Genre-hopping, self-produced rising star Oliver Francis is back with another new single. “Penthouse”, released June 29, was created in under a week and is already a contender for song of the summer. Atlas sat down with Francis to talk all things new music, producing in his bedroom studio and uplifting the people working behind the scenes.
Atlas Artist Group: You’ve been making music for quite awhile- how do you look at the evolution of your music from where you started to where you are now with it?
Oliver Francis: How do I view the evolution of my music? A lot of it goes hand in hand with just learning every day. I produce everything myself, and I record everything myself right here. I’m constantly learning stuff with the technical aspects, like recording and producing and that kind of thing. I feel like that will even influence how I make things sound, you know what I mean? It’s like ‘if I do this, it sounds better [and] if I don’t do this, it sounds better’- which is a big thing for me. I always like to make something that’s enjoyable, sonically, and entertaining.
The evolution though- I’d say my songwriting has improved quite a bit, just structure and progression of the songs. I don’t know…the landscape of what I’m doing has changed a little bit. When I started, it was this random SoundCloud thing. I didn’t think about anything as much, probably. I didn’t consider that when I uploaded to YouTube, 200,000 people would get a notification about it. So it’s changed quite a bit. It’s evolved quite a bit, definitely, I think, for the better- especially from a technical standpoint. I’m just learning every day and figuring everything out. I think I’m a little more rigid, and maybe I’m harder on myself, and I want things to be tighter, and I want things to be more presentable for people.
Atlas: You said you produce everything yourself. What’s been your motivation behind self-production and would you want to work with other producers in the future?
Francis: I’m from Columbia, Missouri, so I’m kind of the odd man out here. I don’t really know any [musicians or producers], at least locally. When I started making music, I didn’t really know any musicians- I didn’t know anyone who recorded music. I was in bands and stuff so I knew guys who played guitar and shit but I didn’t know anyone who wanted to be a professional musician. People did but not the same way I did. They’re not musicians, and I still am- I was willing to die for this kind of thing. I just didn’t really know anybody, so I would do it- I was just making music in my bedroom.
It’s what I wanted to do my whole life. I was raised by musicians, so I’ve had the drive for it my whole life- as long as I can remember- and I just knew at a certain point. I guess it was just a matter of circumstance, initially. I’m not really opposed to working with other people- I’ve done it before and it’s dope, but I think I’m kind of a perfectionist and I can be difficult to work with for sure. I’m very nitpicky and very hands-on. Sometimes I’m like, ‘man, I just want to like make music and not care and just have fun with it’. I just can’t help but take it very, very seriously. So I’d just rather not waste other people’s time. But I’ve had great experiences making music with other people, too. Definitely circumstances played a big part of it. If I was in LA, I’m sure it would have been a completely different story. I’d be working with tons of different people all the time, because there’s so many creative people there. But here, it’s just not the case.
Atlas: What are you drawing your inspiration from these days when you’re making music?
Francis: I don’t really listen to a lot of rap music currently- I go in and out of phases of that kind of thing. I listened to the last few Bring Me the Horizon records. I’m a big fan of Jordan Fish’s production. I think that’s really creative and really cinematic, and so that’s really cool and enjoyable. I’m also a big fan of Linkin Park. But then I listen to a lot of current rap music, too- I like Lil Baby a lot, I like Travis Scott a lot. Initially I was really into Yung Lean, who I still like a lot. I was really into Bones and all the independent rappers that kind of paved the way for this whole thing to exist. I’m also really into female singer-songwriter music [and] I’m really into Death Cab for Cutie or the band Copeland. I think that these things maybe subtly influenced me but I don’t really know. I just make what I make and it is what it is. I don’t really set out to do anything when I start to do something and it just happens.
I’m a big believer in that kind of thing. You can’t decide to write a hit song. Maybe somebody can but I can’t. I don’t really listen to any music that sounds like what I sound like. I like to think that I’m pulling from a lot of different places.
