If JW Francis’s third album, Dream House, sounds like it could be about your life, that’s because it really could be. Every Valentine’s Day, the up-and-coming indie-popper invites his fans to share stories about their loved ones and turns them into songs. There have been literally hundreds of these, and the best ones were compiled on this record.
“I feel like the biggest thing that sets me apart right now is how much I interact with people who listen to me,” Francis says. “[Dream House] is just a big accumulation of that.”
The album is rife with his upbeat, eccentric bedroom-pop sensibilities. There are tracks about glorious hedonism (“Going Home to a Party”), sweet mundanity (“Our Story”) and dizzy romance (“Swooning”). There’s even a breakup song in “Take Me Away” and an ode to self-sufficiency, “Casino.”
“It always strikes me how there are two sides of the coin when people are talking about their loved ones,” Francis says. “It can be spectacularly mundane, like ‘I like how this person makes me coffee in the morning.’ But then you also get people who will send me four or five pages about how profoundly this person has affected their life. I just love that both of those things coexist. There are [also] people who’ve asked me to write songs for themselves when they’re feeling down. There are people who have asked me to write songs for pets. You really get a full spectrum.”
The unconventional approach to connecting with his listeners also extends to his live shows. Everywhere he goes, Francis assembles a live band out of fans — a creative way to keep costs down and form a memorable experience at the same time.
“A lot of agents will tell you ‘That’s not gonna work,’ [but] every 18 months, [the music industry] is like a new beast,” he says. “When I started in 2018, TikTok was not a way to get on the charts, and now that’s the only way to get on the charts. I used to have a music blog in 2014, and that was when blogs were the way you got big. So I just know that it’s always gonna be changing, but the thing that doesn’t change is people and passion.”
He names one particular show in Bloomington, Indiana as a highlight of his career. “The band had rehearsed for a month before I got there. The show was amazing, and all of their friends and family were there. Everybody kept coming up to me and being like ‘You don’t know how much this means to them.’ That opened my eyes to how awesome it could be.”
Francis — who currently lives as a nomad, having recently left New York after eight years — is planning to spend 2023 on the open road, playing backyard shows and coming up with new ways to keep his career fresh, fun and unpredictable.
“I feel like a lot of times with a music career, you’re in limbo all the time,” Francis says. “You’re always waiting for a tour to get booked or the album to come out. So I’m trying to make 2023 no more waiting — just go and do it. There are no rules.”