Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Songwriter climbs out of dark with new album

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"THE black dogs got me. They got me good."

That's Scottish-born Canadian singer-songwriter David Francey discussing the circumstances around his new album, So Say We All. The album was born out of a dark year for Francey; after the death of his best friend, he found himself in the depths of a long depression, which he addresses frankly on the song Harm. "I want to see the sun again/I'm getting tired of the rain," he sings. He gives voice to an illness that is so often suffered alone and in silence.

"There's still such a stigma surrounding depression, which I don't understand," he says. "I was trying to look at it like a having a bad heart or a broken bone. I didn't give (writing about it) a second thought; it was something I had to do."

As he writes in the liner notes, "the making of the album was a pathway up and out from under." Songwriting, too, has been an important lifeline for Francey.

"I've always written for myself. It clarifies where I am at any given time. Whether it's something exciting or terrifying or sad, I tend to deal with it by writing about it. That's what was happening to me at the time. The end result was, if you keep marching, you'll get through it. That surely helps."

Francey didn't begin his career as a singer/songwriter until he was 45, but he'd been writing songs and poems for decades while working as a carpenter. It wasn't until he won his first Juno (he now has three) that he committed to earning a living from his music. (He's nothing if not pragmatic.)

"I was working in construction with my best friend. I was happy. I knew I was a good carpenter and a fine labourer, but I felt that there had to be something else I could do."

His wife, artist Beth Girdler, convinced him to share his songs with the public, who met him with open arms. "I was astonished by the reaction. I'm just writing about everyday life, and everyone lives an everyday life. I just try to put it in straightforward terms and people see themselves in the songs."

He's a prolific writer -- So Say We All is his 10th album -- but he's also discerning. Some of the songs on the record are more than a decade old, but were called up out of the notebooks once Francey had a through-line for the album. The title track, for example, was written in 2005 at the time of his father's death and beautifully anchors the record about loss and life.

Francey credits his fellow players with helping him get through to the other side. Recording these particular songs with people who have become a second family meant a lot to him.

"I really love this (album). I'm going to enjoy it for a while. It meant a lot to be out of the hole and look around and see these guys around me," he says.

jen.zoratti@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 15, 2013 D3

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