Iconoclastic Artist Talks Songs From New Album Li(f)e
There's something extraordinary about the song "The Best Of Times" by Sage Francis, something that catches people. BBC DJ Zane Lowe felt it immediately. The fast talking Brit tastemaker was the first to play Gnarls Barkley's massive hit "Crazy" and a major force behind the rise of than unknown acts Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party, Editors, Kasabian and Kaiser Chiefs. When a fan tipped Lowe to the new Francis track, the man sensed something and gave the disc an afternoon spin. All across England, listeners stopped in their tracks, connecting with the intensely confessional lyrics and atmospheric sound. Messages of excitement and appreciation instantly began filling the show's boards. The same thing happened again when Radio 6 DJ Lauren Laverne played the song and when Prefix Magazine streamed the track on line.
"The Best Of Times" has currently reached the #28 spot on the UK iTunes Alternative song chart well in advance of the album's release.
"The Best Of Times" is featured on the new album Li(f)e by the incendiary artist Sage Francis - the music written by French composer Yan Tiersen. The result is something powerful and unique. The album arrives May 11th.
As a bonus for his many fans, Sage has written notes on each of the 12 songs from the Li(f)e describing his inspirations and offering personal insights:
Christopher Daniel Gay broke out of captivity enough times for him to be dubbed "Little Houdini" by the press who managed to cover his story. I first came across news of Christopher in 2006 and decided to keep up with his escapades. I saved the details of his prison breaks in hopes of doing a song about him at some point. The first time he broke free from the law was to visit his dying father. The second time it was to visit his dying mother. The third time was for good measure. There wasn't much press about this story at all. Nothing national at least, which I still find strange. I put together what details I could and used a few lines from the actual news stories. The original article said, "This is what country songs are made of." I thought to myself, "Sure...but this is also what a rap song can be made of."
At the tail end of this song there is a recording of an interaction I had with a couple Jehovah's Witnesses who visited my house one morning. Luckily, I had my digital recorder close by so I clicked the record button and put the recorder in my shirt pocket. As you'll hear, and as you've probably heard before, they like to offer us the world.
Three Sheets To The Wind
The phrase "three sheets to the wind" is something people use to describe someone who is sloppy drunk. After hearing the phrase my whole life, and even using it a couple times myself, I became curious as to where the phrase originated from. Apparently it's an old sailing term. The "sheets" are actually the ropes that are attached to the sail. When these ropes come loose they flop around like a stumbling drunk person, their movement at the mercy of the wind. Once I found that out, the rest of the song flowed from there. Heck, my mom is a sailor. And I talk like one.
A bulk of this song is about the disciplines I maintained as a kid in order to achieve what I wanted in life. When kids would go get high or drunk I decided to stay focused and work on my music. I lost a lot of friends because of that. Hell, it probably turned me into a recluse of sorts. The more time I spent on myself and in my own head the more I came to realize where all my hate and anger was coming from. I was masking my fear. Most of us seem to be fueled by fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of death, fear of amounting to nothing, fear of having no purpose. We pick our poisons as a means of escape. We all have our crutches and we all have our addictions. I always thought I wanted to live forever. Couldn't imagine the possibility of that not happening. Until I could.
I Was Zero
In this song we take the listener from pre-birth to the afterlife in a universe ruled by creationism and intelligent design. Overburdened by rules and structure, the narrator develops himself from nothingness into somethingness while adhering to the ridiculousness of both man's law and God's law.
This song went through quite the journey before it became the official version people are now hearing. It's been over a decade ago since I had my short stint as a resident of Brooklyn, NY but much of the song has me reflecting back on that time, applying it to my current living situation. I'm not sure if it was because of the energy of that city or because I was still young and impressionable, but it definitely made its impact. Everything between now and then seems like a blur, but of course back then nothing was moving fast enough for me. The slow man likes to hurry up and wait.
This song's lyrics were written a few years ago (soon after my first release on Epitaph) and here I am finally incorporating them into a song 5 years later. I remember writing these lyrics as if it were last week. The main purpose of this song is to explain how I feel like the world is moving too fast around me and I'm tired of trying to keep up with it. There's nothing young about what we do.
Diamonds And Pearls
Ever been lied to so much that it becomes easier and healthier to accept the lie rather than confront the truth? This song was originally inspired by a liar of that sort. Once I started writing the lyrics, a greater concept evolved and that's what saved it from being tucked away into a notebook and/or burned at the stake. It's not about diamonds or pearls and it has nothing to do with Prince.
At its core this song is about co-dependency. It's broken down into segments that highlight various manifestations of co-dependency including, but not restricted to, over-the-counter drugs, under-the-counter drugs, significant others, insignificant others, God, Satan and all the possessive little demons in between. Leave this body, leave this body, leave this body, BE GONE!
The Baby Stays
This song navigates through a sensitive subject matter I don't think I've ever heard addressed in a song. Not in this way at least. The song originally was written from the perspective of a man who has to deal with the reality that he has no choice as to whether a baby he helped conceive gets to be born or not. I developed it from there, quantum leaping the narration which goes from his perspective to the woman's perspective to the baby's perspective. Social stigma aside, this fight scheduled for two rounds. It's an abortion Vs. The birth of an unwanted baby.
I lowered the bucket inside of myself and retrieved a collection of unfettered reflections going back 16 years. Going back to the time when life got "really real" for me and realizing how differently I interpret myself and the world around me since that point. The ambiguity of the writing provides just enough comfort and padding for my good conscience.
This is a self-affirmation of sorts. It's a reminder to myself, and hopefully to others, that we need to shed ourselves of the needless stress bestowed upon us via our home, work, school and religion. Certain types of stress are good for us. It can assist in our development, productivity and evolution. However, when we measure our worth by the arbitrary demands made by the institutions we are born into, there needs to be an awakening at some point where we think for ourselves and do for ourselves. That's the best way to serve others (if you do, in fact, have a desire to serve others.) Since I tend to get wrapped up in my own work and responsibilities, this is as much a reminder to myself as it is to the listener.
I got to thinking about the meaning behind the original "The London Bridge is Falling Down" nursery rhyme. I researched it and discovered it had all the ingredients I needed to cook up something fun. As a native New Englander, I had the story of the Boston Tea Party crammed down my throat all through school. As diluted as that lesson may have become through the years, the Boston Tea Party remains to be one of the greatest examples of direct action and acts of political defiance in US history. London Bridge got me thinking about The Boston Tea Party. The Boston Tea Party got me thinking about Gandhi's Salt March in India, which was also a great political protest against Great Britain. All of these connections unfolded into a song about bully empires, civil uprisings, the decay of national monuments, social collapse and ultimately the death of all tradition.
Love The Lie
In this song we run through the adventures of a sick person unwilling to seek professional help and all the fun things that happen to children who have to juggle the realities and fallacies they've inherited from a broken home. Pick your lie and love it if it loves you back, that's what I say.
The Best Of Times
This is a string of raw and revealing moments from my upbringing that seem to have molded my adulthood. Vulnerable and embarrassing tidbits of info that sit in the back of my head at all times. The thesis of the song seems to be about how we tend to fool ourselves into thinking that the tough and embarrassing moments of our life are much bigger than they actually are. Especially as kids, when we believe that every obstacle we encounter seems like the end of the world. That's probably the greatest lie of our lives. It's a lie that is so convincing that some of us kill ourselves over it. It's important to remember that when all seems lost it really isn't. As the old credo goes, "This too shall pass."