At 12, John Francis started writing, recording, and performing. Any stage would do, but mostly, Francis cut his teeth in the church, like many great performers. Son of ministers and musicians, Francis grew up with folk, rock, and gospel music at the center of his life. At 18, he enrolled as a Literature and World Religions major at Messiah College near Harrisburg, PA. There he immersed himself in the classics of poetry and prose, honing his craft as a songwriter. During these years, John played guitar for Gospel band on Sunday mornings. After graduating, Francis traveled to Ireland where the musical traditions of his family’s homeland added more fuel to the fire.
While living in Philadelphia, Francis released the critically acclaimed “Strong Wine & Spirits”. With the single “Heavy, Heavy Love”, the record garnered extensive radio play in the North East. Drawing on the deep waters of Rock n roll, Folk, Country, and Gospel music, Francis conjures the spirits of his eloquent brand of songwriting, and passionate live shows. The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote, “Artful..brooding…intense.”
Francis was honored by ASCAP as the recipient two national lyricist awards. The prestigious Sammy Cahn Lyricist Award, for his song ”Love Came to Me Dressed in Red”. (Previous winners include John Mayer and Josh Ritter.) And recently he received the Jay Gorney Award for socially conscious lyrics for his poignant song, “Who?”
Francis has played in some of the most renown listening rooms and theaters in the U.S., Ireland, UK, Switzerland, and Germany. He has played upon invitation for the United Nations in New York. In August of 2011, Francis performed for the inaugural “Johnny Cash Music Festival” in Jonesboro, Arkansas at the ASU Arena, alongside Kris Kristofferson, George Jones, Rosanne Cash, Rodney Crowell, and Tommy Cash.
He has also shared the stage with Ray Lamontagne, Jeff Tweedy, Amos Lee, Buffy Sainte-Marie, M.Ward, Josh Ritter, Suzanne Vega, Rachael Yamagata, Rickie Lee Jones, Andrew Bird, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Peggy Seeger, Tom Paxton, the Hooters, and festivals with Steve Earle, Judy Collins, Aimee Mann, Rufus Wainwright, Mavis Staples, and Arlo Guthrie.
John Francis now makes his home (when not touring 200+ days per year) in Music City…Nashville, Tennessee. In Nashville, he recorded his newest release ‘the Better Angels’ in the Cash Cabin Studio. Produced by John Carter Cash in the fabled home studio of his parents Johnny and June.
‘The Better Angels’ was released Nov.9, 2010 through the Dualtone Music Group. It was “Most Added” to AMA Radio 3 weeks running, and climbed to #18 on the Americana Charts. Featuring legendary musicians: Kenny Vaughan (Lucinda Williams, Marty Stuart), Ken Coomer (Uncle Tupelo, Wilco), Michael Rhodes (Sheryl Crowe, J.J. Cale), Robbie Turner (Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson) and featuring Rachael Yamagata with a vocal appearance, ‘the Better Angels’ is a musical achievement. The record features the single ”Johnny Cash on the Radio” and the two songs for which Francis received national songwriting awards.
Like his songs, Francis is rooted in the real, vulnerable, and gritty stories of human experiences, his own and those he encounters. And as he tours and travels, he’s collected stories of others, and built his own story on that great “ribbon of highway”.
Inside the soaring vibrato-laden tenor and the catchy rock / folk melodies, you can feel the pain, the redemption, the sorrow, and the transcendence in the voice of a young man who is, as Shane Claiborne puts its, “…a poet and a troubadour; a provocateur of dreams and an instigator of movements. Most of all, he is a friend. He is a friend of mine, but he is also a friend of many down-and-out people the world has stepped on, pushed aside, and tried to ignore. His voice becomes much bigger than his own, and his stories tell the stories of injustice and freedom that are thousands of years old. Listen, and be inspired to do something daring with your life.”