In the City of Angels, where guys with acoustic guitars are more abundant than Yankees hats on Long Island, one man has clawed his way out of the sea of mediocrity and has started to garner some well-deserved recognition.
While most students may know the three main acts (Jason Mraz, B.o.B and Bruno Mars) in Wednesday night's Fall Fest concert, the opening act, Robert Francis, is a true diamond in the rough.
With two full-length albums, One by One and Before Nightfall, Francis has a do-it-yourself attitude that has been lacking in the pop industry over the past twenty years. Because of this, record labels quickly took notice of Francis.
"When I released One By One, I produced it and played all the instruments and sort of did everything myself. A lot of labels became interested and somehow found out about it," Francis said. "There were about seven labels I was choosing from and I went with Atlantic in the end. You just keep playing, that's how I did it. Just constantly be working and constantly be playing."
Francis credits his mother as the reason why he first picked up a guitar and let music into his heart.
"My mother gave me a guitar because she wanted me to learn these ranchero songs to play with her," Francis said. "I never really did but I picked up a guitar and once I started playing that's the only thing I could do and the only thing I wanted to do. That's just who I was and I am still. I can't imagine myself doing anything else."
Although he has had a six string in his hand since he was a youngling, the determination to relay his message to the masses came after his heart fell to pieces.
"Well, for my first few records, that all came from this relationship I went through," Francis said. "I was happy to not even be a singer or write music before I experienced that young love. When I went through that, that's when I started writing music and writing songs."
Francis may not be the most well known act but he is no rookie when it comes to playing at colleges. Fall Fest, however, will be one of the bigger shows he's ever played, but lucky for Francis, large crowds do not faze him.
"I prefer to play in front of large audiences. I like to play guitar really loud and turn it up. I like to feel that energy from the stage and when it's amplified to an audience that big it's amazing," Francis said.
Francis' music style mixes Americana style guitar with intimate lyrics, which reflects the work of one of his greatest influences, Neil Young.
Most musicians are superstitious and have a pre-show ritual and Francis is no different.
"Before we go on stage, I usually take a shot of whiskey – that's it. Get the vocal chords warmed up and then just run out there. That's the only thing I literally do every night," Francis said.
Francis has a very strong work ethic yet his rigorous tour schedule has prevented him from working on his upcoming third album, which will be released early 2011.
"I think the last two records I was just trying to go to the studio to make an album. I never had it within me that I wanted to go out and really try to create something people think is so completely incredible," Francis said. "I've really pin pointed all my holes within my song writing… It's just going to be a much different record."
Whether you are going to see one of the headliners or just going because the cute girl down the hall wants you to, make sure to check out Robert Francis at Fall Fest 2010.