time, as influences ebb and flow depending on what you’re listening to. Genre is fluid, and it’s a tool you can use – I never want to feel locked in it. I just try to follow my mood.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
Going for a walk works almost every time. I have a specific walk that I go on when I need a break, ideally with a hot chocolate in hand. Also, if a song really isn’t budging or the vibe is not there, I just leave the studio and go home. It’s simple, yet it’s deceptively difficult to just kinda ‘give up’ for the time being. This is something I’ve gotten a LOT better at during the pandemic. I don’t think I ever did that before. I used to try to punch through blocks, out of this need to keep pushing and pushing – but I’ve grown a lot more at peace with the idea of, “Hey, it’s just not working right now, and that’s OK.”