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International Star You Should Know: Singer Francesco Yates

Toronto singer Francesco Yates leaves an immediate impression with his style-defining Afro and a shockingly vibrant falsetto that has drawn the praises of Justin Timberlake (on Yates’ new single, “Call”) and made Pharrell Williams such a believer that he co-produced the 18-year-old’s debut for Atlantic.


At age 11, Yates enrolled in “rock camp” — around the time “School of Rock” was released. “That movie sent it overboard for me,” he said. He joined a band in high school, and a vocal coach helped pave the way to a deal with Chris Smith, manager of Nelly Furtado and JoJo.


Yates’ early recordings intrigued Pharrell, who used the teen’s guitar skills on “Gust of Wind.”


Yates will embark on his first tour this fall, opening for R&B singer SoMo. His untitled album, co-produced by Pharrell and Robin Hannibal, will be released later this year.


When Yates met with Pharrell, the youngster discussed his musical influences. “We (talked) about how I’m into Led Zeppelin,” said Yates, adding Michael Jackson, Prince and Queen to the list. Pharrell, he said, had one overarching suggestion: “He encouraged me to be myself.”

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