Born in Buenos Aires and brought up in Jimmy’s End in Northampton, Francisco Iannuzzi has spent the last decade being the lead singer of funk-popsters Cousin Avi. Then 2019 saw the release of a series of solo singles, all of which have now combined for an EP, entitled ‘Wild Is…’ New Boots spoke to the main man for the lowdown.
How’s the move to London gone?
London is buzzing. It’s a creative Mecca, but in reality, it’s hard to break the back of it. The fish aren’t just big, they’re huge and they don’t want you or like you. It’s been a hard and lonely few years but I’m getting through that and finding my rhythm.
Why the move to recording/writing/releasing under your own name?
It was time. I had things I wanted to say, lyrically and musically and they weren’t appropriate for Avi, so yeah – it was time.
How would you describe this sound?
The sound is good. The songs are good, but they can always be better. If you mean in terms of feel, I don’t know. I’m really bad at that and I don’t want to say the wrong thing. I was listening to a lot of David Ryan Harris when I wrote them and a lot of Natalie Prass and a Tim Atlas when we recorded them, so a kind of ‘soulful pop’ I guess.
How does it differ to your Cousin Avi work?
It’s probably rooted a lot more in a traditional singer-songwriter-R&B-kinda thing than that Avi’s balls out funk-pop. It’s also more in my singing range, where as with Avi it is five brains bringing different melody ideas and saying “I hear this, make it happen…” and I have to make it happen. It’s really really hard actually. Basically: Cousin Avi makes you sweat, whereas Francisco makes you wet…
Tell us everything about this EP.
I wrote three of the four songs – ‘Wild Is The Wind’ is a cover [David Bowie]. They are songs I’ve had for a while, so thematically they feel a bit outdated actually. I wrote them all before I moved to London. I considered never releasing them, but I had to satisfy the mid-20s version of me that was screaming to be remembered.
Ross and Stuart – fellow Avi boys – donated their time and guidance, which was invaluable. They have kind of taught me the craft, so I figured it was wise to have them on board a bit if I could. Obviously Ollie Needham came in on production for this one, his insight and work is what got this done really. We recorded six songs in total; I chose these three first because, frankly, the other three were newer and fresher and better – so I wanted to sit on them. I added ‘Wild is The Wind’ to make it a four-track EP – and it was probably the best decision I could’ve made. It went on to inform the whole aesthetic of the record, really. Either way this was really an experiment – not so much musically, but artistically. It focused me and I have a lot more clarity about who I am and what I want to be because of it.
How are the live shows going? Is it you and guitar?
Just me and guitar. They’re hard getting people to sit and listen is the hardest thing to achieve in a live setting. I’m lucky I have the years of band experience which has informed me a lot on reading a room and connecting. Mostly all the shows have been really positive and incredibly moving for me on a personal level. The next plan would be getting together with a few more people and seeing how my stuff would come to life in a full band setting.
Whose idea was going on ‘The Voice’ TV show? Is it an experience you’d recommend to others?
It wasn’t anybody’s idea. I was approached by both producers of the X-Factor and The Voice and I said no to both. Then I had the worst three or four months I’ve ever had in my musical life, with friends and industry alike rejecting me for anything and everything: from going for a friendly beer to gigs. And I realised that I had nothing – at least that’s how it felt at the time. I was really really low and at the point of quitting entirely. Then The Voice approached me again and so, in the state I was in, I said yes. I’m yet to really figure out what it was all about for me. Whatever it was didn’t pay off in the end. It goes to show what happens when you let your vanity get the better of you. Hey ho. Lesson learned.
I certainly wouldn’t deter anyone from doing it. Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself in for and be prepared.
What has been your favourite “Francisco” moment of the past year?
I did a home town show at the Pomfret Arms, for about 60 of my closest friends and family and, well, fans I suppose. It was incredible. I’m very lucky to have people around me; it’s no exaggeration to say they’ve saved my life in many ways.
What was the last album you bought/streamed?
Bought: Theo Katzman – Modern Johnny sings: songs in the age of vibe
Streamed: KAYTRANADA – BUBBA
What is your burning desire to do in 2020? What plans do you have?
2020 is Avi, Avi and more Avi. We have so much recorded material. It’s wonderful and it’s time that it see the light of day. I have burning desire to gig more. I really really love playing live. I actually prefer it to recording or producing records. I feel like it’s what I was born to do.
The ‘Wild Is…’ EP is out now from the usual digital playforms