By Lara Pickford-Gordon
Francis ‘Julong’ McComie, nine years, released his first single ‘Rise Up’ August this year. It has been getting airplay and positive reviews for the Sacred Heart Boys’ RC Standard Three student who will be releasing another song in time for the Christmas season.
On the day of the interview October 7, Francis did his First Communion at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Port of Spain. He said an intercessory prayer for the Sick and the First Communion candidates. He felt “good” taking this step and had been preparing since January. “He takes his RK (religious knowledge) seriously, he follows it and understands; we have to give him credit for that”, his father, Anthony McComie said.
His parents said he underwent a transformation during the pandemic, being cooped up home, boredom set in and he began exploring music last year. “In school he is quiet and shy, kept to himself. Now!…” his mother Asemoy smiled and said. During the interview though, it was evident he has not lost these traits.
Anthony was delighted when Francis decided to pick up a guitar and begin playing March 2020 during the lockdown. Although Anthony has a background in music— he plays drums, bass, guitar, piano, and was in bands, he never forced his son’s interest in playing.
Francis was gifted with a half-size guitar and so began playing. He began practising 15 minutes daily. “In a month’s time, he had a good command of 10-15 chords…he picked up singing naturally”. After six months he could play five songs.
Francis’ first live performance was Elvis Presley’s song ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ at the Woodruffe School of Music Christmas concert December 2019, where he received vocal training. Last year, he started Music Theory and singing at the Angels School of Music, Cascade. He took part in his school’s Calypso competition for the first time, with the song ‘Short Story’.
Francis explained the song ‘Rise Up’ came about from what he was learning in school. “My class teacher Mr (Alvin) Peters was teaching a new subject called Creative Writing. My dad used it as an opportunity to teach me how to write songs…I think that was last September, 2020,” Francis said.
Anthony sought input for the song from his Belmont neighbour and friend, Joshua Samerson, a member of the group Lujo and The Gifted. “We passed ideas…just like poetry or any other writing, you sit down and do the editing, etc. etc. so everything was based on Mr Peter’s teaching. We did that and it evolved”, Anthony said. He added, “we asked Francis if he was comfortable with the song, the melody. Of course, he is the one who has to sing it. From there everything just evolved”.
Francis said, “My dad asked me if I liked this [Rise Up], I said ‘yes’.” The song was recorded in August. Their cousin Nigel Rojas, lead singer, guitarist with Orange Sky played on the song.
Anthony’s involvement in music enabled him to call on friends in the business; music producer Richard ‘Charsu’ Ahong and Gareth Pollard of Pulsate Music Production, mixed and mastered the song.
“Rise up, life is too short, no time to waste/Judgement Day is coming soon/Don’t let Babylon fire consume you” are the lyrics of the chorus.
Francis said it was a song of hope. Anthony noted, “The influence of God, Jesus has always been there as the basis of everything in our family”.
His godparents are his aunt, Sr Catherine Therese McComie OP, and uncle broadcaster/writer Dennis McComie; they are also Francis’ godparents. His mother Linda was a minister in the Pentecostal church and uncles and aunts are Christians.
He continued, “Yes the song is about hope, but we are looking at what has unfolded in front of us. Francis has been asking me a lot of questions and I was thrown back as to how I were to answer that as a parent.”
Francis began asking “why this and why that and why don’t they do this” about politics and poverty. The song captures a child’s perspective and questions the kind of world which adults are leaving for future generations.
Anthony said the hopeful part of the song is what he tries to teach his children, “today was not a great day, we did not achieve as much as we want, we did the wrong things probably; we have the opportunity tomorrow although it is not promised. Tomorrow we have the opportunity to be better than yesterday.”
Commenting on the airplay ‘Rise Up’ has received Francis said, “I feel very proud of myself because all that effort me and my dad put into the song. I am very proud of it and that we came so far, and we are going to continue”.
A “rough demo” has been prepared for his second single ‘My Heart’s Song’. Anthony said next will be “editing” to “clean up the track” before mastering in Stream Stage, Belmont studio.
Francis plays guitar and the sound will take listeners back to the Big Band era. Francis said he likes many kinds of music but after a pause, mentions Reggae, Pop, and “a bit of Rock”. Among the performers he admires are his cousin Nigel Rojas and Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine.
Francis said online school was “fun”, but he misses being with friends. As a Standard Three pupil the studies are now “a little bit harder and it’s a lot”. Sometimes he is up 8–9 p.m. completing homework. Asemoy commented, “he still has to learn about time management because it is a lot more work now…” Despite this, he has continued to maintain good grades. Apart from music, his creativity is expressed in acrylic painting. Francis said he likes nature, “the trees, the birds, the bush”.
“I used to paint a lot, but I just started back. I am working on a new painting so far…”
As a professional graphic artist, Anthony is always ready to teach. His pride in Francis’ emerging musical talent is evident but believes it should not be rushed. “The moment you rush, you lose the innocence, the purity of the moment.”