Today, New York City singer, songwriter & multi-instrumentalist Miles Francis releases the newest single and video from their upcoming album Good Man (out March 4), “Nature.” Francis’ experiences during the project helped them come out as non-binary, resulting in works of gorgeous paradox: nuanced explorations of masculinity and all its trappings, presented in a sound that’s joyfully unfettered. They will be doing a Reddit AMA here today, February 9 @ 12pm ET.
On the eerie and enchanting track, Miles interrogates manhood and male nature: "What is in a man's nature, and how was it planted there? Their fathers or their grandfathers? Movies or simply just coming of age in a patriarchal society?,” Miles asked themselves. “I also thought about the many meanings and uses of the word ‘nature.’ It is what surrounds us and gives us life, it's a sunny day or a thunderstorm, it is beautiful - yet can also be brutal. In humans, one's ‘nature’ signifies an inherited quality that you seemingly can't help but embody.” Filmed in New Jersey, the video features the singer-songwriter coming to terms with their own father, trumpeter Leif Arntzen, who also appears on the album cover.
In 2020, Miles became a facilitator with an organized men's group working to unpack and detoxify their masculinity. In May 2021, they co-led their own gathering centered around Nature, holding a conversation around men's family histories and backgrounds and how that has shaped them, and how they can work through that to become more supportive men in the future. They plan on facilitating more gatherings like this in 2022.
Playing into the album’s themes and storyline are previous singles “Popular” (feat. Lizzie Loveless & Lou Tides - formerly of TEEN - on background vocals), “Let Me Cry” and “Service,” complete with mesmerizing boy band clone choreography that mirrors Miles' own recording process in quarantine. “Everyone indulges in having an ego and wanting to be recognized, but men seem particularly bent on the power element — whether it’s taking up space in a room or leading a country,” says Francis. These were followed by remixes of "Popular" by Future Generations and “Service” from Overcoats, to love from KCRW, Earmilk, The Wild Honey Pie & beyond.
Produced by Francis and recorded in their longtime studio (located in the basement of the Greenwich Village building they grew up in), Good Man arrives as the most visionary and elaborately realized output yet from a polymathic artist known for collaborating with the likes of Angélique Kidjo, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, and Arcade Fire’s Will Butler.
“I grew up with boy-band posters from floor to ceiling in my bedroom, and that music very much dominated my life when I was young,” they point out. “Later on I studied Afrobeat music and started playing with different groups in that world, which helped me to get to a place where I could be totally free in my musical expression.” Also naming shapeshifters like Prince and David Bowie among their essential touchstones, Francis ultimately alchemized those inspirations into a highly percussive form of art-pop, both lavishly orchestrated and visceral in impact.
As an artist indelibly informed by the kinetic energy and eclecticism of New York City, Francis drew immense inspiration from their hometown: “At the start of the protests and the resurgence of Black Lives Matter, I realized the most direct way I could help was to get a drum and go out to marches and keep a beat for organizers,” says Francis, who soon assisted a friend in the founding of a New York-based collective called Musicians United. “In the beginning the goal was to get involved with anti-racist work, but the experiences I had and the people I met through the Black Trans Lives Matter movement opened up my whole world. It gave me a new mirror to see myself in, and helped me to find my own queerness and nonbinaryness.”
Francis finally realized: “When I’m in my studio, it feels like being completely free of the outside world, free of gender, free of everything except me. I feel like I’m finally figuring out how to take that freedom beyond my musical expression and bring it into every aspect of my life. Now I want to share that feeling with everybody.”