Talking to Native Instruments, Francis shares his process of working with some of the biggest artists, as well as beating writers block, building a community of producers in your city and the best advice he’s received from other producers.
You’ve worked with some big name artists such as Drake and Lil Uzi Vert. How did these come about?
The way both these records came about are different. The way the Drake record came about was kind of crazy to me. I had sent Drake’s manager, Oliver, a pack of beats in 2014 and ‘4422’ was in there. He hit me back the same night and told me to hold that one for him. So I did. Fast forward to 2017 and I’m in LA. Oliver hits me randomly and tells me that I’m on More Life.
With the Uzi record, I was in Atlanta with Wondagurl. I was just working on some melodies and stuff and I came up with the melody that you hear on ‘Feelings Mutual’. It sounded a little different. It was less syncopated and more like straight eighth notes. I sent her the idea and she flipped it and got it to Uzi.
How do you approach an artist you want to work with? What tips would you give to producers looking to contact artists?
The way I approach artists is by just keeping it real and being genuine. With most of the artists I have worked with, I usually build a relationship with them first. Relationships are really important. Artists like working in a room when they’re comfortable with the people they are with. If you stay genuine and have good energy artists are going to be more comfortable working with you.
Is it usually a full arrangement you’re sending or is it just enough for the artist to see if they like the beat?
I used to send full out beats, but these days I find that artists usually like more open ideas so I’ve been stripping it down just a bit. The beats are still full, but with more room for the artist to play around with.
When making a beat do you have a certain artist in mind before you begin? Do you shape the beat to suit them or does it come out as you’re creating it?
Sometimes I make music with someone in mind. It all depends. If I know someone is looking for beats for an album or something like that, I’ll make a beat pack tailored for them. Other than that I’m just usually making whatever sounds good to me and figure out who to send it to after.
Are you mixing your beats before you send them to artists?
I don’t do full out mixes on my beats when I send them out. I just try to have good sound selection and good levels. A lot of times I can make my beat sound worse by trying to do too much on the mixing side so I just keep it simple now.
What has been the biggest change in your beat making process since you started?
I wouldn’t say my process has changed and too much. I do a lot of the same things still. I would just say I work a lot quicker and efficiently now. When I first started I couldn’t make beats without a MIDI keyboard, now I’m totally mobile and able to work quickly without MIDI.
It’s easy for producers to get stuck with a cool sounding 4 or 8 bar loop but it can sometimes be difficult to get beyond that. How do you make sure your beat progresses past just a basic loop?
Something I like to do when I get stuck on a loop is to mute the drums and just build a song with just melodies. Drums can make a lot of things sound good, but if you have some good melodies and progressions going and then throw in the drums after, it makes it sound that much better.
What is the best advice you’ve received from other producers?
The advice I get the most and as cliché as it is, “never get too comfortable.” Everyone tells me that and it’s very true. I see a lot of people that just get too comfortable with the success they’ve seen but you have to keep working and strive for more. I’m constantly making new goals for myself to accomplish.
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you first started producing?
One thing I wish I knew from the beginning was how dope analog gear was. I just started using analog gear the last year or so but it was always around me. Learning how to manipulate and create sounds is a definite game changer.
When looking at the Toronto scene there is a lot of camaraderie amongst the producers. What do you think has caused this and what can other producers do to create a similar vibe of community in their city?
There’s a lot of very talented producers in this city and I think it’s really cool to see producers of all areas and genres get along so well. I think it’s a mutual respect between everyone. Everybody is working hard, has their sound, and a lot of collaboration happens so we win together too. A good way to start that in a city is to just start reaching out to other people, build relationships and help each other out.
How have you seen the Toronto scene change over the past few years?
I think the biggest change in the Toronto scene is the growth. There’s so much talent emerging from different areas from the city. I hear a lot more music coming out of Toronto now which is amazing. You can go anywhere in the world and hear a record associated with someone from Toronto, whether it is the artists, writers, producers or engineer involved.
What do you see happening in the future for the Toronto scene as more people are looking to producers in Toronto?
I hope we keep growing and evolving the Toronto scene and sound. A lot of people definitely look for producers from here and they will continue to as long as we work work and keep making great music.