INTERVIEW: Karima Francis

Posted by Dean Piper On August 11th, 2012

Karima Francis is one of those artists that don’t come along very often.
She sings from the heart and her lyrics are amazing. If I could buy a thousand copies of her debut album and give them out on the streets then I would do it. The Remedy – out Monday – is an amazing album.
I’ll be playing for years….and I hope people get to know this wonderful singer.
She played an incredible live set at my third column bash in June too – and live her voice was even better.
It’s Karima’s second chance at chart success after developing anorexia three years ago while promoting her debut The Author.
Fortunately she took time out to get better and she’s now happy, healthy and more determined than ever. And her illness has provoked some moving songwriting material on The Remedy.
Anyway, here’s the interview – enjoy!

You are back with your second album. With everything that you went through on your debut how does it feel to be back?
Just to have the chance to do a second record is flattering and overwhelming. And the fact that it has been received so well – what more can I ask for? I didn’t go in the studio thinking that I needed to better the first record so the pressure was off. It was quite old-school in that we got the songs together, worked them out, and went and recorded it. It was a nice experience. I know it is quite a sad record and it is probably hard for a listener because it is quite emotional but it’s also really honest. A lot of people are saying nice things about it so I’m very excited.

How hard was it for you to open up with your song writing because a lot of the songs seem to come from quite a painful place?
It wasn’t hard! If there is anything about me it’s probably that I wear my heart too much on my sleeve. A lot of people probably try and protect themselves but it’s just the person that I am. When I am writing lyrics I never feel, ‘Ooh I shouldn’t write that. I just write whatever comes into my head and be true to myself’.

Those songs obviously look back to a different time so how does it feel to perform them on stage? Does it feel like you are singing about yourself or a different person?
It depends how I’m feeling because sometimes a set can completely tear me apart whether it’s because I’ve got my ex on my mind or something else. When you have an illness like that…I’m still working on it. It’s still hard for me and I still have to do certain things to keep myself well. It’s not like it has completely gone. It’s quite overwhelming that I’m back and able to do this because it strips a big confidence away from you. When I’m up on stage I have to deal with the fact that I’m back but I feel like a different person. It’s almost like have to get to ‘re-know’ yourself.

What do you mean by getting to ‘re-know’ yourself?
How do I explain this? You are putting so much energy and effort into something like an illness or recovering that you kind of loose your personality. You also loose grip with how you used to do things. Everything feels new and being happy now feels different to how I used to feel when I was happy because I never used to question it. It’s just like growing up and music just reminds you of the journey you have taken. Music has been my saviour really because it is the one thing that has kept me fighting. I’m obsessed about my art. For instance, today I woke up and the first thing I did was steam my nose to warm up my voice. I literally beat myself up if I don’t rehearse every day even if I’m not doing a gig. I like being almost ready to go on stage at all times. That has now become my whole focus in life. With this record coming out it’s great that everyone has started picking up on it but at the same time if it doesn’t go as well as people thought it will be devastating to stop gigging. Fingers crossed I get to continue. It’s strange to know that something can drive you so much. When I was younger I used to be a scally in Blackpool and I got banned from the town for being naughty. It was just harmless fun but when I found myself I then channelled all of my energies into that. It’s crazy that I could have turned out to be a completely different person.

You say music has been your saviour. What do you feel that you owe to it?
I owe it my complete dedication and my every spare moment I’ve got to give it. The comments that I get are really amazing and people say that it helps them get through things and that’s the thing that I want to do my music. I have always wanted to help people and when I was a kid I used to watch TV charity adverts and say to my mum, ‘One day I want to help those people’. Before I found myself I wanted to work with people that had learning difficulties. I’ve always been passionate about helping people even if it is just one person. I hope that I can do that with my music.

Have you been getting that reaction?
Yeah people have been saying that the music has helped get them through a lot of bad times. I do get a lot of messages which is a great feeling. I’m not very intelligent but with my own emotions and experiences I can help someone else out. For me that is a really fulfilling thing to know.

You mention your confidence on stage – what’s that like now with the second album?
I think I used to be more confident and I never used to think about my singing technique or anything like that. I think the confidence in my own self just went a little bit. Every gig that I do I am kind of in shock when I see people reacting the way that they do. I’m always thinking what they are thinking which is probably not a good thing but hopefully I will get passed that one day soon. I want to be the best performer that they can have in front of them without being forceful.

Above: Lisa Stansfield and Karima

For anyone that hasn’t been to one of your gigs what would you say that they can expect from a live performance?
It’s quite intense and dynamic and also very honest. I like to talk to people when I’m on-stage and a lot of people pick out that I am quite talkative. I don’t want the audience to think that they are separate from me so I do like to talk to them and make sure that everyone is OK. I’m quite personal with people that watch my music.

You are also quite funny on stage when you speak…
People say that and I think it’s just my nerves. I can go off on one at times and I’m quite emotive and deep. But when I’m put on the spot I can say something quite ridiculous!

What tracks really stand out for you on new album The Remedy?
I think Forgiven when it hits the chorus because there are some intricate melodies going on there and to me it is just amazing. Also Stay because I’ve always wanted to make a song which is classically structured and that’s the nearest that I’ve got to it. I also think Days Like These is probably the most epic sounding and it almost sounds like a roaring sea of emotion. If the album did well I would be really excited and I am the kind of artist where I would work really hard. I give my manager’s a hard time when I’m not gigging. I can’t understand why I can’t have a gig every day or two or three gigs a day. I would quite happily get in a van and gig every single day if I could. The kind of artist that I want to be is one that is on the road for the rest of the day. I want to be on stage still when I am ninety and to be wheeled on and off. Then I can do gigs from the hospital when I’m on my way out!

When you were growing up who did you grow up listening to and who were your musical idols?
It’s weird because I got into music quite late and when I was growing up the people I listened to the most was probably The Carpenters and Annie Lennox. That was because my mum would listen to them loudly at night. She showed me Simon and Garfunkel and that’s when I started getting in to music. Then I went my own way and through Dylan I started moving on to grunge music and got into people like Pearl Jam which led to quite grungy stuff like The Smashing Pumpkins. Then I went on to Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett. And it went from going from really heavy to when Damien Rice first came out. One of my current loves is Ray LaMontagne. He is my ultimate and does everything in a way I could only dream of.

What do you think of your fellow chart musicians?
There is so much music that doesn’t really touch me or set anything off. I like to feel music and it quite a lot of it doesn’t connect with me at all. Lyrically there isn’t a lot of stuff which touches me. I feel that I’m always going back with my music and going back through my collection!

Interview By Natalie Edwards

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