Alexis Ffrench in Concert
Classical soul-pioneer composer, producer and pianist Alexis FFrench is the fastest growing classical artist in the world. Alexis brings The Truth Tour 2022 to The Helix on 12th October in support of his acclaimed new album Truth.
Truth is a collection of concise, compelling, thought-provoking recordings which has seen him bring classical music to the masses since he first topped the charts in 2018. “My songs are short and structured like pop because that’s how I can make the most impact with my melodies. I grew up on the greats – Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Bob Marley – as much as classical music. My aim is to make classical music accessible to everyone. Most of the messages I receive are from teens and twenty somethings who have never listened to classical before.”
Truth was recorded at the world-famous Real World Studios near Bath, working remotely with a 70-piece orchestra in a custom-built studio in Vienna. New technology allowed him to control the mixing desk, but it wasn’t straightforward. “The orchestra was incredible - they do the Marvel movie scores and work with Hans Zimmer - but syncing everything was a nightmare,” says Alexis. “It was high stakes, the riskiest recording I’ve ever done.”
The first track to be released, Guiding Light, is about a higher power and is dedicated to loved ones no longer with us. “My mental health was suffering last year because I felt I wasn’t enough - and because I didn't tell my father I loved him until the evening before he died. I went to the piano and that sense of helplessness and breathlessness turned into a piece that represented the broad spectrum of emotions I was experiencing.”
Truth required a vast collection of pianos to nail new production techniques. “One was a beautiful Bosendorfer grand piano” says Alexis. “Another was felted. The oddest was a very old piano last used by Harry Styles. It sounded hideous, really honky tonk, which was exactly what I was after. I open and close Canyons on it, which is a song about navigating self- doubt. In between, it blends into the Bosendorfer, so the sonics go on this journey, literally through deep canyons.”
The artist who normally writes, orchestrates, performs and produces all his own albums, has worked with co-writer John Maguire (Calum Scott, Leona Lewis, Tom Chaplin) on One Look, a spine-tingling classical-soul anthem. “As I wrote One Look I could hear lyrics on it,” says Alexis. “It’s scary for me to hand my music to anyone else, but John has written so many amazing songs and he has a real ear for pop melodies. Leona had input too. We had many meetings over Zoom, talking about our own experiences and what we wanted the lyrics to express. Her voice is spectacular. It has such a plaintive quality that was perfect for the song. I’m immensely proud of the collaboration.”
Elsewhere on Truth, the soaring Broken Sunsets reflects the composer’s hope for a brighter future, Golden is a shimmering light illuminating the way ahead, and fans may recognise Songbird as the follow on from Bluebird, the breakout track from Alexis’ 2018 chart-topper Evolution.
An album borne out of feelings of grief, despair, anger and injustice, Truth is proof of the power of community, positive thought and collective healing. The maestro may be wary of politics, but as ever, the result is an intoxicating listen.