Log in
Providence Phoenix cover story: "Hell and Back"
View previous topic | View next topic >

Post new topic Reply to topic
Strange Famous Forum > Press/Interviews/reviews

Author Message
Sage Francis
Self Fighteous

Joined: 30 Jun 2002
Posts: 21790
Providence Phoenix cover story: "Hell and Back"  Reply with quote  

It's been a long time since I got any significant coverage from local media. Big thanks to Chris Conti for getting me the cover story:


I also want to share something I expressed on my Facebook page in regard to the title and slant of this article:

It feels a bit heavy handed to call what I've gone through "to hell and back," especially when my situation (or how I dealt with it) was largely self-inflicted. In my head. And it's not something people could help me with. I choose how I live. There many people going through much worse in their daily lives without any say in the matter. That's not to diminish the serious nature of things like depression, but I have gone through worse and I expect to go through worse. That's life. The driving force behind Copper Gone was not to shame people for not helping me when I apparently needed assistance of some sort. For instance, I'd hate for my loved ones to read this article and be made to feel like they should have helped me in some way. That just wasn't an option. I worked through it the way I know to work through it, I'm in a much better place, and life continues to be as confusing as it is interesting. I can't say I'm officially out of the dark part of the woods yet, but I am definitely glad to be climbing trees again.
Putting focus back into my music and myself is just what the Doctor ordered.
I'm good. And I'm in great company.
Thank you


Q: why the album title "Copper Gone"?

A: It holds a few different meanings, but it's mainly in reference to houses that get stripped for their scrap metal. There was an abandoned building near where I live that had "Copper Gone" spray painted onto it in an attempt to keep people from breaking into it to steal things that were already stolen.

Q: can you go into detail the string of life events that had you locked away from the outside world?

A: Not too much detail, but I have reclusive tendencies. It wasn't always like that, but I don't remember ever having a problem with being alone. Anyway, after dedicating the entirety of my adult life to my music career and realizing that I wasn't feeling happy in general, I decided I needed to make some changes. I was exhausted on all levels. 2010 was such a brutal year and the following 4 years felt like I was being slowly squeezed dry. There was almost a complete overhaul in my personal and business life. With touring out of the picture, my main goal was to rid myself of the stress and anxiety of keeping up with music business bullshit, but I was also interested in seeing if I could build some type of home life that was totally separate from my music career. I'm not really sure how I thought any of that was going to happen. Whatever the case, this all resulted in me spending a lot of time by myself, running Strange Famous Records remotely, and perhaps spiraling into what most people might consider "lonely" hermit life. A few days would go by and I'd realize that I hadn't showered or had any human interactions. And then weeks would go by. And, you know, it was OK. I didn't mind it at all. In fact, I think I prefer it that way. There are no distractions. I get to do whatever I want whenever I want to do it, and as long as I keep the cats fed and their litter box cleaned…as long as I take the trash out on Tuesday…all was well. I didn't like most of my interactions with people when I was in social settings. I didn't care much for the conversations, obligations, expectations, or any other "ations." Regular old human shit. It's just not my nature and it feels very draining rather than inspiring. It didn't feel very healthy though, so I knew I couldn't get too comfortable in my isolation. It's something I work on every day while on the road, but having a specific task to accomplish on a daily basis makes things a whole lot easier for me. I have a job to get done and I get it done. The added benefit here is that I get to travel with people I care about and people who care about me. All types of win. Until one of us snaps of course. It's been weird watching people I grew up with getting married, having kids, going on vacations, getting divorced, having more kids, building families, losing homes, etc…all while I'm still living the projection of my 12 year old self.

Q: what was the average day for Sage Francis at your darkest point, and do you recall the day you sort of stepped back out into the world? was there a defining moment?

A: Heh. Well, I can't say there was a so-called "moment of clarity." There was no sudden epiphany. I slowly stepped back into the world while fighting the notion that I should just stay put in my own comfortable world. Of course, when I returned home from a short stint in Australia I ended up with walking pneumonia. I found myself laying on the couch instead of recording my album which is the most helpless I felt in a while. And that was followed by my cat's health problems. I was watching him die and he's only 5 years old so I knew there must be something that could be done so I pursued every possible option. Dealing with that…I think that was the shittiest I felt in a very long time. It just came with so much extra baggage as well as symbolism and it forced me to deal with other losses I had been suppressing in my conscience. Dealing with all of this while also preparing for a new album and world tour almost felt like it was too much to bear. Yet, it's also what pulled me out of the muck and it helped me connect with people I needed in my life. Things are 100x better than they were at this exact point last year. I'm grateful.

