David Francey has won three Juno awards, yet his path to success and acclaim was definitely the long one.
The 57-year-old folk singer, who will be performing at the Amble Inn on Oct. 25, grew up in a family that loved to sing while on road trips. He started writing poetry at the age of 10 and started turning those into songs as he entered his twenties.
Still, it wasn’t until the late-90s, when Francey was well into his 40s, that his wife Beth convinced him to take his songs public and perform them in front of people.
“I never had any intention of doing anything with it. It was Beth who heard them and realized there was something to do with them,” he said in an interview while on his way to a show in Saskatoon. “I fought her all the way but she won, as usual.”
It only took him one show to figure out music was something he should focus on. “I remember the first show I did and walking out of the place and thinking, ‘This is what I’m here for.’”
Francey’s big break was when he was discovered by the CBC at Townshippers Day in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. Out of that he secured some studio time and recorded his first album, Torn Screen Door, which was released in 1999.
The follow-up to his debut, 2002’s Far End of Summer, brought Francey enduring attention across Canada and won him his first Juno Award for Best Roots & Traditional Album. That was when he gave up his construction job to focus on music full time.
“I remember the first award we won and I turned to Beth and said, ‘We’re in a small club. This is a real honour,’” he said. “I thought, ‘Of all the songs that poured into the Juno committee, they picked my album,’ and it really felt great, it truly did.
“I didn’t take them lightly and it was a big factor into going into music full time.”
Since then he won two more Juno’s, a Canadian Folk Music Award for best contemporary singer and an International Acoustic Music Award.
Francey’s music evokes both his Scottish childhood (he was born there and his family immigrated to Canada when he was 12) and his frequent travels across Canada. He has hitchhiked across the country three times, the first when he was only 16.
“I remember sleeping under an overpass in Regina when this big Prairie storm came in. There was lightning everywhere,” he said. “It was just one of those things you never forget in your life.”
Those memories inform his song writing and tales from those travels show up in his lyrics to today. Even now, he still loves travelling across Canada – though now he always has a roof over his head and an audience waiting to hear him.
The show at the Amble Inn will be his second one there this year. He was there previously on July 26 and described it as a “lovely place to play” with a “nice, intimate atmosphere.”
“I love your town and that railway museum is a killer,” he said.
David Francey sings at the Amble Inn on Tuesday, Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. He will be accompanied by musicians Chris Cool and Mark Westberg. Tickets are $15 and are available at Talisman Trading and the Cash Store.