(Photo by Julia Brokaw)
Francis is a headliner in France, Germany, Belgium and other countries. The single "Junebug" has reached the top five in the French singles charts.
On the other hand, he remains a support act in the States, as he and his band continue to hone their craft and wait for another breakthrough.
The 22-year-old recently took some time to talk to the Banner Graphic about his experiences, the touring experience and the strangeness of singing and dancing to sad songs.
Banner Graphic: I've been listening to "Before Nightfall" a lot lately. What kind of reception have you been getting, both here and abroad, to the album?
Robert Francis: Abroad, it's been pretty incredible. I think I made my first trip over promoting the record in November. It was a trial run. We pulled together a very small budget and some shows and got some tickets for the band to see which territories responded.
Everyone seemed to pick up on it pretty quickly. Now, within even three, four months since then, 'Junebug' is like No. 3 or 4 on the charts in France. I can sell out like a 1,500 or 3,000-seater in Paris. Germany's starting to pick up really quickly. My show in Brussels was sold out.
It's been pretty insane. People have really been responding to the record there.
Here in the U.S., it's been a slower process because every state feels like it's its own country that you have to sort of conquer. The label's just starting to pick up and go to radio and do stuff here.
BG: How has the reception been in the Midwest on previous tours?
RF: It's good. It's weird because I've been on such different tours supporting different people from Priscilla Ahn, which is like a coffee shop singer-songwriter, to Portugal the Man which is a jam band or like Noah and the Whale or Grace Potter or Brett Dennen, which is more of a pop thing.
I've sort of played with many, many different audiences. I think I've managed to get a pretty good response out of all of them. I think it takes a while to develop a fan base from touring. You have to be out there constantly.
The concept of touring, in this day and age, is slightly archaic. It used to really make a difference, and now it's starting to mean less and less. But it's still important.
BG: Describe the live show and what fans should expect.
RF: I think the live show is just more intense and a little bit more raw. There's a little bit more direct emotion that is poured out than on the record. On the record, it's a little bit more restrained.
Fans should expect more than the record. We're playing more and putting a lot more intense emotion into the song.
BG: It's a very personal record. What's it been like to see people connecting to something so personal to you?
RF: "Junebug" is the single in Europe and the subject is kind of dark. And yet everybody is singing along and dancing around to the song. I try not to think about it too much.
It is extremely gratifying when fans relate to the music and when they approach me after shows. If the song has actually affected someone and helped them in any way, that's one of the main reasons I play music, besides the fact that I have to. I couldn't do anything else.
I try not to think about it too much and let it affect me. It used to be that one lyric would bring me back to a moment in time, and then that would bring me back to something else and then I'd remember "This is why I wrote this song," and then I'd get really emotional.
I've learned how to turn that off and just give it my all without having to relive those situations.
Fresh off a recent U.S. tour in support of Fanfarlo that included a stop in Bloomington, Francis is now touring Germany, France, Belgium and The Netherlands opening for the John Butler Trio.
His Atlantic Records debut "Before Nightfall" was released on Oct. 9 and is available everywhere. 2007's "One by One" was released by Aeronaut Records.