22-year-old Indiana native goes from dropping out of college with 13 credits left to headlining his first tour
For four to five years, Christian French was posting acoustic covers he recorded as voice memos on his iPhone onto Soundcloud. Fast forward to last year, when he dropped out of Indiana University after being invited to open for EDM producer Chelsea Cutler on her “Sleeping With Roses Tour.” Now, this fall, 22-year-old French is headlining his first tour, “bright side of the moon,” that began on Sept. 4 in Ann Arbor, Mich.
French’s music falls under the alt-pop genre. His debut single, “Fall for You,” with producer Triegy, charted on the United States Viral 50 Chart on Spotify. Other singles include “love ride,” “superstars,” “sweet home” and “hearts of gold.” French recently released an EP with six songs, serving as the inspiration for his tour.
French explained that although he wasn’t exposed to playing music at a very young age, his mom would rotate CDs from artists such as John Mayer, Eric Clapton, the Eagles and Fitz and the Tantrums. He became interested in percussion between the ages of 10 to 12 before joining band and choir in middle school, where he fell in love with playing piano and singing. Although he began to play more covers after learning songs on YouTube, French said his biggest musical inspiration was John Mayer.
“I’ve been listening to literally every single one of [John Mayer’s] albums for my entire life,” French said. “‘Room for Squares’ and ‘Heavier Things’ and ‘Continuum’ were the three albums that were just always playing. And so I just got really, really into him at a young age, and he’s still around — he’s still releasing incredible music, and it’s really cool to see his transformation and his growth throughout his career. I think he’s incredible all around.”
French has grown tremendously within the last year, from opening for Cutler and Quinn XCII to headlining his own tour.
“I’ve been performing for about a year now, and it’s pretty much only been opening slot shows — 30-45 minute shows — so this is the first time that I’m getting to play a lot of the songs that didn’t make the cut the first time around or two,” French said.” “It’s just a whole new experience. We’re playing with a drummer this time, we’re just getting to do what we want this time instead of being told what we can and can’t do, and it’s just opened so many doors […] I’m just so amped about it — there’s just so many things that we’ve never been able to do in a performance that we’re able to do for this tour.”
But before going on tours and recently moving to Los Angeles a few months ago, French had lived in Fishers, Ind. his whole life and was enrolled at Indiana University.
“So I went to Indiana University and I was studying human biology because I wanted to be a doctor when I got to school,” French said. “As college went on, I just kept getting more and more into music to the point of kind of daydreaming about it all day in class […] At the end of my junior year, I got connected to Chelsea Cutler and we started texting a little bit. One night, I just got a text from her that was like, ‘Yo, how would you feel about opening for me on this next tour that I’m going on.’ And so I could not turn that down — I had been trying to do some shows for a while, but I had wanted to kind of be an opener before.”
French explained that while he weighed the option of going on tour versus finishing his college education, he couldn’t turn down touring with Cutler, who is also a 22-year-old who got her break while she was an undergrad at Amherst College.
“Chelsea was literally the number one person on my list that I wanted to open for, and getting that text was just the most exciting thing ever,” French said. “It was at a really weird time — I think a week or two of school left — and it was all just kind of an idea at first, there was no confirmation. So I left school that year not knowing if I was coming back or not. But it ended up working out — I’m very thankful for that.”
French also said that his parents were supportive of his decision, “they knew what I wanted to do — they were totally behind it, always with it and they made the decision easy,” he said.
“It was a tough decision but it was also a no-brainer for me because I had decided that music was what I wanted to do with my life,” he said. “And to not go on tour with someone I think is a phenomenal artist that is in the same demographic as me […] it was just the perfect tour to go on.”
French admitted, however, that going on tour and moving to California had made it more difficult to maintain his friendships back in Indiana.
“Moving out here has been really tough on my friendships back home,” French said. “I try to FaceTime them and talk to them as much as I can, but it sucks sometimes seeing them all hanging out during the summer and … missing out on a lot of that stuff. But, obviously, I’m out here doing what I love, so I can’t be mad about that. And one of my best friends from Indiana just moved out here to be helping out with the team — he’s going on tour with me and selling merch — it’s really cool that I’ve gotten to involve my friends in it as well.”
Along with staying in touch with friends in Indiana and being able to have one of his best friends tour with him, French talked about how important being aware of his mental health has been.
“I’ve been kind of really into self help and staying on top of my mental health because it’s just the most important thing, whether you’re doing music or not,” French said. “So I’ve been really, really focused on my emotions and being aware of all that stuff, and it’s helped me tremendously. I’d say I’ve grown more this past year than my entire life, and I’m really happy the way things are going. I feel like I’m interested in the right things, and some things that will last a long time.”
“bright side of the moon” was a concept that French contemplated for some time, writing out what the idea meant in a journal. He explained that while some songs take a few weeks to complete, other songs, such as “call me your love,” were written years before being released. The “bright side of the moon” EP consists of six songs, and was the inspiration for French’s tour.
“bright side of the moon is mostly about how much negative shit there is in this world that you could focus on, but instead of just feeding negative energy, just focus on the bright side of things,” French said. “Finding the positives in every situation has just helped me so much — on tour, it’s really easy to get hung up on some stupid little stuff that could ruin your day and make you not be in the mood for a good show, but tour just kind of forces you out of that mood. I mean, you can’t go on stage and be like a sour dude on stage — you gotta be in the mood. So tour kind of helped me focus on the positives and keep my head above the water.”
In terms of what’s next for the rising artist, French explained that he’s taking it day by day, setting goals but also knowing that he doesn’t want to compare himself to other artists.
“I have goals, but I’m trying not to be so set on them to the point where if I’m not at this exact spot, I’m going to freak out — I’m trying to keep it very free-flowing,” French said. “My goal is just to do the very best that I can every single day. Every artist has their own kind of journey to just navigating the music world, and I’ve been trying not to be hung up on the progress of other artists.”
Being a newer artist himself, French knows what it’s like to just start out and become acclimated to a music career.
“It takes time to get to where you want to be, it takes patience,” French said. “It sounds cliche, but it’s true. Just finding your message, what you want to say in your own unique way and bringing it to the world is what’s most important. There’s a lot of people that can piece together a song that is fabricated, but it comes down to whether you have something meaningful to say that people will latch onto.”
In terms of his own music, French is optimistic and wants to continue writing music that positively affects his audience.
“I just hope to continue to build this fanbase so I can continue to tour and continue to spread a positive message because that’s kind of my mission at this point,” French said. “It’s a pretty dark time going on in this world, and a lot of artists are honing in on that darkness and writing music about that — which is great — but my goal is to just find the happiness and find the positives and start a movement to get back to healthy minds. That’s really my goal — if I’m helping anybody, that’s all I can really ask for.”
French will perform at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco on Oct. 1. Tickets can be found on French’s website.
Written by: Kaelyn Tuermer-Lee — firstname.lastname@example.org