19-year old Francesco Yates has been taking the music world by storm lately. The Toronto native’s single “Better To Be Loved” is sitting pretty on multiple charts, his music is currently featured in Coca Cola’s glass bottle 100th year anniversary, and his debut EP is set for release this year.
As if that wasn’t impressive enough, he has earned the praises of Pharrell Williams who says “He’s absolutely going to be just a huge, huge, huge pop star”.
We got the chance to speak with Francesco recently about what fans can expect from his debut EP, his reaction to Pharrell’s words, and what place in Toronto people absolutely have to visit.
Confront: Your debut EP is set for release this spring – what can fans expect?
Francesco: I think people can expect a full rounded body of tunes that can stand alone, but are unified in sound when they come together. It’s definitely something but it pulls out all types of emotions. I don’t know what people’s expectations of me or my music might be at this time but it’s something I can stand behind and I genuinely think people will be able to move to and hopefully be moved by.
Confront: Where do you draw the most inspiration from in your music?
Francesco: Generally speaking, inspiration for my music can come from anywhere. I really open myself up to experiences and let the music write itself, drawing from something I’ve seen or heard, to other music I may have heard in passing or consciously sat and listened to. Nothing is necessarily off limits with my music but it’s not something I overthink. If something isn’t coming to me lyrically, it’s not meant to be. There is an authenticity in my lyrics and music and that is consequently what I’m inspired by in other music. Genuine lyrics, relatability and authenticity is key.
Confront: Which song did you most enjoy watching come to life in the studio?
Francesco: For me, that’s like picking a favourite child. It’s hard to say because each song was birthed in a different way. There were all sorts of special moments that took place, between hitting a particular note or feeling the vibe and writing a perfect lyric to a beat. I will admit that the night that ‘Better To Be Loved’ was written, something special was happening in the studio. Something magical.
Confront: What has it been like to work with Pharrell and Robin Hannibal?
Francesco: What I learned from Pharrell was not to let my perfectionism get the best of me and trust in my initial gut instinct when it comes to making my music. He also helped encourage the idea of bringing my love of the electric guitar back into my music. I played guitar when I was younger and it’s something I had stepped away from for a while. I’m very thankful he asked me about it and I was able to include that rock sound that I grew up on. With Robin Hannibal on the other hand, I learned to have a strict work ethic and never to lose focus, to be totally in the moment of making the song. I became a stronger writer and was definitely a student of the craft when working with Robin. Him and I worked on most of the album together.
Confront: What’s one important thing you’ve learned from them?
Francesco: I’m actually quite happy and honored to have been given the opportunity to work with them on this album. Both of them have a very strong vision and are forward thinking producers that don’t chase any trends, and that I appreciate more than ever.
Confront: How did you react when you heard the high praise you received from Pharrell?
Francesco: It freaks me out that I was able to have been in the same room with him, hear his philosophies of life, and most importantly, see that he is a genuine human being. Any praise I get from him I really do think is great! I admire and respect him on a musical and personal level.
Confront: Can you talk to us a little bit about the new Coca Cola campaign that you’re a part of? How did you find out your song would be behind the campaign?
Francesco: The new Coca-Cola campaign is a great thing for me because I got to be a part of the rich music legacy that brand has built in our time. I was finishing up my album in Los Angeles late last year and I got a meeting with my management and was presented with the opportunity to sing the song for their 100th year anniversary of the iconic glass bottle shape. I feel like the song ‘Nobody Like You’ was a great blend of old school and new school feel and its what I’m about as an artist myself! So it fit perfectly for me and I think that’s why our relationship made great sense.
Confront: Do you find that Toronto and/or Canadian music has played any significant part in your musical growth?
Francesco: There is a distinct sound in Toronto, musically. Most notably a lot of music from The Weeknd and that OVO sound has rubbed off on me and I believe it’s influenced music in the past few years. There is a Toronto soundscape that the folks at OVO have created that I think is brilliant.
Confront: As a Torontonian, is there one thing or place you’d absolutely recommend to anyone visiting?
Francesco: I would say Kensington Market is a place I’d recommend visiting. It’s like walking through a time machine back to the 60s or 70s. In the summer there are people with flowers in their hair walking around playing acoustic guitar, singing to themselves! It’s a very open community! Great food and just great vibes all around.
Confront: What’s one thing fans may not know about you?
Francesco: One thing people may not know about me is I’ve never had a hamburger in my life, and I can’t explain why!
Confront: Which 3 songs (not your own!) do you currently have on repeat?
Francesco: Three songs I am loving are ‘The Knowing’ by The Weeknd, Led Zeppelin’s ‘What is and What Should Never Be’, and ‘Another Star’ by Stevie Wonder all of which have a haunting spirituality about them that I’m drawn to.
Confront: What can fans expect for the remainder of 2015?
Francesco: I plan to release my debut EP in the summer time and I have a couple of headlining shows I’m doing here in Canada which is really special for me. Summer festivals and shows across the country. The last thing I can say is something different is coming soon – really soon!
Watch “Better to Be Loved”
Learn more about Francesco Yates: