The fact that Little Rock, AR band, deFrance, have been relentlessly pounding the pavement – touring, writing, and (through no fault of their own) having to shelve dozens of songs – since 2015, should be more than enough to validate the quartet’s commitment to making music together.
But that’s not even the half of it.
Despite now standing at the junction facing album number three, No Longer a Stranger in This Town, this creative milestone hardly arrived on a wave of smoothly executed, and uninhibited development for deFrance. A group whose bonds initially began forming after the unfathomably tragic loss of the brother and two cherished friends of lead singer and songwriter, Drew deFrance, while that emotionally pivotal event would be more than enough for anyone to lay claim to having tenacity, much of deFrance’s history is forged from enduring and overcoming obstacles dealt by the unpredictability of the music industry.
The highly anticipated release of deFrance’s previous record, Second Wind, only came about after the band took back control of its own destiny from the nebulous constraints from an unresponsive label. The band’s new 11 track LP now serves as a sign that this hardworking band is finally hitting a confident stride. Its southern-tinged style of rock and roll is free to breathe, stretch its wings, and evolve according to what deFrance – and no one else – wants it to be. And in this case, it’s a musical collection that comes from a place of hometown-centered heart – tilting toward projecting the stories, emotions and unique idiosyncrasies of not just Arkansas but the overarching spirit of the southern United States.
Speaking with American Songwriter ahead of the premiere of No Longer a Stranger in This Town, a few of the members of deFrance shared their two cents about the emotional and musical inspirations that shaped the album, their hopes for how the music connects with fans, and what some of the tracks mean to them personally:
Connor Roach (Bassist, Vocalist): “[No Longer a Stranger in This Town] is a reflection of our roots and where we come from. It’s going to be a unique album for us. It could be seen as a bit of a departure from our Rock and Roll style but, it’s one of our more personal records because it sounds like home.”
Drew deFrance (Vocalist/Guitarist/Songwriter): “The record was very inspired by Tom Petty’s ‘Wildflowers,’ as well as a lot of production techniques from Phil Spector and The Wrecking Crew. Drummer Hal Blaine was a huge inspiration on the drum sound and approach for the record. I feel the songwriting is a reflection of our tours & time on the road and as Connor said, by the sounds of back home in Arkansas.
Drew deFrance: “[Regarding specific tracks,] I’ve always felt strongly about the song ‘American Dream’ on this record, I think it’s something special. Although, my favorite from this album is the closing track, ‘Goodbye To The Blues.’ I wrote the song in a dream while living in Austin, Texas in 2009. I dreamed that Willie Nelson was singing it to me. I really hope he hears it someday. To me, it sounds like The Everly Brothers and Count Basie all rolled into one of Willie’s special joints.”
Connor Roach: “The song ‘Boulder’ is a standout for me, it’s about traveling and taking chances in a new environment. I also think ‘When it Rains’ is a great song. The two tracks really capture the duality of the road and time at home, which prevails as the theme of our lives and the record.”
Andrew Poe (Guitarist): “My favorite track is ’Stoned’ for obvious reasons. But our friend Neil Jones (pedal steel player in American Aquarium) [also] played an amazing part on the song ‘Rose,’ that really changed the whole dynamic of the song. A lot of [No Longer a Stranger in This Town] has been in the works for a few years, it has a lot of late 60s rock and country rock, 12-string guitar, and pedal steel influences that I’ve always been a fan of. The band and I are really excited to finally get this record out to our friends, fans, and family.”