by Mitch Mosk, 2021
“It’s the cracks that make music so beautiful.”
A troubadour at heart with a sentimental soul, Franc Cinelli is on a timeless journey of self-discovery and expression. Hailing from Rome, the London-based singer/songwriter, producer, and composer long ago dedicated himself to capturing slices of life in song. It’s a commitment he’s embraced through five albums that have not only built upon on another in sound and style, but also endeavored to tell stories that transcend time and place: And the more he’s true to himself, he finds, the more there is to learn from and take out of his music.
“That’s dearest to my heart, the songs,” Cinelli reflects. “I am able to communicate something I find enormously difficult any other way. I’m not a big talker, not a big conversation kind of guy, but expressing thoughts and feelings… being able to write songs makes me more aware, more mindful of my surroundings and my relationships. I’m more aware of things and I’m more aware of my place in the big picture. I think songwriting has granted me an awareness, and I’m very grateful to that – and I think because of that, I owe it to the songs to keep at it and get better at it.”
Citing Robert Johnson, John Martyn, Bob Dylan, and Italian songwriter Lucio Dalla as inspirations, Cinelli wears the folk title like a badge of pride. “I love that the term folk artist can mean many things to many people, but “folk” to me always means it’s born from an acoustic instrument, and it’s a voice and a story. I like the idea of taking those folk structures and making them work in a more modern production context.” It is with this intention that he, as an independent artist, has recorded and released five albums over the past decade, starting with 2008’s Glue and running through 2019’s Night Songs.
“The hardest thing [about being an artist] is just doing it: Taking that idea, that feeling, and putting into a song, and then sharing it with the world,” Cinelli says. “It’s not worth anything unless you share it with people. The process of sharing is part of the songwriting, for me. I’m proud that I have been able to do that, and with a lot of music as well.”
“When I did my first vinyl by myself in 2013, I spent three years or so where I did no less than 150 shows per year. And then it was still 100 or so… It’s a real part of my existence. I love the romantic notion of the road: Being on planes, trains, and automobiles. It’s fun, and working on performing makes you a better writer, and working on writing makes you a better performer.”
Cinelli’s latest album, Night Songs, is an especially stirring standout that showcases his versatility, authenticity, heartfelt lyricism, and expressive vocals. A vibrant and distinguished folk record full of intimacy and nuance, the ten-track record is an intentionally soft and tender affair.
“I was quite surprised by the soulfulness that came out,” Cinelli notes. “It’s a very still record. It’s a record of reflection; to me that’s what the whole night time metaphor is about. A place of quiet, solitude – more solitude than loneliness; taking a breather. Allowing that moment of reflection to come, and allowing that space – not questioning the thoughts that came when you give yourself up to that breath. I’ve learned, eventually, that such an important part of making music is being brave about it. I have to allow that to have center stage and not question it. [It’s] the hardest part about songwriting, but it may be the most important part.”
Cinelli considers Night Songs the most true to himself he’s ever been on record, and he’s taken the lessons from that record forward into both his art and his work as a producer and composer. Cinelli began recording, producing, and arranging for other artists eight years ago, inspired by his work with producer Danton Supple (U2, Morrissey) on his second album. Soon after, Cinelli founded Song Circle Studio – his own boutique recording studio in central London. In addition to working with fellow independent artists like Lewis Dalgliesh, John Paul Elliott, and Second Hand Poet, he also makes what he calls music for pictures: “Anything I feel like making that doesn’t necessarily ‘conform’ to what would fit on a Franc record,” Cinelli explains. Highlights include cuts for a Volkswagen TV ad, BBC documentary series soundtracks, and independent films including Dan Horrigan’s Devotion. Additionally, Cinelli currently has two non-solo studio projects: The contemporary classical “London Stories” and the rock n’ roll / gospel choir effort, “We Are All Sisters And Brothers.”
For Cinelli, the music for pictures, the production, and his own artistry are all linked up inside. “All these things are a part of me,” but “the closest thing to my heart remains my songs and my acoustic guitar… I need to make music for me.” In 2020, Cinelli paired up with Dr. Bone (John Martyn, The Rudiments) to record the first of a series of single releases. Those songs – entitled “Here in My Heart,” “Let My Love,” and “Winter’s Fall” – offer some of Cinelli’s most intimate moments yet. All three were written in the first lockdown, “as a result of me trying to understand the craziness, feeling very much alone.” Each song taps into the emotions surrounding distance and connection, being there for others and showing some vulnerability, and certain sense of eventuality – that wonderful theme that day will follow night.
An uncompromisingly intimate and raw folk troubadour with a passion for playing shows and being on the road, Franc Cinelli’s future is as bright as his outlook. Until he can get back out on the stage, he remains steadfastly devoted to making music for himself and others.
“I need to keep moving, I need to keep writing songs,” he asserts. “I don’t take making something for granted. I don’t presume that if I don’t do it for six months, I can just pick it up and do it again. The only way to improve is to put it to the test.”
Between his solo work, Song Circle Studio, his commercial and side projects, Franc Cinelli is a man of many sounds, styles, and talents. “I hope people hear someone who is curious to try different things, and isn’t afraid to do that,” he says. “Now as I do that in extreme, as it were, putting it out under different names, I think that comes to light even more.”
Ultimately, however, Franc Cinelli is a singer, songwriter, and storyteller devoted to his craft.
“I’m most excited about the songs. The songwriting. Getting better at my profession. Making some records that stand up to the records that I love dearly, and just getting better: There’s miles and miles to learn and improve on, and so I feel very much a student in the songwriting process, but also in the music making process. It’s finding that balance, and not being seduced too much by what you can do in the studio. Maybe as I move forward, my music will be more and more minimal; that’s something that would make sense to me.”
Look out for Franc Cinelli’s singles releases throughout 2021, and learn more about Song Circle Studio here.
A few quotes..
"..for those moments when some mindfulness is needed, Franc Cinelli’s ‘Night Songs’ could be the ideal soundtrack to bathe yourself in." Folk Radio UK album review
Folk Radio UK Artist of the Month ...read the interview
"Husky, folksy, loose and laid back. Eastern blends with western." Americana UK
"‘Night Songs’ is one of the best Folk albums of 2019" Neon Music
"A soundtrack to red wine, cold evenings and dark windows, a great listen." Northern Sky
“there is a quietude and thoughtfulness to Night Songs.” Folking.com
“Night Songs makes us want to open a bottle and sit up all night with him sharing thoughts and stories, drunken philosophers putting the world to rights. Whether the world in question is the size of the planet or the size of a candlelit room, Franc Cinelli has a song which fits it exactly.” Dancing About Architecture
“Franc Cinelli fuses Eastern & Western folk influences, contemporary songwriting & luxurious arrangements on Night Songs”
"A roosty, bluesy, folky confection" ✮✮✮✮ R2 Magazine
Americana UK 8/10
Whisperin' & hollerin 8/10
Classic Rock 8/10