By Dale Boyd
The sky is the limit for Canadian blues phenom Angelique Francis, but she stays grounded with a strong connection to her family.
The 22-year-old multi-instrumental, multi-genre artist was born into a “heavily musical” family in Ottawa, her mother a singer and her father producing music in a home studio.
“So when I was a child I grew up listening to an amazing array and different varieties of music, and then also hearing my father produce music and being able to be part of productions myself,” Francis said.
It seems like a fast track to becoming a professional musician, but it wasn’t what her parents had in mind.
“Until I got older and I decided this is what I wanted to do. They decided to support me, but they put down a few ground rules first,” Francis said.
First she had to maintain top grades throughout her academic career, which Francis did up until her graduation — with the highest honours in her graduating class. Next, Francis had to learn a few instruments.
“I needed to learn the piano, then I needed to learn the guitar and then I could learn whatever I want,” Francis said. “And that inspired me to pursue multiple different instruments such as the upright bass, the electric guitar, harmonica and so on.”
While learning multiple instruments and getting top grades sounds like a busy schedule, Francis found a lot of overlap between school and music.
“Music is such an amazing thing in that once I actually started to pursue music and learn different instruments school became easier. Especially math. Music and math kind of activate the same portions of the brain, so it’s beneficial to actually participate in both activities,” Francis said.
She started performing professionally around the age of seven with her first big gig at the grand opening of her school, and from then on Francis was hooked.
“It was a big deal, a televised event, and I realized from that performance that music was something that I wanted to pursue,” Francis said.
At the age of 13 she made her American national debut for writing and composing an original song for The Gayle King Show on Oprah’s OWN network.
“Since I was always composing, even at a young age, I decided to take a chance and send in a theme song to her and they loved it so much that they ended up using it and airing it on their show,” Francis said.
And she has been performing ever since on some of the world’s biggest stages; the Montreal Jazz Festival, Mariposa Folk Festival, Massey Hall and more. And her family is never too far away.
“I’m very lucky to have such an amazing support system. My younger sisters and I we spend our evenings jamming after dinner,” she said, adding that the Angelique Francis band, spanning from three to ten members depending on the venue or festival, often includes her father and two younger sisters.
Francis carries skill and voice beyond her years, and draws from a deep well of historic influences from Big Mama Thornton to Koko Taylor and Aretha Franklin. Growing up surrounded by music she was captivated by the rich heritage and historical influence of the blues, which she and her band weave through an eclectic mix of modern and classic genres.
“I think that it provides us artists the ability to express and communicate emotion on deep and personal levels while also acting as a storytelling medium that can be used to catalog history and cultural traditions,” Francis said.
She classifies her music as blues infuse, or blues-influence.
“We combine the blues with an array of different genres such as soul, folk, roots, R&B, funk, and so on, to create new forms of expression for yourself. So I really appreciate the powerful qualities that the blues has and also its connection to other genres and the connections that it can form between people.”
The as-of-yet untitled follow up to her 2018 debut Kissed by the Blues is on the way sometime in 2020.
Francis comes to the Venables Theatre on Friday, Jan. 17 at 7:30 p.m. presented in partnership with the Osoyoos Blues Society. Tickets are $30 ($20 for students) available online at venablestheatre.ca.