Q: how did the trip to South Africa initially come about, and did that trip lift your spirits in terms of what you were going through personally? to help you step back and re-calibrate?

A: It's incredibly complicated. I could probably write a book about it. In fact, I've been thinking of doing just that if I can manage to find the time. I was invited to take part in a documentary being made on an alternative treatment for people infected with HIV. I was invited by someone who met me in Sweden at a poetry festival. I've never been to Africa before, and it was a much needed break from my normal routine. It was a culture shock on several levels which is always good for resetting the system. I witnessed, learned and experienced things that will stick with me forever. I plan on returning by the end of this year to see how everyone is doing.

Q: Did writing music serve as a therapy during that time-- did your state of mind fuel or hinder your writing process? and did the Epic Beard Men cuts help re-energize you?

A: Come to think of it, that trip is what inspired me to start writing and recording again. I took a full year off from writing once I finished recording Li(f)e. Part of why I was in South Africa was to write a praise poem for the children, and that ended up being a song called Ubuntu (Water Into Wine.) That definitely got the creative juices flowing. I went on to write and record many features for other people's albums after that point before focusing on my Sick to D(eat)h mixtape and the Copper Gone album. The Epic Beard Men stuff I did with B. Dolan allows me the opportunity to kick really fun rap shit. I think it's an important aspect of the live show. Ending the show by wilding out with Dolan takes the show to a whole other level.

Q: I'm always curious as to a lyricist's personal writing process-- do you have/need a particular setting when sitting down to pen rhymes? day or night? high or sober? spontaneous reaching for a pen in the shower?

A: Haha. Well…it's probably best to be so sober and focused that I feel like I'm high. Slipping dimensions. There's no tried-and-true formula though. A lot of the work is done in my head at random times under various circumstances before the pen hits the paper.

Q: was the process radically different than Life? what comes first-- beats or the words? (I recall reading that Guru always came with a song title before anything, which fascinates me).. and what is the process for selecting beats?

A: The process was almost completely the same. I collect moments of my life and thought patterns, song ideas and song titles, and when necessary I would write on the spot. I do have a collection of song titles to songs that I haven't written yet. That's not uncommon at all. I had "Copper Gone" as an album title before I wrote the album. Same with "Personal Journals" come to think of it. Titles can hold a lot of power. I collect them.

Q: how is the tour going thus far? Who is in the van with you and B on the road? Does the fun wear off after awhile on the road (I read about the occasional 'grumpy' spells in the van)? as you get older, do you find the travel/press/day to day stuff more tiring than say 4-5 years ago?

A: Touring is going way better than I could have ever expected. A lot of things have changed since I first started, but this tour isn't much different than previous tours I've done. In fact, it's better in a lot of ways. I've learned a lot all my years of traveling. I needed to make sure that the people in the van would have compatible personalities. Compatible enough anyway. If we're going to share so much of our time together in a confined space then there's no room for divas. I've worked with all five of the people in this van on one level or another for a very long time and they have all proven themselves as great artists, hard workers, and trustworthy friends. I would not have done the tour otherwise. I could probably use a bigger crew but each person wears several hats and they wear them so damn well. Me, B. Dolan, Lord Grunge, Madge of Honor, and Irena M. There are times we all get grumpy, but that never detracts from the larger task at hand. We're all weirdos in our own special way so I think we accept the parts of each other we don't fully understand. I don't know. I love this crew.

Q: particular favorite cuts on the album and/or new ones that fans at shows are really responding to? Make em Purr-> Vonnegut is such a great 1-2 punch on the album

A: The two that you mentioned are favorites of mine for totally different reasons. What I love so much about Vonnegut Busy is all the layers within the verses, choruses and the beat. If you deconstructed that song you could probably make 5 separate songs out of it. On the flip side, Make Em Purr is pure minimalism. There's not a whole lot of trickery happening with the lyrics, it's just a flat out expression of what I was living and experiencing in the moment when I wrote it. Very bare bones. I think the most interesting song on the album could be Dead Man's Float.

Q: THIS ONE YOU CAN SKIP IF YOU LIKE-- Im not troll-baiting local rap guys (like chuck reeves, etc) here but Im sure some will have plenty to say when they see you on the cover, both posi and negative...........

............your thoughts on the current RI hip-hop community as a whole? any emcees here catching your ear lately? any sage words for those who say SFR doesn't fully support RI hip hop artists?

