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Coming out as trans brings Francis Ponton musical freedom

November 2, 2018

Text by Ben Seal. Image by Cassi Segulin.

Francis Ponton started out writing EDM and dubstep, but over the past couple years he left that scene behind in favor of a jazz-infused, synth-focused style.

“I wanted to do more stuff that was active performing,” says Ponton, who writes and records everything at his house in North Philly. “DJing was really fun, but performance-wise, you have all your stuff premade and just hop behind the decks and stand there and mix. So now being able to do live stuff and sing feels a lot better.”

It helps, he says, that about a year ago he came out as trans, clarifying so much about himself and his music in the process. His lyrics were always sincere and addressed issues like mental illness, but they’re now anchored by his comfort with his gender and sexuality.

“I spent a lot of time in my teenage years not being able to be as open as I am now. That stunted relationships for me, not being able to communicate who I am in truth,” Ponton says. “To be able to do that now, and especially to put that in music … it’s exciting to be able to be open about it and not feel like I have anything to be afraid of.”

In the year since he self-released the five-song Condor EP as Overwinter, he’s added live instrumentation to his blend of R&B, dance and electronica, and he’s put together his first full-length album slated for release this fall.

“It’s got a weird fusion this time around,” Ponton says of Francis Winter, which will be released by South Philly’s Good How Are You Records. “It’s got some dancey stuff on it. Then it ranges all the way down to very ambient, mellow stuff you could hear playing in a smoky bar where people don’t want the music too loud.”

Ponton, 25, grew up playing everything from guitar, bass and drums to saxophone, violin and piano, and for the first time he’s incorporating some if it into his music, cracking into a closetful of instruments to fill out Overwinter’s sound.

Matty Klauser, co-founder of Good How Are You Records, says he’s noticed Ponton’s newfound confidence in himself and his music.

“I think coming to a better place in regards to his gender identity has helped define who he is and who he will become,” Klauser says. “At the same time, it’s who he has always been.”

Ponton has always been an instrumentals first, lyrics later kind of songwriter, and that hasn’t changed, but now he can come at it all unobstructed.

“To have that wall taken down in my everyday life allowed for any other kind of wall that might be up to be taken down when I’m writing music,” Ponton says. “It all came down at once, and I can be very open and upfront about anything.”

He wants people to connect with the new album and find something in it that they can identify with, even if it can be difficult to be so open.

“It’s something that’s helpful for me,” Ponton says. “At the end of the day, I’m going to talk about it, and if I have to do it in my music, then fine, I’ll do it in my music.”

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