Listening to the songs of Robert Francis, it's hard to believe that the man behind that husky, hardened baritone is only twenty-two years old. A Los Angeles native, the emerging folk singer-songwriter possesses a talent seemingly years beyond his age, writing songs of love and loss that escape the cliched naiveties of youth and transcend time. But given his history, that maturity seems only natural. As a young child, Francis listened to his father, an eccentric classical music producer and sheet music collector, blast music late into the night. At age seven, after several years of playing piano, he learned the guitar so that he could play the traditional ranchera songs of his mother's Mexican hometown. Two years later, he was given his first slide guitar - by none other than family friend Ry Cooder. With music in his blood and years of practice, Francis' standout musicianship and songwriting chops may not be a surprise, but the striking intimacy of his music will undoubtedly take listeners aback as they discover the songs on his first major label release, Before Nightfall.
"Every once in a while a record by a singer-songwriter comes out that just knocks us out - Robert's Before Nightfall is one of those records," says Bruce Warren, Assistant General Manager of Programming for WXPN. "For his major label debut, Robert has created a timeless collection of songs. There's strength in his lyrics, crafty arrangements, and soul in his young voice."
Dan Reed says, "There's a lot of talent in this very young songwriter, and it's going to be very interesting to see him progress in the years ahead. He already seems to understand the mechanics of a good song, and is able to turn a phrase seemingly at will."
More on the XPN Artists To Watch series and this month's featured artist
Since 2003, the XPN Artists To Watch series has been a reflection of WXPN’s commitment to nurturing fresh, new talent and exposing listeners to the best new music. Each month, the XPN Artists To Watch series spotlights a different up-and-coming performer who has produced an album or body of work that demonstrates outstanding vision, creativity and songwriting ability. Month-long on-air promotion is combined with online features to help audiences discover each artist.
WXPN, the nationally recognized leader in Triple A radio and the premier guide for discovering new and significant artists in rock, blues, roots and folk, is the non-commercial, member-supported radio service of the University of Pennsylvania. WXPN produces World Cafe®, public radio’s most popular program of popular music hosted by David Dye and syndicated by NPR, and the Peabody Award winning Kids Corner hosted by Kathy O’Connell. WXPN also produces the alternative rock service, Y-Rock On XPN (yrockonxpn.org) as its secondary radio channel in HD. WXPN serves the greater Philadelphia area at 88.5 FM, the Lehigh Valley at 104.9, Worton/Baltimore at 90.5 FM, Lancaster/York at 88.7 FM, Harrisburg at 99.7 FM and the world via online streaming at XPN.org.