Award got Francey into music full time

Scottish-born David Francey has been writing songs since his teenage years in Canada. But it wasn’t

Scottish-born David Francey has been writing songs since his teenage years in Canada.

But it wasn’t until his second album, 2001’s “Far End of Summer,” that he was able to quit the construction industry, where he’d worked full time for 20 years, occasionally playing weekend shows. Then he won a Juno award, the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy.

“I wanted to tour with my second album, and my wife and I were working really hard at that point, working really hard for gigs,” Francey said recently from a tour stop in Long Beach, Calif.

“Then my second album won a Juno, and that made all the difference in the world — that was the key that made it change. I remember my wife and I were driving back to Newfoundland one night, and I was thinking, ‘I just won a Juno. Maybe we should go for music?’ We did, and we’ve never looked back since.”

More albums

He certainly hasn’t needed to. Since that time he has released seven more albums, most recently this year’s “Late Edition,” and has racked up two more Juno awards, another nomination, and a Canadian Folk Music Award for 2007’s “Right of Passage” album. Francey will be on the road off-and-on throughout the year, touring with help from singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Craig Werth.

GottaGetGon Festival

When: Friday through Sunday

Where: Saratoga County Fairgrounds, Ballston Spa

How Much: $50 for the weekend or $26 per day; students (ages 19-22) $25 for the weekend or $15 per day; ages 18 and under free with paying adult

More Info: 355-7330, 882-6809,

This weekend, Francey will kick off another round of touring as one of four featured performers at the 41st annual GottaGetGon Festival, at the Saratoga County Fairgrounds in Ballston Spa. The family and folk music-oriented festival, which is put on each year by local participatory folk music organization The Pickin’ and Singin’ Gatherin’, will begin with a potluck dinner on Friday at 7 p.m., and close with the traditional A Cappella Sing on Sunday night.

Sharing stage

Along with Francey, other featured performers at this year’s festival include sea shanty singer Celeste Bernardo, bluegrass duo The Honey Dewdrops and folk band The Buskers. Satauna Howery, The Blackwell Sinners, Deborah Burger and Matt Toomey will also perform and host workshops throughout the weekend.

This is Francey’s first GottaGetGon — he performs on Sunday at 3 p.m., as well as at the sampler concert at 10:25 a.m. on Saturday. Also on Saturday, he will host a songwriting workshop with The Honey Dewdrops and a travel songs workshop with Bernardo, along with a love songs workshop on Sunday.

Francey approaches songwriting differently than most folk troubadours. Though he plays guitar, all of his songs are written without the aid of instruments.

GottaGetGon schedule


7 p.m. — Potluck dinner

8 p.m. — New Generation Folk hosted by Matt Toomey, with Satauna Howery, Blackwell Sinners


10:25 a.m. — Sampler concert with all featured performers

1:15 p.m. — Celeste Bernardo

2:15 p.m. — Workshops “Chantey or Shanty” with Celeste Bernardo; “Song Writing” with David Francey, The Honey Dewdrops

3:15 p.m. — The Buskers

4:15 p.m. — Workshops “Accompaniment” with The Buskers, The Honey Dewdrops; “Travel Songs” with David Francey, Celeste Bernardo; “Swing Warmup” with Dave Crump

5:30 p.m. — Workshop “Swinging” with Dave Crump

8 p.m. — Barn Dance with caller Deb Burger, John Guay, Vonnie Estes, Steve Fry and Barb Lubell


9:45 a.m. — Wake Up With Gospel, with Vicki Kelsey, Bruce Pomeroy

9:45 a.m. — Fiddle Camp

11 a.m. — Workshops “Old & New Music” with The Honey Dewdrops, The Buskers; “Love Songs” with David Francey

1 p.m. — The Honey Dewdrops

2 p.m. — Workshops “Harmony Singing” with The Honey Dewdrops; “Changing and Rearranging Tunes” with The Buskers

3 p.m. — David Francey

4:15 p.m. — Open stage

7:15 p.m. — Slow jam and drumming circle

A capella sing in the evening

“I write all the songs in my head,” he said. “Whatever I want to sing about, I just start singing, and that becomes a melody. Everything I’ve ever written started out as a cappella, which is why it’s all kind of singable and melodic. . . . It makes you very free to write — you can write on the plane, at the airport, in a car, wherever you’re at. There’s no restriction on where you can write, and for me, that really suits me well.”

Family drives

This songwriting method grew out of long drives in the Canadian countryside with his family, who would sing traditional Scottish tunes in harmony while exploring. His family moved to Toronto when Francey was 12.

At the same time, he was also writing poetry, and had been since age 10, inspired by newspaper stories (he worked as a paper boy while living in Scotland).

“Eventually in my teens, they turned into songs, and by my 20s they turned into pretty good songs,” he said. “I wrote songs because I needed to write them.”

Throughout his career, he has relied on a number of musicians from both the folk and rock worlds to bring his songs to life, including Montreal-based guitarist Dave Clarke, who first toured with Francey in 1997. His arrangements feature heavily on “Right of Passage.”

“I don’t consider myself much of a guitar player at all, because I’m not,” Francey said. “I’m a slave to the melody — if you’re going to wander away from the melody, I’m not interested. I go with people who have a similar take on everything; I’ve been very lucky that way.”

His years working in construction also had an influence on his songwriting. He spent much of his time at work constructing songs in his head.

“You’ve got all the time in the world — once you’ve done a couple of roofs, you just go by rote, and you’re pretty much free to work through what’s going on in your head at the time,” he said.

“You’re working with four or five men, and we talked about everything. . . . [My songs] are mostly about where I am and who I’ve met — things have evolved that way. Whatever perspective it is, it’s whatever I’m worrying about at the time, and I think it’s all fairly common. People seem to recognize themselves in the songs.”

The just-released “Late Edition” keeps with Francey’s penchant for storytelling songs, as well as his mix of Scottish Celtic sounds and North American folk traditions. As the title suggests, the songs were inspired by his reaction to current world events. The album follows his 2009 collaboration, “Seaway,” with Mike Ford of Canadian folk-pop band Moxy Früvous.

His collaborators this time out include two veterans of Mark Knopfler’s band — Fats Kaplin and current Knopfler guitarist Richard Bennett. U.S. country artist Kieran Kane and his son Lucas rounded out the lineup.

“We went in there and recorded live off the floor — we recorded until we got a good one,” Francey said. “It’s about as live as you can get it, and that was the idea going in. It worked out really well, I think. We did it before on an album called ‘Waking Hour’ that I did with Kieran and Kevin Welch. We did it live off the floor then and it was great fun as well — we’d do it in four days and then mixed on the fifth, and it was the same for [‘Late Edition’]. It’s great fun, really good.”

Categories: Life and Arts

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