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  March 2009
"Jazz Feature Interview" Sean Franks
Interview by Baldwin "Smitty" Smith

Sean FranksJazz Monthly:   My next guest here at is an incredible artist. He has a band with a universal groove, it is a superfluous groove that will grip you like a vise and it’s something that you will instantly connect with.  He has a great new record out, it is called Guy Like Me, and in case you’re wondering, yes, he is the son of the great Michael Franks, and let me tell you, in this case for sure, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree at all.  Please welcome the incredible and amazing Mr. Sean Franks.  Sean, how you doing, my friend?


Sean Franks (SF):  Good, how are you?  Thank you, sir, for the wonderful intro.


Jazz Monthly:   Hey, man, it’s totally appropriate and I’m totally digging the record.  You have got some great tunes here and I can’t say enough about the band.  You cats groove like nobody’s business.


SF:  It really is a great band and it’s a lot of fun, and we try to keep it fresh because stuff can get kind of stagnant and it’s been great working with those guys too.

Jazz Monthly:   Yes and I gotta say this is a record for all ages.  It’s a record for just about anything you would like to do and accompany with music because, I mean, for the ladies out there, you can dance at the club on Saturday night and Sunday morning you can clean the house with this music.  (Both laugh.)

SF:  I like that.  That’s a great analogy.  That’s cool.  I gotta remember that one.  Yeah, there’s no swear word.  It’s a pretty safe--


Jazz Monthly: Yeah and like I said, if you’ve got any ounce of rhythm in your bones, they’re gonna move instantly without control.


SF:  Right.


Jazz Monthly:  I mean, it’s that cool.


SF:  We sure hope so.


Jazz Monthly:  When you first started developing an interest in music, was it always singing?


SF:  No, actually I played drums for the larger part of growing up into my mid-twenties.  Actually, I went to a summer program at Berklee School of Music in Boston and also went to Dick Grove, which is no longer around, but yeah, I played drums for a long time and then kind of realized that there were some pianos at some of the music schools in the practice rooms and started kind of banging around on that, and then that’s kind of when the singing came, was wanting to express myself through playing the piano and chords and then the singing came. So it was kind of an interesting process.


Jazz Monthly:  Yeah, it’s a different road.  So was Dad excited when he heard you spout out some lyrics?


SF:  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I sent him stuff throughout the years, and I think the interesting thing is I’m a little bit more straight to the point whereas he’s got this kind of really cool way of saying something in a much more poetic sense.


Jazz Monthly:  Yes, we know.


SF:  Well, yeah, exactly.  Whereas I’m much more, as you know, kind of speaking back and forth between two people.  So that’s definitely the difference and obviously I’ve tried to take some of his influences, but I think he was an English major so he’s got that one on me for sure.  (Both laugh.)


Jazz Monthly:  Oh yeah.


SF:  He definitely—he’s got the, you know, the pen is mightier than the sword.


Jazz Monthly:  Yeah, man, I totally get it.  But when you were playing drums, did you see the vision of being the leader of the band?  Because, I mean, you’re back there in the back.  Drummers are always in the back.


SF:  Oh, they’re always in the back.  That’s right.  Well, actually, that’s why I kind of started getting frustrated, not that I was frustrated with playing drums, but I kind of picked up the piano, which is interesting because piano is known as a percussive instrument.  Even though you’re playing chords, you can kind of do all this kind of, well, I’m on the piano right now, but there’s like [plays a few notes].  You can kind of play drums on the piano sometimes, you know what I mean?


Jazz Monthly: Yeah, that same groove, yeah.


SF:  Yeah, yeah, so that was kind of a natural transition for me, but the singing thing was definitely something that I had to work on all the time because to me, you can play an instrument and you can get through it, but if there’s something that you’re doing wrong with your voice, people are gonna hear it right away.  So I paid a lot of attention to that.


Jazz Monthly:  So who was your greatest influence as far as really getting out there and doing some singing?


SF:  I would have to say two people:  Donnie Hathaway and Stevie Wonder for sure.


Jazz Monthly: Oh, those are huge influences, man.


SF:  Yeah, the first time I heard those guys sing, I didn’t know that people could actually sing like that.  It was pretty amazing; I was like whoa, that’s pretty amazing that this sound is coming from another human being.  So that, to me, was a time in my life where I said, well, I gotta start listening to all kinds of stuff.


Jazz Monthly:  Yeah.  Well, I must say, you developed your own personal art, my friend.


SF:  Oh, thank you.


Jazz Monthly:  Yeah, and it’s really cool.  You gotta talk to me about this great band because these cats have got it in the hip pocket!


SF:  Yeah, they really are great guys.  Les Falconer is the drummer, who also does background vocals, and Rob McDonald III on bass, those guys I’ve been working with for probably the last 15, 16 years.

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