Interview with FRANCIZ, songwriter and producer for Backstreet Boys - Oct 18, 2001
"Try to get in to production teams and work with people that have progressed more than you have."Franciz is half of the songwriting and production team Franciz/LePont, based in Stockholm, Sweden. They have written and produced the single "More Than That" from Backstreet Boysí album "Black & Blue" (sales exceeding 8 million copies in the US alone). Here he gives us his views on being a songwriter and producer.
How did you get started in the music biz and how did you become a songwriter/producer?
I started out like most people, trying to become a pop star. In 1993, me and LePont released a single that got the attention of Kim Rosenberg at MCA Publishing in Stockholm. Since our artist career didnít go that well, we decided to focus more on songwriting. Kim moved to Sony Publishing and we joined him since we wanted to continue to work with him. We managed to get Universal Publishing, who had taken over MCA by then, to agree to share our publishing with Sony, so now both companies are working with our songs.
Was it tough in the beginning to get peopleís attention?
That was the major problem and still is. Since the A&Rs and publishers get thousands of demos a day, it is difficult to make them see or hear you. You really got to know someone to get anywhere.
Which have been the important events for you that have led you forward?
"More Than That" with Backstreet Boys, which gave us a name both as producers and songwriters.
Do you write specifically for artists or write in general?
Little bit of both. Itís easier if you know that an artist needs a song ícause then you can focus on how they sound and want to sound. On the other hand itís always fun to just sit down and write a song, even though itís harder to make it suitable for a special artist.
Which advice would you give aspiring songwriters in terms of songwriting itself?
Continue to write songs and never give up! Try to find someone that can help you take it a step further, both creatively and to find artists for your songs. It should be someone who is as much into writing songs as you are, for instance a dedicated publisher.
Can you offer some words of advice to unsigned songwriters, with regards to publishing contracts?
The key word is creativity. Since you write songs through inspiration, there's no use for a contract if you can't get support on that from the publisher. You should tell them what you want out of it and leave the negotiations to a good lawyer.
How did the song "More Than That" come about, what is the story behind it?
The song was a co-write for me and LePont with Adam Anders. We sat down and went through some ideas and 2 hours later the song was done! We sent it to the A&R for Backstreet Boys who didnít like it. Then it turned out that a publisher at Sony Publishing in Germany knew one of the band membersí best friends. He played the song to him who passed it on to Kevin in the band. Kevin loved it and so did the rest of the Boys. They liked the demo so much that they offered us to do the final production of the song. They also chose to record another song from us called "Shining Star".
Backstreet Boys, Celine Dion or Britney Spears were in the back of our minds when we wrote songs, because they're the biggest. So we tried to format the songs in a way that could suit them all.
How much input do the A&Rs and managers generally have on the productions?
Too much Iím afraid, which means that you can go on forever doing changes. With "More Than That" we were fortunate to talk to the band directly and didnít even have any other contacts. We sent them our mix and they just wanted the vocals a little bit louder.
How much do you charge for a production?
It depends pretty much. Since there are different ways to approach it - if you get an advance or if you get some of the production covered, like a mix. You have to see who the artist is and what kind of production they want.
What is the main challenge in being a producer?
To bring out the best from the artist and make them perform like they really mean what they're singing.
Looking back from when you started producing, what do you consider youíve improved?
We have a different approach now when we consider songs for different artists. Itís easier for us to adjust the format of a song for a specific artist, based on what they've done before.
Do you think contacting and sending demos to producers is a good tool for unsigned aspiring artists/songwriters?
Definitely! The best thing you can do is to find a producer that you know is doing the same thing as you. Start from the top by contacting your favourite producer and work your way down. Since there is always people out there who want to grab a bite of what you got, you have to be careful and not sign an agreement for a long time with just anybody.
What advice would you give an aspiring producer who wants to "get into" the music biz?
You canít go to school and learn how to become a producer, so you should try to get in to production teams and work with people that have progressed more than you have. The key is to work your butt off and try to always improve.
Sweden has been very "ŗ la mode" in the music biz the last few years, why?
People from Sweden have always been good when it comes to writing songs, since we have a certain tradition of melodies. If you listen to songs from Abba they're still smash hits and if they would be released today they would do just as well as 20 years ago.
We have no tradition of R&B in Sweden but I think Swedish producers can adjust to different genres like R&B and pop and mix them together. That makes it a kind of Swedish R&B which turns out to be very nice.
Max Martin and Denniz Pop opened the doors everywhere with the whole boy band genre, like N'Sync and Backstreet Boys. Starting a whole new era of music made people come here to have a piece of the cake.
What has been the greatest moment of your music career so far?
In April this year when we got the news that they were going to release "More Than That" as a single.
What do you see yourself doing in 5-10 years?
Pretty much the same. It feels like everything music-wise is standing still at the moment and doesn't know exactly where to go. The boy band era is slowly fading out, turning in to something else, which I donít think anyone has really found yet. Hopefully, good melodies will always last.
If you could dramatically change some aspect of the music industry, what would you do?
Itís good that you can get music from the Internet, but it has to be controlled. I think they should close all Napster-like sites that illegally offer music for free.
Interviewed by Kimbel Bouwman
Read On ...
* Special feature of Sweden's considerable contribution to the pop sphere
* One-time Cheiron writer-producer Per Magnusson on working with Denniz PoP
* Former Cheiron writer-producer Rami Yacoub on writing with Max Martin