TOM FRANCIS

TOM FRANCIS
Hip-Hop Artist / Rapper
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I grew up an avid music fan in Napier, Hawke’s Bay, but only really
 got into rapping about three years ago. Coming from a small town, it was a little daunting because there wasn’t really anyone around who had made music, that we could talk to. 

As far as my career goes, before music, I was working in the forestry industry. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, but most people where I’m from, grow up, leave school and then either go to university or do a trade. They become builders, plumbers, mechanics or electricians, which is fine if you want to do that, but starting out in forestry, I was working with guys who had been there for thirty years and it just manifested and hit me that there had to be more to life than this. Music has always been such a big part of my life, so I think I always knew that I would end up doing something creative at some point.

I was lucky enough to come across some producers and beat makers early on, Rory Noble being one of them. That was huge for me, because he knew a lot more about production than I did, so he really played a big part in creating my first album, Underestimated. Releasing that record was a big stepping stone moment for me. It was basically the first music I had ever made, so it really pushed me forward and everything else just took off from there.

People where I’m from can be very judgemental, but a lot of my family are very supportive. Some of them really understand what I do, while others think it’s a joke, but that’s very motivational for me. When I get told I can’t do something or don’t get taken seriously, it just makes me even more determined to prove to those people that I can do it. As weird as this sounds, I have little moments where I’ll hype myself up and say things like, “You’re gonna smash this!” When you’re starting out with anything, you need to find who you work best with and once you’ve got that, as I do, it’s not necessarily easy, but it sure is easier.

Being a creative can be daunting. Starting a new project in any shape or form is like taking a leap into thin air. Even once you’ve done it a few times, you never know what lies around the corner. There have been times where I’ll release a song which I think will be a low key track and then you often find it ends up being the opposite and becomes the one that receives the most traction. It’s always unpredictable, but music is never ending and has no limits and if it’s something that you’re passionate about, you just have to jump into it and do it, no matter what anyone else thinks or tells you. My biggest fear is growing older, looking back and thinking, I should’ve done that..

You take a calculated risk when choosing to work full time as an artist, because you don’t want to end up homeless on the street. I say this, because recently a guy came up to me at a show and told me he’d quit his job to focus on music and I wouldn’t encourage anyone to do that straight off the bat. Music isn’t going to pay for itself immediately and you still have to eat. I had a job and worked on my music for a long time. I understand that some people have different financial positions, but for me, I had nothing and I don’t think anyone starts at the top. For every successful artist, there is a team behind the scenes who have been working super hard to help that artist get there. However, if I can have an impact on other people’s lives and encourage others to chase their dreams, that is amazing and I really hope that if they continue on that path, they do really well.

When you get into a recording studio with a lot of people in the States, the whole mentality is different. I was used to working on one song a day in studios in New Zealand, but in America, they’re banging out five songs in one session. Give them a week and they can produce a full album, it was a huge eye opener for me and very motivational. It’s also very easy to get access to equipment in the US. For example, the SSL is hands down the best mixing desk to use and they’re everywhere there. In New Zealand, there’s probably only about four or five of them and they’re the desks with only 48 channels, compared to the ones with 128 channels, so you have to go back and forth a lot more. 

Working with Snoop Dogg was absolutely surreal, I don’t even know how to explain it. I was sitting on a plane about to turn my phone off when I got a phone call saying, “You have to go to Snoop Dogg’s house right now, He wants to work with you.” I had to go home though, so I flew back to Napier and on the same day jumped on another flight and flew back to Los Angeles. It was the most draining day of my life, but I wasn’t going to let that opportunity slide. I turned up at his house and we worked together in his studio for a few days and it was like living in a dream. Definitely one of the highlights of my career so far! My proudest achievement is probably when my album went to number one on iTunes and being nominated for the Young New Zealander Of The Year award was pretty special too.

Everyone is definitely a lot more straight up in New Zealand, but people are also a lot more relaxed compared to Americans. As kiwis, we’re not phased by shit, we’re all just happy doing our thing. We have an amazing country and the freedom we have is surmountable and that’s something I don’t think you truly realise or understand until you’ve spent time elsewhere.


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