Sunlit Shores and City Lights: Unraveling Francis Mercier in a Candid Q&A
Aug 4, 2023
6 min read
From the sunlit shores of Port-au-Prince to the electrifying vibes of New York City, DJ, and producer Francis Mercier has crafted a sonic tapestry that is both vast and enthralling. As a child in Haiti, he playfully engaged with old recording equipment, but it was the pulsating beats of a Tiësto concert in the US that truly ignited his passion. Dive into his masterpieces like "Sete"—a collaboration with BLOND:ISH and Amadou & Mariam that boasts over 20 million Spotify streams, and you're transported to sun-drenched Caribbean islands or expansive deserts. Feel the enchanting rhythms of "Premier Gaou" with Magic System, a track that's not just music but a magical voyage, intertwining the finest elements of afro house production.
Over the years, Mercier has danced through commercial dance, and tech house, and has now embraced a captivating afro, underground flavor. This evolution is amplified by collaborations with global titans like Diplo and Major Lazer, electrifying performances at iconic venues like Coachella, and partnerships with esteemed brands such as Disney and Porsche. As we delve deeper into his musical oasis, it's evident that Mercier's artistry in the afro house realm is unparalleled.
Can you tell us about your childhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and how it influenced your music?
Yes, I spent the first 17 years of my life there. I used to play around with old music recording equipment. However, it wasn’t until I moved to the U.S. when I was 18 and attended my first electronic music concert (Tiësto) that I became interested in becoming a DJ.
Did moving to New York play any role in shaping your career?
Most definitely. While attending Brown University as an undergraduate, I used to travel to NYC on the weekends and DJ parties, organize events, and more. I used to book The Chainsmokers and Bedouin in the early ‘2000s.
Can you share the story behind your decision to create Deep Root Records and the vision you had for it?
Yes, it began as an events company to support local, up-and-coming talent in the city. I wanted to create a platform and community for local talent to be able to DJ proper shows in the city.
How does your work as Emvafaya differ from your work as Francis Mercier?
When I started producing under Francis Mercier, it was commercial dance music, tech house, and classic house. I launched my Emvafya alias during Covid to experiment with producing darker, more underground tribal house. I loved it so much that I then decided to fully rebrand Francis Mercier with the afro, underground flavor that you hear today.
How have collaborations with esteemed acts like Diplo and Major Lazer shaped your music?
Working with these legends on Higher Ground, Mad Decent, and remixing their release “Koo Koo Fun” has empowered me to further my belief in global appeal for my music in the afro space. Seeing these widely famed electronic acts support my artistic profile helped widen my wings to keep producing and pushing my sound.
What was your experience working with brands like Disney and Porsche?
This was during the nascent stages of my career. I had a couple of syncs with these brands and such achievements were very motivating to keep producing music.
Can you share a memorable highlight from your performances at the Maxim Grand Prix Party, and your debut at Coachella?
Yes, at the Maxim Grand Prix Party, I invited Kiesza as my special guest. She sang our collaboration “Egyptian Sun” on stage - it was an exciting moment as she is a huge name in Canada. For Coachella, just playing the festival was an enormous highlight for me. To have played three sets (Yuma twice and Heineken House) during my first time there, I am very grateful still to this day.
How did you get invited by Diplo to play at Higher Ground?
Wes and I connected over Instagram when he started playing my release “Premier Gaou” – we kept chatting, he signed Kamili, and as our rapport strengthened over time, he asked me to perform for his Higher Ground parties.
Francis Mercier & the lead singer of Magic System, A'salfo
What has been your favorite moment from your 2023 summer tour?
My performance at Harbor Waterfront in Beirut. I had a nighttime headline show, and it went all the way to 7 a.m. for a special sunrise set. Everyone in the crowd and backstage behind me was so welcoming that it instead felt like one big family function.
What inspired your releases, "Egyptian Sun" and "Strangers (Do You Remember)"?
I wrote Egyptian Sun during the Covid lockdown. At the time, I had never been to Egypt, so I wanted to make a song that made me feel like I was gracing the pyramids and beautiful Egyptian sun and skies. For Strangers (Do You Remember) I was inspired by the different instrumentation that resembles the sound of the summer - warm guitars, sunny percussion, emotive pads, and more.
Are there any artists you dream of collaborating with?
Yes, I would love to collaborate on an original composition with Fatoumata Diawara. I love her voice, vibe, and songwriting capabilities. I believe we could create something very special together.
What upcoming projects or performances can your fans look forward to?
I still cannot fully process it is happening, but the legendary Manu Chao has approved my remix for his hit “Bongo Bong” from 1998. Manu Chao is amongst the ranks of Michael Jackson in my books, so this is a major blessing and gift for my career.
If you weren't a DJ and music producer, what is another career path might you have chosen and why?
I would have most likely been a mathematician or economist, following my studies at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. While studying at Brown, I discovered my talent and passion for DJing and electronic music when I would travel to NYC on the weekends.
What advice do you have for aspiring DJs and producers?
Create the type of music that you love the most, as opposed to focusing on following trends. Good music will always be valued as good music, so if your heart and soul are fully channeled into creating the music you make, that passion will be inevitably followed by success and fortune, with time.
As you reflect on your career so far, what do you hope your musical legacy will be?
I hope my musical legacy will be someone who brought together artists and ethnicities from all corners of the world – an artist whose music traveled across as many cultural barriers as possible; to uplift daily life for as many people as possible around the globe through the means of my music.