For his last album, Francis Dunnery wrote what has proven to be a prophetic song, a pop nugget titled “I Believe I Can Change My World.” He has lived up to his words.
Since departing Atlantic Records after his highly regarded 1995 LP, “Tall Blonde Helicopter,” failed to take off commercially, Dunnery has taken matters into his own hands. He started a song publishing company, he’s putting together sheet music, he writes a weekly astrology column for Billboard Online, and he’s writing a book, which he describes as “kind of a construction worker’s guide to metaphysics.”
More importantly, he has pieced together his finest album to date, “Let’s Go Do What Happens,” out April 28 on Razor & Tie. Never is the former It Bites lead singer-guitarist’s positive outlook more apparent than on the first single, the consciousness-raising “My Own Reality,” dedicated to the late author Jane Roberts.
“Jane was an incredible girl who gave me information that changed my life,” the British-born Dunnery said recently from his New York apartment. “She was a medium in the ’60s; she was talking some shit and it was like she’d go into these trance situations and say some really provocative things about the nature of reality. I understood what she meant. I completely got it, and it was like, ‘Oh, my god.’
“Basically, I learned that I create my own reality. Whatever you believe about yourself, you’ll get what you expect to get in life, period. If you expect to get misery, you’ll get it. If you expect to get happiness, you’ll get it. You’re running the ship.”
Roberts’ teachings helped Dunnery come to terms with his situation at Atlantic, where he felt he was going nowhere and nowhere fast. To him, “Tall Blonde Helicopter” – universally hailed by critics for its inspired, no-frills pop sound – suffered from benign neglect.
“I left Atlantic,” Dunnery said. “I was supposed to do another album for them, and I couldn’t deal with it. There was absolutely no attention being paid to my records, and so I had a choice: I could either sit back and feel sorry for myself or I could do something about it and take action. I basically looked around for a record company that was absolutely going to ship my records.”
To his credit, Dunnery shares the blame. He said he didn’t assume enough responsibility as well.
“When you get to the bottom of it,” he said, “I didn’t make sure it got played and I didn’t make sure that it was in shops. The artist has to make sure. I relied on my management at the time to do certain things, but if you want something done, do it yourself.”
Dunnery shopped around for another big-label deal, but he said he got the same sinking feeling that he would get lost on an overloaded artist roster. All the while, Razor & Tie presidents Cliff Chenfeld and Craig Balsam were showing up at Dunnery’s shows, proclaiming admiration for his work. Their persistence paid off.
“Those guys just love music,” Dunnery said. “They’re also very smart businessmen. I really like them, and they’re being incredibly supportive and they genuinely like the music.
“They don’t have the financial clout that Atlantic has, but Atlantic didn’t spend any money on me anyway, so it was a very logical decision. It’s part of my story and my life, and I’m very proud of the fact that I left (Atlantic). That’s a big thing for me. I didn’t sit around waiting, I walked. That’s basically what I want to portray to people, that they don’t have to take it, they can walk. It might be scary, but it’s worth it.”
Dunnery said he will do everything in his power to ensure “Let’s Go Do What Happens” succeeds.
“I think it’ll do great, I really do,” he said. “Like anything else, you’re going to have to work hard, keep on top of it and keep moving forward. I think I have some great songs, I think I’ve done a good job, and I’m telling the truth, and I believe me on that record, which is the way I felt about ‘Tall Blonde.’
“Basically, in this business, you need a hit single, and if you do, all things change. It’s that simple. The type of music I write, I think people genuinely appreciate it; I don’t think they’re throwing it away after two minutes. I get very supportive letters and e-mails from people who buy my music.”
Ironically, Atlantic is banking on Dunnery, too. He said he tried to win back the rights to “Tall Blonde Helicopter,” but he came away empty-handed.
“There were two or three people in the business, from record companies, who wanted to buy the rights to the record,” Dunnery said, “but Atlantic wouldn’t give it up. I called the president, who I like and he’s a really nice guy and I have a lot of respect for the guy, but I basically said, ‘Give me my record back. We’ll give you some money for it.’ His reply was: ‘Well, we’re planning on you being a successful artist and we want to keep it.’ It’s weird, man. Weird.”
BWF (before we forget): Go do what happens with Dunnery on the Web @ www.francisdunnery.com.
More updates: Celine Dion, Bob Dylan, Field Music, Rex Orange County, Everything But the Girl, etc