Introducing 21-year-old Frances, breaking hearts one track at a time.
Newbury’s got talent, who’d have thought it? 21-year-old songwriter Frances has emerged from the corner of Berkshire to charm us all with heartfelt tracks and slow R&B tinged hooks. After the wild success of her debut track “Grow”, Frances worked through all the usual milestones, setting blogs alight, drawing in the critics and releasing a full EP of the same name with the second, “Let It Out” having followed just today.
It’s hard not to focus on Frances’ age, although that’s probably the least interesting thing about her. Barely breaking into her twenties, she’s already penning songs as if she’s already spanned a lifetime. Is it wrong to be waiting to see what she can make in 10 years time, hoping there’s been a couple of heartbreaks in between? Sorry Frances, we mean that in the nicest way. We won’t be complaining if things stay the same though, vocals heavy with emotional aching and piano scale runs you wish you could sit down and play yourself with as much drama as you could muster. We caught up with our new kindred spirit to talk about crying in the bath (cute, right) and crossing the pond to the U.S.
It’s been a busy summer for you – performing at Wilderness and other festivals – how was that experience?
It was amazing. I’d never really performed at any festivals before, so it was a really special experience. Everyone is so happy and excited to hear new music! It was also great to be able to watch loads of other artists/bands perform that I admire, I get so inspired by live music so it was amazing to hear/watch so much of it over the summer. It made me very excited for next year’s festival season! It was also great to be able to hang out in my wellies for a few months – I felt right at home.
Being invited to support Sam Smith must have been a great moment for you… how did it come about? Had you met him previously?
It was a really great moment. It was very special to be invited to support him and was definitely the highlight of my summer/year so far! We’re part of the same management, so we’d met briefly at a few events beforehand, but it was so lovely to spend some more time with him at the show, he’s incredibly supportive and such a warm person.
Positive comparisons with Adele have been made and are to be expected, would you say she’s a big inspiration?
She’s a huge inspiration. I listened to her album pretty much every day on my walk to school. I’m inspired by raw, beautifully honest music and hers is exactly that. It’s amazing how many people she has touched and continues to touch with her music, it just shows how truly honest songs just speak to people. To be compared to her is a huge compliment, I would love to move people like she does.
Following on from the previous question, who are your musical heroes?
Carole King is a huge hero of mine. The songs she’s written are some of the best we’ll ever hear in my opinion. For example, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” is an absolutely stunning song. You could read the lyrics alone and be so moved, everyone has felt like that at some point in their life. I also love Radiohead, Led Zeppelin and Bon Iver. My dad really shaped my ‘musical education’. He’d always get me to listen to stuff, ask me what I thought, what did I hear, and eventually asked me if I wanted to learn to play it! Queue the arrival of the piano and the Radiohead/Coldplay song books… I was probably about 10.
When did you first realise that writing and performing music was what you wanted to devote yourself to?
It was probably some point during secondary school. I found myself finding any opportunity to get into one of the music rooms we had and just play and sing until I literally had seconds to get to my next lesson. I just knew I didn’t want to do anything else. I’d pretend to be writing notes in lessons, but I’d be writing lyrics. Or I’d come up with a melody in my head, have to sneak to the toilet to record it on my phone, or if I couldn’t, I’d score out the melody using the lines in my notebook… That’s when being able to read music is handy, rest of the time it’s pretty redundant now!
Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process: do you sit down and work methodically or is it more of a spontaneous-inspiration kinda thing?
Most of the time it is very spontaneous. I can sit down and write a song, but it probably won’t be any good if I try too hard. The most honest songs come from when you just need to write them I think. Sometimes I’ll come up with a line of melody and the lyric for it all in one go. That usually becomes the chorus, then I’ll write the rest of the song around it. But a lot of the time I’ll write the piano part first, that might just be a little riff, or a set of chords, then I’ll sing random things over it that don’t make much sense… But they will eventually. (Hopefully)
Other musicians aside, is there anything else that especially inspires you?
People. I’m a huge people watcher. I find relationships fascinating and just love to watch human interaction. (Awkward if I get spotted staring though.) Also my life. The songs I write are all personal and I find there’s no better way to express something I’m feeling or something I’ve experienced than writing it down and creating something that I can share with others and hopefully make people happy with. I’m rubbish at talking about how I feel, I tend to laugh everything off and soldier on until I get home and sob into the bath water (jokes), but sometimes I do need to express things so songwriting is my way of doing that, always has been.
In what ways do you feel your sound has progressed or changed from Grow to Let It Out?
I think I’ve developed a bit as a producer, so it was fun to add some new sounds for Let It Out as I think the song could take a few more elements. However I wanted to keep Grow to just piano and vocal as I just wanted the lyrics and the sentiment to come across really clearly, especially as it was the first thing I put out. I think I’ll continue to develop as a musician the more music I make, but I’ll always make sure that the song is coming across, that’s the most important thing to me, and sometimes a song is best just voice and piano or voice and guitar, as nothing is getting in the way of the emotion in the song. I also think the world is so noisy nowadays, there’s so much overstimulation so just having a song so simple and natural can be a moment of calm amongst all the chaos!
What will be the next step for you?
I’m always writing, and there will be a debut album on the way for sure. So I’ll be in the studio towards the end of this year recording it which I’m so, so excited about! I’m also going on tour with James Bay in America in November. I’m such a huge fan of his and he’s such a lovely person so I’m massively looking forward to that. It’ll also be my first time in America so it’s going to be such a great experience, I feel so lucky!
Lastly, where do you see yourself in five years?
I would just love to be making music, working hard and touring around the world. That’s the dream. I’ll be 26 then too.. so I hope I’ll still be happy and madly in love with music. Aside from that, I’d love to have a dog (or 5). No seriously, just making music is what I’d love to be doing. And hopefully I would have released a couple of albums that will have made some people happy. That would be amazing. Here’s to the future!