INTERVIEW: Karima Francis

Spare a thought for Karima Francis. In 2009, you couldn’t move for that high barnet – topping polls all over the shop, appearing on Jools Holland, and then… a stumble. A first album suffered at the hands of a notoriously fickle music industry, so much so that far too many people overlooked the joys of follow-up The Remedy, a raw and unrelenting treatise on a broken relationship at the hands of a superb troubadour (which even landed on our Best of 2012 list). Now the Blackpool singer-songwriter returns with a new album, so we took the opportunity to find out if that hair is so big because it really is full of secrets…

Firstly we have to say: The Remedy is one of our underrated favourites (and the track Forgiven is immense). Considering all the pain that went into it, were you happy with how it turned out and how it was received?

It’s very true that The Remedy is somewhat underrated. It wasn’t really out there long enough to get rated – I think its a great album, it just didn’t reach as many people as I would have hoped. But still today I get messages from people from around the world who are hearing the record for the first time and falling in love with it. It’s enough for me knowing its a pretty timeless record.

Well, we liked it a lot. Obviously we can’t talk about you without mentioning the polls you topped back in 2009. Do you feel like all that early expectation was a bit of a curse? Or did having the support of people like Jools Holland act as a boon?  

I don’t think it was a curse, the coverage was great – they picked the wrong song though! I’m really grateful to have had that kind of experience  at such a young age…

What do you mean by ‘they picked the wrong song’ – how would you have done things differently? 

Oh, for Jools? They picked Francis from my first record which is a big, full band song, I feel if they had chosen The Author or Hold You maybe it would have gone a bit better.

And now you’ve gone from major label to independent. That couldn’t have been amicable, surely? Are you feeling the difference?

I’ve actually gone from a major label to no label. I feel the difference for sure. The weight of the wallet is much lighter!

Tell us a bit about the writing of this album – what was the writing process, what sort of themes are you touching this time? (The last one proceeded anorexia and heartbreak, but we’re hoping you’re OK now?)

I am more well than I’ve ever been, thank you.  I guess this is more about moving on from heartbreak and moving forward in life. I lost a massive safety within my music. I find some of my new songs are exit doors from the past, and entry doors to my future.

Speaking of exit doors: the last album was about a break-up, though many people don’t realise it was with another girl. Do you ever see yourself as a voice for the gay audience? Do you ever get that ‘role model’ vibe or feedback from people who attend your gigs or buy your records?  

Yes, it was with a girl. I write my music for all people, not sexuality. I’m not ashamed about the facts but I don’t want it to be the first thing people know about me. I don’t really feel gay and I don’t preach!

Do we get a bit more Blackpool in the new album? Although we were always terrified by that laughing clown on the Pleasure Beach…

I guess the only similar feature  to Blackpool in this record so far is the feeling of being secluded. I’m not enjoying Blackpool anymore sadly as much as its a massive part of me its time to get out.

Really? Where do you see yourself going?

America, not quite sure which part yet…

Well, good luck to you. You’re still relatively young as an artiste. Do you look at other female singer-songwriters in your bracket to see what they’re doing / throw shade on them for getting radio play even though they’re obviously rubbish?

This is a difficult one! I won’t lie it can piss you off when you hear and see soulless shit getting out there, but there are still some good artists cutting through for sure. I’ve done a few dates with Ethan Johns on his tour, and he is an absolute legend, and he’s playing to almost empty rooms, but he is still making the music he wants to make. I admire that and have learnt a lot from him. You hear of a pretty good singer-songwriter one minute, then by the time their album comes out, it’s almost dance music or electronic. Its quite sad really. 

What sort of stuff have you been listening to yourself? We saw you did a Future Islands cover recently…

Future islands are great. Brilliant songs with brilliant concepts, I love White Denim, Ethan Johns, Cherry Ghost’s new record. Beck‘s new stuff is great. Also been getting into Arve Henriksen and Ry Cooder.

We don’t half love a bit of Beck ourselves. Anyroad – this has all been very heavy so far. Is there a lighter side to Karima Francis? Maybe some lols, or are you going to surprise us all with a guest-feature on a dance record?

Nah, no dance records! I am playing at Hoxton Square Bar on the 29th May with a full band… that’s exciting!

Karima – thank you very much.

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INTERVIEW: Karima Francis
We sit down with the Blackpool singer-songwriter to talk about her new album