A cold wind blew across the rooftops as Noah Francis sat with two friends, talking. over the next three hours the tide of words between them would ebb and flow, the themes would weave from the absurd to the sublime. The topics that traversed moved from children to boxing, from dancing to religion, from film to music, from struggle to faith, from life to death. To listen to this conversation, what becomes evident is that Noah has an intimate knowledge and experience of what he speaks, and his words are truthful and honest. There is no subterfuge, or duplicity in his words, or manner: one could say he is pure with purpose and vision.
"When I wake up in the morning, i'm, definitely not controlling the world around me. But I can shape the way I approach it."-Noah
Purity with purpose and vision not only defines Noah in life, but melds into the very fabric of his music. 'Life & Times', his new self-titled album, portrays the truest experience of Noah's raw, honest sound of music. The album was recorded live in two, one hour-long studio sessions, each with a 40 person audience. The communion formed between the artist and gathering resonates from the very first note. Noah, not beholden to one genre, weaves an intricate musical tapestry embracing Classic, Rock, Folk, and Soul providing music lovers a broad pallet from which to choose. Experiencing this music and lyrics begs the question of 'who is this man behind the voice?'
What is the measure of the man? Few comprehend or have experienced what it takes to step through the ropes and into the ring and engage in a one-on-one battle with another person. But what of the journey that has delivered the fighter into that four cornered battlefield? As a child growing up in "Tiger Bay", South Wales, Noah Francis had to face the rising fervour of the National Front. With a white mother and black father, he felt neither black, nor white, but outside the sanctity of his home, Noah was seen as black. As one of three black students in a school of 800, he felt the wrath of prejudice was thrust upon him as a schoolboy. Fists, knives, bats, and everything else, were used against him and his family.
In this mind of bigotry, his father introduced him to boxing, which he took to with a commitment of body and heart, When you are in the ring, the world outside disappears, and during the ring of the bell, it is only you and your opponent. It is one of the few places in the world where you find truth. Win, lose, or draw, there is nothing more honest than the punches you throw and the hits you receive. After 42 fights, Noah walked away from the ring with 40 victories losing only his first two. Exchanging the abusive shouts reverberating in the smoke filled boxing halls with screaming girls at freestyle dance competitions, Noah would go on to win the world championship as a dancer.
What is the nature of the being? The child was bathed in the tide of racism, but baptised in the waters of song. Noah was brought into this world in a house filled with music. At the age of eight, with his father, he began to perform at "Working man's clubs", performing classics, from Sinatra to Michael Jackson, while sharing dressing rooms with comedians and strippers. To the world outside this would seem strange, to young Noah, it was home. As the years continued, his musical craft as a songwriter, performer and producer. For Noah and his audience, the thousands and thousands of hours of hard work is realised in his melodic landscape, wondrous librettos.
"From the very beginning, up to this point the back drop of my life has always had a soundtrack."-Noah
What is the spirit of the individual? The pugilist, the dancer, the musician, each become an integral part of Noah the person, but what is beyond the person? Noah made a courageous choice to enter the priesthood, a world of devotion and contrition, a world of celibacy and prayer, tendering to a higher state of being. As with every other calling he had embraced in his life, he made his commitment to the church with body, heart and soul. Just before he was to be ordained, a senior priest with candour and love told Noah that he would not need the collar to do good in this world, "Have a family and pursue your music. That is where your gift lies."
What is the sincerity of the artist? At the end of the day on that icy rooftop, Noah spoke to his two companions of the recent death of his brother and father. He then leaned forward and sang, accompanied only by the cold, howling wind, a song about his father. When he had recorded the song, "Ballroom Blues", the words had spontaneously come to him. For the next few minutes, as the melody and lyrics flowed out, the rest of the world vanished and Noah's father came to life for the three of them. There was no subterfuge, or duplicity in his song or manner; his extraordinary voice was pure with purpose and vision. It is hard to say if that enchanted moment can be recreated, but what transpires in his album, "Life and Times", comes hauntingly close.
"Performing in the moment is my most authentic and honest account of myself."- Noah
We live in a time when the entertainment industry incessantly claims they want a new sound, but this same industry refuses to trust a new voice when it is discovered. Instead, they run to their comfort zone and strip away the distinctive nature of the new and assign its ownership to the established star, thereby diminishing the pure soul and value of each. Although compared to Adele, Ed Sheeran, and Mumford and Sons, rest assured that Noah Francis has his own unique voice, sound and message