For years, Franchot Tone was an integral behind-the-scenes player in Central Oregon’s music scene, working as a producer with popular local acts like Eric Tollefson and Hilst & Coffey, and as a producer/sideman for Reed Thomas Lawrence.
Then a couple years ago, Tone got the bug to make his own music for the first time. He started writing songs and training to become a better singer. He stepped to the front of the stage and started playing gigs under his own name. And he started piecing together his debut album.
Last year, Tone and his family moved to Los Angeles, but tonight, he’s back in town to celebrate the release of his first full-length album, “Thanks For This,” with a show a McMenamins Old St. Francis School. He’ll get started around 7 p.m., and it’s free to get in.
By phone this morning, Tone said moving back to California — where he knows lots of well-connected musicians and studio types — was a “catalyst” for finally finishing his record.
“It became abundantly clear that I had to have an album, and I’d just never made it,” he said. “So now I’m in this spot with all the best players in the world. I see ’em daily, and I can just go over at any time to their studio and have ’em do this track or that track or whatever.
“It was time,” he said, “to make the album.”
It helped that, after gigging regularly for months, friends, family and fans were starting to bug Tone for a recording of his music.
“People start to know the songs from going to the shows, but they have nothing to take home,” he said. “It became beyond clear that it was time to have something to sell or give away, and to get to the next level.”
Enter Adam Topol, Tone’s longtime creative collaborator and bandmate in the retro-reggae-pop band Culver City Dub Collective. Topol encouraged his friend to book studio time, and a particularly good show in Santa Barbara convinced Tone to make the call to Robert Carranza, a Grammy-winning producer and engineer who has worked with the Beastie Boys and Los Lobos, among others, and is affiliated with Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records label. (Topol is the drummer in Johnson’s touring band.)
Last May, Carranza, Topol, Tone and a handful of other players gathered at Solar Powered Plastic Plant in Los Angeles for two days of recording basic tracks.
Well … eventually.
“We got to the studio, which is relatively expensive and hard to come by, and we spent the first four or five hours just hanging,” Tone said with a laugh. “I just had to embrace the process. My friend pulled me aside and said, ‘Bro, it might seem like nothing is happening here, but this is actually how everyone kinda looses up and gets in the zone to do what’s gonna happen.'”
What happened was the skeleton of “Thanks For This,” a 10-track collection of songs that embody what Tone does very well: smooth, sunbaked pop-rock embellished with a healthy dose of reggae, a slight hint of Latin flavor and so much SoCal vibe you’ll swear you can feel a breeze blowing through your headphones from a nearby beach. (Get a taste of the album below.)
There’s no concept or overarching theme. No complicated story. Just a bunch of “lighthearted, positive” songs that line up nicely with Tone’s aesthetic, no matter whether he’s behind the scenes or out in front.
“The album feels like a good fit. It feels natural,” he said. “That’s what came out.”
Franchot Tone; 7 tonight; free; McMenamins Old St. Francis School, 700 N.W. Bond St., Bend; www.mcmenamins.com.
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