When I first got into rap music, I was really into ASAP Rocky and Yung Lean and the very spacey, ambient, relaxing instrumentals they would use so that’s definitely stuck with me. That’s how I found my [way] into rap music. I was very into Circa Survive or Explosions in the Sky- all these ambient post-rock sounding bands…and that’s how I found my way into it. That stuff definitely still influences me to this day.
Atlas: You’ve collaborated with plenty of artists in the past- do you have a favorite collab project you’ve done?
Francis: I would say probably with this kid Global Dan. He’s a friend. Most of the stuff I’ve done has been over the internet and it’s sending things back and forth. But with Dan, I’ve been in sessions with him and actually written with him in the studio. He’s super talented and super inspiring. He has a friend who also is incredibly talented at producing and mixing and writing. They just really get it and it’s really cool to be in a room with people like that. They were fans of my music before we started working together, so they really get what I do and it’s very helpful to have someone like that to bounce ideas off. That’s probably the most fun I’ve had, working with those guys.
Atlas: Out of all of your music, what resonates the most with you?
Francis: That’s hard to say because I kind of disconnect from them after I release them. I don’t listen to myself. If I do listen to myself, I’m listening to music that isn’t out. It’s all work in a way. So once it’s out, I pretty much wash my hands of it.
There are things that I’ve done that I really like- like “Aahhyeahh”. I don’t think it’s the best song I’ve ever written…it’s my most popular song I’ve ever written and I completely understand why. It’s definitely a mainstream, commercial, catchy kind of thing. A part of me really loves that song for that reason. I really liked my project Chlorine. That’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever made. I think it has a very solid sound across the board from song to song- I think that it’s a very full project. Those those are probably the things that resonate with me most.
Atlas: What do you hope that your listeners take away from your music?
Francis: I just hope it makes them happy. My music is pretty surface level as far as lyrical content and that kind of thing. I don’t particularly write about my day to day life or how I feel, but I just hope they have fun and I hope that they want to play it in a room full of their friends and that they can have a good time and disconnect from those things I said I didn’t write about. So if you’re depressed or you’re not feeling well, I hope that it can make you forget about that and just have fun and just chill. I think that it’s good to not think so much sometimes. So I hope that, in a way, it just makes them live now and not dwell on all that type of shit.
Atlas: Now that things are starting to go back to normal, what’s coming up for you?
Francis: I’m planning to release a bunch of music. I want to stay real consistent with that. I’m gonna be trying to upload to my YouTube a bunch. We’re planning tours. Right now we’re locking in dates in the UK in January of 2022. We’re also looking at a domestic US tour towards the end of 2022. We’re considering the fall this year, but definitely by the beginning of next year, we’ll be hitting the ground running with the shows, for sure.
Atlas: Is there anything else that you want people to know about you or your music, or is there anything that you wish you got to talk about more that you may not get asked?
Francis: I’d like to talk about my friends more. I think that when you see an artist, you see their face and you focus in on them, but with probably every artist that you listen to, they had someone with them helping them or a group of people helping them. For me it’s my friend AJ- he’s my 50/50 partner. He just runs everything so I can just do music and [be] creative. I don’t think that those kind of people are given enough credit. Maybe they see me as the main character, but all those people who do those things- like AJ and my managers- are of equal value, if not more important.
I remember when I started this thing, I didn’t have anybody to shoot it. I live in Missouri, and I don’t have anyone to shoot a music video so I just had him do it. Now he’s a full blown videographer. The company you keep is very important and to give those people their credit where it’s due. I would not have been able to get to where I am without my friends so that’s incredibly important to me, for sure. If you have a friend who wants to do music, they might be the face of that, but you can facilitate so much for them, and you can help them and help yourself and that’s a really cool position to have, too. You don’t have to be an artist- you can be a songwriter and you can write a hit song for someone else. You can be an artist manager and you can help an artist with tedious shit that they’re not good at. Those things are super important. I think that we need to shine more light on the people around these people who make all this cool shit happen, you know?
Story by Olivia Khiel
Photo courtesy of Oliver Francis