Francesca Battistelli Interview & Review of Her New Album “If We’re Honest”!
[This article has two parts: 1) The interview with Francesca (directly below) conducted by writer and Nashville correspondent Josh Belcher; and 2) a review by the editor Kevin Ott of Francesca’s new album, which can be read after the interview.]
A must-have, inspiring, and soulful album — a perfect complement to any warm spring day — is the third album by Grammy Award Nominee and six-time Dove Award winner Francesca Battistelli. The album, titled If We’re Honest, is an uplifting masterpiece that digs deep into Francesca’s musical canvas as the 28-year-old singer/songwriter phenom lets us in on a very personal journey in which the Author of Life is responsible for all of the work. Francesca penned all of the songs, so the album is as authentic as it could possibly get.
“I definitely think the albums I’ve made have documented my journey from being a young woman to becoming a young mom,” says Battistelli. According to Battistelli, If We’re Honest is her most personal and accomplished musical statement yet. “This album is a really good reflection of where I am right now,” she says.
The album is set to release worldwide on April 22. It features her new Top Five single “Write Your Story.” In February, she made her national morning TV debut performing the song on ABC’s Good Morning America. In April, she was busy on “The Bible: Son of God Tour 2014,” which commenced in March and finished in mid-April. She is nominated for the 2014 K-LOVE Fan Awards “Female Vocalist of the Year” that is scheduled to take place on June 1st at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. (Not to sound biased, but I hope she wins — not only did I vote for her, but I will be in attendance!) She is also noted for being the only female artist to claim the elite title of “Artist of the Year.” The last female to win the award was Amy Grant in 1992 — great company. I would say. For more information on Francesca’s stellar career, check out her website.
The song “Write Your Story” is getting a lot of positive attention; did you expect it to have such a response?
I had hoped so, but I didn’t know, so it is awesome to see and hear that people are being touched by my music.
How is the “Bible: Son of God Tour” coming along? [which was in full swing at the time of this interview]
It is doing great, and we are on our last weekend, so we have a few shows left and it has been a really fun tour to be a part of — a lot of really great artists, and I think it has been fun. This fall we are planning a headlining tour in support of our new record, so I am looking forward to that.
You are up for the K-Love Fan Awards for “Female Vocalist of the Year.” How does that make you feel, and do you think you might win?
It is very exciting, and it would be an honor to win, so we will see. I love that it is fan voted and I think that it is very cool and, yeah, who knows? We will see. [laughs]
How did you get featured on three million Diet Pepsi cans?
We have a friend who is the president of a Pepsi bottling company. He is a really big Christian music fan and a believer, and he wanted to use his platform to get the message out there, so he said, “We would like to put you on a Diet Pepsi can, what do you think?” [laughs] I said, “Gee, that sounds great.” It was a neat experience — one that I never expected to happen.
The new album If We’re Honest comes out April 22nd. Is there anything you want to share with your fans prior to the release?
I am so excited about this record, I think it is my favorite one yet, and hopefully it will encourage people. Yeah, you need to get — it is the best one yet.
In closing, she graciously said thank you to me for the interview and “God bless” — I enjoyed her upbeat attitude immensely.
Francesca Battistelli’s New Album If We’re Honest Brings a Striking Mix of Pop Powerhouse and Moving Hymn-like Anthems
A Review by Rocking God’s House Editor Kevin Ott
The fast-paced staccato strings, pulsing piano rhythms, and giant hook on “Write Your Story” gives fair warning: this album goes pop, and it goes big. It has a bigger sound than previous albums. But it also has Francesca’s personality all over it in an engaging way; for example, “When The Crazy Kicks In” chronicles the craziness of being a busy mom (which she is now) who is trying to find the solitude of spending time with God before the day’s madness begins. “I am Home” is also autobiographical as she sings “born in New York City, raised in the Sunshine State,” and it’s a touching love song — a tribute to her husband. Francesca clearly loves her family, and that warmth really comes through in these songs.
“He Knows My Name” proclaims “I don’t need my name in lights” because, ultimately “He knows my name,” and that’s all that counts. Yet she also recognizes her calling: “I’m meant to be a lion,” in terms of declaring Christ with boldness. Just about every track has a pop powerhouse hook in the chorus. “Find Rest” is the first slower song on album, and it is by far my favorite track. I love the line: “nothing catches Him by surprise.” The chorus is emotionally powerful — though still poppy — but it is an aching pop beauty, both peaceful and anthem-like — like the big melodies of old Irish hymns. In the chorus she sings, “find rest, my soul, put your hope in God.” I could put this song on repeat for an hour. It stirs the spirit from the first note of the song.
“If We’re Honest” admits “I’m a mess and so are you,” and the best we can do is “bring your brokenness, and I’ll bring mine.” It promises that “mercy is waiting on the other side.” It continues that epic hymn sound, like an old hymn the 1800s but with a Francesca Battistelli pop overlay. In “We Are The Kingdom” — a moving fight song for the Church with a towering pop-reverb that sends her voice across the canyons of America — Francesca cries out, “If only we could see, who we’re made to be beyond the fear and doubt that is so crippling.” “Holy Spirit” brings back her acoustic guitar singer-songwriter mode, at least in the verse. But like the other slow songs — “Find Rest” and “If We’re Honest” — it grows into the album’s big pop anthem-old hymn mode, and it recalls the echoing Gospel hugeness of U2’s Joshua Tree, which was a pleasant surprise.
Besides the pop powerhouse and hymn-like anthems, the album adds a few unusual colors to the mix. In “Choose to Love” — one of the album’s many ambitious pop songs — I particularly enjoyed the Gospel-infused verses where the distorted electric guitar bends up and matches her singing briefly. It’s a nice little dash of blues and Gospel before the pop hook hits. The song “Unusual” has a strong Asian flavor in its central melodic riff, which uses a pentatonic scale similar to Classical Chinese music; I loved it. It was an unexpected but interesting sound in the middle of a very epic American pop album.
The singing, songwriting, production, and brilliantly paced track order all adds up to one thing: this album is Francesca’s best effort to date. You will likely have this album on repeat ad infinitum — especially if you’re a fan of well-crafted pop.