Tipped for the top: Hitchin’s Alex Francis looks forward to ‘coming home’ ahead of his much-awaited Club 85 gig

Alex Francis is coming home to Hitchin for his Club 85 gig on Friday.

Alex Francis is coming home to Hitchin for his Club 85 gig on Friday. - Credit: Archant

A talented musician involved in Hitchin community campaigns including saving Top Field from property developers is back in town to play live at an iconic venue on Friday.

Former Hitchin Boys’ School student Alex Francis – tipped by many music experts to hit the big time soon – is playing at the town’s seminal music venue Club 85 from 7.45pm.

Alex is proud of his roots in the town which has seen him play live on the day of Hitchin Town FC’s march to Save Top Field in December 2014, the Christmas lights switch-on and wowing crowds with a live set at Street Food Monthly in Market Place.

The talented older brother of James Bay – he’s 27 and the singer of Hold Back The River is 26 – has been busy writing and honing his craft, as music industry insider talk on him is increasing by the day.

Alex, who used to work at Waitrose in Bedford Road, has been paying his dues playing live gigs since he was an A-level student at the boys’ school, playing in a band called Shakey Jake. The band, which also featured brother James for one show, played many pub gigs at The Victoria in Ickleford Road, The Red Hart in Bucklersbury, and Molly Malones in Nightingale Road.

Speaking to the Comet ahead of Friday’s gig at Club 85, Alex said: “My parents moved to Hitchin when I was two around the Old Hale Way part of town. Hitchin’s a special town. I’m proud to tell people I come from there. The place means a hell of a lot to me.

“My mum’s my biggest fan – and biggest critic – and she’ll let me know what she thinks.”

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After doing his A-levels, Alex moved to Brighton to attend Sussex University’s music academy, where he honed his songwriting craft.

“I’m just completely obsessed by music that moves you,” he said.

“Music which sends a shiver down your spine. I try and make my songs relevant. Most of them tend to be about people.

“If you were to give it a bracket it would be soulful. I’ve also just returned from Nashville in the US, which was amazing.

“I’m not competing with anyone. My brother’s really cool, he’s really proud of me as I am of him. We have a brotherly connection.

“My management have also been great and have a wealth of experience. We are hopeful of a possible announcement soon. We’ve also got plans to release an EP in January.”

With live venues around the country under threat, Alex praised Bob Mardon and Club 85. “There’s a lot of ‘disposable’ music which is fine but venues like Club 85 are vital to good music. I have huge respect for Bob. He’s a bit of a genius, and we should be proud we’ve got such an important place in Hitchin. I can’t wait to play there.”

When Alex was younger he and some friends helped start a petition that appeared in the Comet a few years ago to get a skate park built at King George’s Park in Old Hale Way. Alex jokes: “It was my first experience of the media! I’m glad I may have played a small part in getting the skate park built.

“I’m a big fan of the Comet, I always read it when I’m back.”

With a fair wind we’ll be covering Alex when he reaches the top end of the charts one day soon.

Alex Francis, live at Club 85, Whinbush Road, Hitchin. Friday, from 7.45pm. Tickets £10. Visit www.wegottickets.com/event/375468 for more.

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