By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Toronto-based indie singer-songwriter Francois Klark recently released an official American Sign Language music video for his song “Always,” which originally appeared on his 2018 debut album ‘Love’ and was used by Emmy Award-winning choreographer Mia Michaels (So You think You Can Dance) for Netflix’s new dance film, “Feel The Beat,” directed by Elissa Down and stars Sofia Carson of Disney’s “Descendants.”
The music video features culturally Deaf American Sign Language interpreter Sage Lovell and was choreographed by Matthew Fata. The concept revolved around COVID-19 quarantine restrictions and affected its subsequent execution of production. Klark was also inspired by the idea that all mediums of media should be accessible to everyone.
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with Klark about the music video and more.
Music Bugle – In what ways has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you?
Francois Klark – I am very thankful that my family and friends are all healthy and safe. My thoughts and prayers are with the families who have not been so lucky and I pray that they will find peace and that there will be full recovery and an end to the pandemic. I have experienced the “new normal” as a bit of a blessing in disguise with regards to music and the effect of the pandemic on our industry. As an independent artist, the hustle of the old “normal” often pulled your attention in 10 directions at any given moment. I frequently found it a bit difficult to carve out time to be creative without any outside pressures infringing on the creative process. I have never written as much, in such a short amount of time, as I have during the quarantine period during this pandemic.
Music Bugle – How would you describe Canada to someone who has never been there before?
Francois Klark – An incredibly beautiful and vast country with amazing cities and even more spectacular landscapes. The people are kind and culturally very diverse – especially in my city, Toronto. I love that about my city. Winters are long and intense, but summers are more beautiful than you can imagine.
Music Bugle – How do you feel the ASL video of “Always” came out? Did it fit your vision?
Francois Klark – It surpassed what I thought was possible within the constraints put in place by isolation regulations during COVID-19. I am so impressed with our team. Sage Lovell’s ASL performance of “Always” so beautifully conveys the feeling of the song and the lyrics, Matthew Fata blew me away with his choreography and Katie Hazard and Ian Chubb breathed new life into the song with their dance performance. My initial concept was to have a dancer self-tape a video on their phone while sitting at a table as if on a Skype or Zoom call like so many of us during isolation. Convinced that the meaning of the song would be better delivered by a duo, Matthew recruited those dancers. Katie and Ian were in Colorado at the time, so we changed the location and placed the table in the beautiful isolated hills of Colorado. The new outdoor location also allowed enough physical distance to get videographer Jesse Lozano onboard with the project. Matthew choreographed and rehearsed with the dancers over FaceTime from Los Angeles and a couple days later, sent the footage over to me in Toronto for some final tweaks. The idea to make an ASL video was sparked by the beautiful inclusive nature of the Netflix “Feel The Beat” film. Deaf actress, Shaylee Mansfield, who played the role of Zuzu, made me realize how important it is to make all mediums of media accessible to everyone with her performance and Instagram movement #InstaCaptioning.
Music Bugle – What was it like making your 2018 debut album ‘Love’?
Francois Klark – It was a very personal and patient process. The songs were all written over a long period of time during which I went through very formative experiences. When I started writing the songs, I didn’t intend to put together an album. I initially just wrote each song as a way to deal with things that were happening in my life as I was going through it. Once all the songs were finished, I teamed up with my close friend and co-producer Kibwe Thomas and together, with some very talented musician friends, spent many hours in various studios in Toronto painting the soundscape that you hear on the final album.
Music Bugle – What was your reaction upon learning choreographer Mia Michaels was going to use “Always” in Netflix’s “Feel The Beat”?
Francois Klark – I was floored. I am a massive dance and choreography fan and regularly spend too much time on YouTube watching videos from Millennium Dance Studio, Urban Dance Camp, Keone & Mari, Choreocookies…the list goes on. To find out that Mia, a legendary powerhouse choreographer, thinks that my music is good enough to dance to blew my mind. She is such a wonderful woman.
Music Bugle – So far, what do you feel is your proudest accomplishment?
Francois Klark – Making my parents and siblings proud of who I am as a person and a musician – guess that is an ongoing endeavor.
Music Bugle – What’s something people should know about you as a person?
Francois Klark – Relationship is the most important thing to me in this life.
Music Bugle – If you had the chance to chat one-on-one with one of your musical influences, who would you choose?
Francois Klark – Chris Martin from the band Coldplay.
Music Bugle – What made you want to become a musician?
Francois Klark – I am crazy about making music. Being creative and making new music is like breathing and dreaming…a total necessity.
Music Bugle – What has been the hardest obstacle for you to overcome?
Francois Klark – Living an 18-hour flight away from my siblings and my mom in order to live in a country where I can pursue music.