“My mentor, David Robinson, is the type of person who really knows music. When he talks about music, you want to listen.” Says Fabrice, the locally acclaimed French-Caribbean performer, teacher and musical producer. He lounges back on our comfortable couch as he strums his guitar thoughtfully, “I feel that when a lot of people talk about music, they just… talk, but they don’t really know what it is that they’re saying, and they’re talking for all the wrong reasons. I think music isn’t all talk – it’s doing.”
As Fabrice continues to wax personal philosophy on music, we find ourselves engrossed. Maybe it’s his French charm, or his fascinating life with music. We believe that it’s the vehemence with which he discusses his theories on what it means to be a professional musician and the road he traveled to produce his latest album, Back to Roots.
Fabrice hails from Montpellier, France and initially came to Kuwait four years ago to teach French literature. During that time, he held his passion for music as a constant practice in his life, and continued to pursue it despite his day-to-day teaching career. “It’s funny because my mother is a singer and my father is a teacher, so I really ended up pursuing both professions in my life.” And with an undergraduate education in Audio Engineering and a Masters degree in French Literature, this is evident. “I spend my life focusing on both: there are times where I’m strictly a musician, and times where I give teaching my full attention.” However, with several albums under his belt, not to mention a resume that boasts worldwide performances around Kuwait, Qatar, Chile, France and Abu Dhabi, it’s clear that a huge part of the musician’s life revolves around making music.
The inspiration for his latest album is even sourced from one performance. “I was visiting home last year and called up one of my old friends – a real jazz man named Franc,” he says with a smile. “Franc persuaded me to play this show with him on the beach in Montpellier and I agreed. First off, I was blown away – I hadn’t performed in my hometown for over 5 years – and secondly, the amount of familiar faces was overwhelming. After that show, I called and reconnected with all those people and decided to collaborate with them to create something special.” And that something special was Back to Roots.
Just like its name and backstory imply, Back to Roots is Fabrice’s way of paying homage to the early days of his musical discoveries. A “never forget where you came from” of sorts, the ten tracks feature collaborations with people in his life in both continents, and the overall style of the album emulates the jazzy meets roots-reggae genre of his music. “Back to Roots is a play on words,” he explains – “I had to travel back to my roots to create this album, and the reggae aspect ties in as well with the roots-reggae subgenre.” Roots reggae has always been a part of Fabrice’s life as well, as his Caribbean background meant that he had grown up with reggae music always playing in his house, including the works of Bob Marley and the Roots, as well as the rest of the Marley clan’s music – from Ziggy to Damian. But his favorite Marley of all time is Stephan Marley. “In my opinion, Stephan Marley is the most underrated and most talented musician in the entire family. Each of his family members’ albums have at least one track credited to his production skills,” he says of the producer.
Although Fabrice has a great deal of respect towards Stephan Marley and credits him as a surefire influence, he has an even greater influence he always looked up to. “It was always Prince.” He says with confidence. “I’ve always loved Prince, and to me, Prince was the one who could do it all – his sound is superior, and he was the first musician to pioneer technology like drum machines into his music.” As he continues to rave about the late singer, his eyes light up “Prince did everything on his own. He self produced and played multiple instruments!” He adds with enthusiasm. Though their styles seem different, Fabrice shares a lot of common ground with Prince. He too, self produced all of his released albums, and plays multiple instruments. Having started out with the bass guitar, the musician eventually picked up keyboard, percussion and of course, the guitar he kept strumming throughout our interview.
As a producer, Fabrice is a perfectionist with a very high standard for quality and professionalism, and when he finds the opportunity to help others, he needs them to know that it’s important for them to help themselves first. “To me, a real professional is someone who is dedicated,” he starts off “and someone who isn’t in music for the purpose of being seen. In today’s world with social media, it seems like people are obsessed with the idea of being seen! Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but in order to be seen, you have to have something to show.”
Though he’s difficult to tie down and get on board for producing external projects by other musicians, he is willing – but only if he feels the fit is right and the chemistry is there. Fabrice produced Amin Fari’s last album in 2016, and has worked with artists like Carol “Coco” Souki and Balqis Duvall. “To me, those artists are professional – and I’m a big fan of Amin Fari: I like the way he approaches music, and how he handles himself. He’s talented, professional, and I like his look – that’s exactly why it’s always a pleasure to work with him.”
As for his next album, we can expect one from him in the near future. When Fabrice decides to make an album, it’s a whirlwind that happens within months, stemming from days of dedication, locked inside his studio. “All I need is 15 days to eat, sleep and breathe music. It doesn’t matter. I can be sound asleep, wake up at 1am and rush to the studio in my house to work on something if I have an idea.” After that period, he takes things a little slower, between collaborating and mixing. “I’m going to wait till summer when I have a bit of time off” he smiles diplomatically, honoring his teaching profession. But we all know what he’s thinking: come summertime, when school is out of session, the musical mastermind will be at work, self-producing yet another album to add to his repertoire.
Back to Roots is available for purchase iTunes and Spotify. Listen to the album on bandcamp: fabrice.bandcamp.com/album/back-to-roots. Visit Fabrice’s website at www.fa7production.fr and follow him on Facebook @fa7production and on Instagram @fabriceroots.
Photography by Yousef Al Nasser, Instagram @yousefcam.