"I can't stop it sometimes," deFrance tells Billboard about his prolific nature. "It's like tuning into a radio; I feel like a receiver sometimes. I don't give myself credit for being a creative spirit because a lot of times I feel like I just hear the stuff and it comes together. I'm lucky that way."
DeFrance notes that an aborted label deal that tied him up for several years after the release of the band's 2015 debut Home gave him time to build up a stockpile of material. "We were working with them for four years and nothing ever happened with it," says deFrance, who declines to identify the label. "We were kind of in limbo there for awhile, and there was nothing else to do but make some more music, really."
While No Longer a Stranger retains the "straight ahead rock" of 2019's Second Wind, deFrance veers in a more country and Americana direction in terms of instrumentation and song styles. "I wanted to be like Tom Petty's Wildflowers mixed with Phil Spector's Wall of Sound," explains deFrance, whose audio engineering background includes a tenure at Willie Nelson's Arlen Studios. DeFrance recorded the new and future albums at Wolfman Studios in Little Rock, Ark. with owner Jason Tedford engineering and keyboardist Joseph Fuller helping to flesh out the sound. "Me and the other guys laid down the basics of the tracks and then me and Joe went into full production mode, added a bunch of strings and horns." Neil Jones of American Aquarium contributes pedal steel.
"Hopefully it reaches an audience we're looking for," deFrance says, "which is a rock 'n' roll-loving, songwriting-loving, Americana-loving audience."
The video for "Lights Down Low" -- a song that recalls the Band's jaunty take on Bruce Springsteen's "Atlantic City" -- was directed by Sharpe Dunaway and features deFrance playing a character at home alone, "waiting for his love to come home." It was filmed a few weeks before the novel coronavirus pandemic's arrival in the U.S. sent the populace into quarantine, but since then it's taken on an unintended but eerily poignant quality.
"The whole isolating thing that's going on in there is perfect for now," deFrance. "There's a little uncertainty if she's ever coming home or if he'll ever see her again. And now everybody's alone, or maybe with another person or just their family. We just did it like this because we're kind of low-budget at this point."
DeFrance doesn't have a timetable yet for the future albums, but promises they'll each offer their own musical directions for the band to follow. "The next one is more keyboard oriented with different synthesizers -- kind of like blues space rock. And the other ones are different from that. It wouldn't be any fun if they all sounded the same.”