A: I like that you asked the question. I wasn't aware there was a contingent of people who thought that I didn't fully support RI hip-hop artists, but I have noticed a general lack of support we get from the local hip-hop kids. And that's OK. Truth is, I don't support anyone just because they're local. I support great artists regardless of location. Some of them happen to hail from the Ocean State. Who else has helped RI artists tour and be known on an international scale? It's not like most people even know where RI is (in fact, a lot of people mistake it as part of NY,) but that doesn't deter me from shouting it out everywhere I go. I could explain how I helped shape and build the local scene 15 years ago but it doesn't really exist like that anymore. It was important for the time when it happened though and many things evolved from there. People may not realize that RI clubs were reluctant to hold hip-hop shows for quite some time until I kicked open the doors with my live band and showed them that the hip-hop crowd wasn't all a bunch of knuckleheads. I had to move on eventually and work on a larger scale, but through it all I never left Lil Rhody behind. I get more love in almost every other territory of the world, but RI is my home and I like returning to it. If people feel like Strange Famous Records is not supportive then they need to show us how they're deserving of support. If they want to learn, we're here to be observed. Cherished. Stroked. Our success and longevity isn't an accident, khed. We work hodd.

Last edited by Sage Francis on Wed Aug 06, 2014 8:29 pm; edited 1 time in total
Post Fri Jul 11, 2014 8:39 pm
 View user's profile Send private message

Joined: 23 May 2008
Posts: 1616
 Reply with quote  

Your little addendum there really hit me. My life hasn't been nearly as great as it could be the past couple years, and that is almost entirely self-inflicted (even though my brain actively works against me sometimes), and even the stuff that was out of my control were still situations that I chose to put myself in in the first place. I've been working really hard to turn that all around recently, and I've had a few friends express regret that "they weren't there for me", which is a sentiment I don't really share. It made me kind of feel like a parasite, all these people who have been really good friends for many years and have done a lot for me feeling guilty about getting their own lives together and making moves. I don't want to be that guy that holds people back or makes them feel guilty for devoting their time and attention to themselves instead of helping me, especially when I wouldn't let them help anyways. It's a weird feeling and I found it hard to properly express, and I'm still not sure I have properly expressed it to them.

I'm also at the age where things really start to change with all your old friends (just a couple years out of college). A lot of them are starting to do really great things with their life, and if they had to constantly drop everything just to try to get my head out of the gutter, they wouldn't be as far along as they are. I guess it's just a lesson I need to keep learning, that my actions affect people in ways I could never have imagined or anticipated, and it's something I need to constantly remind myself of while I continue through life.

Alright, that's the end of my little narcissistic rant, this post just came around right at the time that these things have been weighing on my mind. Glad to see you getting some real love and press though. Copper Gone is a hell of an album and the show you guys did in my hometown the other week was nothing short of incredible.
Post Fri Jul 11, 2014 9:57 pm
 View user's profile Send private message

Joined: 17 Feb 2007
Posts: 602
Location: Aus.
 Reply with quote  

I do think that 'depression' serves a very definite purpose and is one of the best means for personal growth that a person can have. What people call depression to me is the product of an intense and lasting dissatisfaction that is an honest dissatisfaction one that isn't swept away so easily or a concentration of many dissatisfactions. Though people can make a habit of it, become comfortable in it in a certain way and stop trying to actively work on it or with it.

Its a shame that such a stigma is attached to depression and i think part of that comes from the attitude that one must be satisfied always or trying too much to escape and avoid dissatisfaction, particulary in westen countries i assume. In some ways this stigma is beneficial, for instance indicating a high pressure state which can manifest itself destructively, showing that it shouldnt be taken lightly and paid attention. On the other hand it can exacerbate it by triggering panic in someone experiencing depression, vandalizing their clarity so they see themselves as dysfunctional. The shame in it is that it is seen as something that should be killed out of necessity, that it is an illness. It can be an illness or a remedy.

Its also apparent that many people are dissatisfied but find ways of deceiving themselves, drawing their attention away from it. Which is fine, sometimes a break is needed and is much preferable to calamity. Though drawing your attention away from it for long enough for it to become buried, mistaking the mask for your face, is also a danger.

Excuse the tangent. But likewise, it struck a chord.
Post Sat Jul 12, 2014 1:22 am
 View user's profile Send private message

Post new topic Reply to topic
Jump to:  

All times are GMT - 6 Hours.
The time now is Tue Aug 30, 2016 2:59 am
  Display posts from previous:      

Powered by phpBB: © 2001 phpBB Group
Template created by The Fathom
Based on template of Nick Mahon