She’s sort of sprung up of nowhere like a fresh daisy with a wavy red mane.
Equipped with a voice that can make your heart weep, several accolades including a nomination for BBC Sound of 2016, an album in the works and a record label backing her with some ferocious marketing, it’s no surprise Berkshire singer songwriter Frances is suddenly finding herself fast rising.
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Since the release of her debut single "Grow", the songstress with a knack for sincere yet cutting lyrics has been (not so) slowly and very surely winning over a dedicated fanbase of ballad lovers. Having already played huge festivals such as SXSW and Coachella (even without yet an album released), Frances demonstrated her obvious comfort on stage along with her ability to captivate any number of audiences at her recent showcase in Singapore.
sharp, honeyed vocals will likely earn her comparisons to the R&B-borrowing pop of fellow Brits Adele & Sam Smith
Though no doubt an extraordinary talent, it must be mentioned how Frances is uncannily similar to her English counterparts, as though the direction of her sound and image was intentionally crafted to fit the template of her already successful predecessors. Nonetheless, the world over is singing praises of this young talent, and she's one to keep on your radars.
Warm, candid, and a lot more spritely than anybody else we've ever encountered — especially someone with only four hours of sleep after enduring a near 16-hour transit in the last 48 hours — Frances spoke to us at the Concord Hotel about her whirlwind of a musical journey thus far.
How are you?
Good! How are you?
Good, thanks. Did you just get in?
You were just playing the Wild Life Festival something like 3 days ago?
Yeah! I don't even know what day it is. It's crazy.
And is this your first time in Southeast Asia?
Yes it is! I haven't seen anything yet but I do have a lovely view from my room. I'm on like the 24th floor or something.
Shall we start off with musical influences? You've been writing songs since you were, what 15?
12 actually! But I was very rubbish back then.
Got to start somewhere. Who were some big musical influences growing up?
Carole King was a big one for me. But when I was really young, I would just listen to pop — the Spice Girls, S-Club 7, I was obsessed!
When I started growing up a bit, I started listening more to what my parents were listening to, like Carole King. And my mum listened to a lot of Motown and my dad was really into Radiohead and Coldplay. So loads of different stuff.
And now? Still listening to similar stuff?
Yeah! I'm quite a big re-player. So I always like to replay old stuff that I love.
I wept like a baby when I watched your music video for 'Don't Worry About Me'
Yeah, the lyrics felt so sincere, it was absolutely heart-breaking. Could you tell us the inspiration behind the song?
Basically somebody close to me was really unwell, and I wanted to write a song which said for them to not worry about me, and just for them to think about themselves. To say that it was my turn for me to be strong for them.
Yeah, I wrote it within like half an hour, it was really weird because that never really happens! I literally just had the thought, I might have even texted it. And then I was walking off the bus and I went "Oh! That would be quite nice for a song... it sings quite nicely," and then I got back (home) and I had like an hour before I had to go somewhere else, and I just really quickly wrote it out.
And the music video? How was that conceptualized?
We actually did a video before the current one, which was kind of me just performing the song. But it didn't feel right.
It was good and everything, but it didn't feel like it had the same emotional impact as the song. So I told them "I'm sorry! I don't like it, we have to redo it." Which I'm so glad we did because it was just much more emotional. I mean, you cried!
Yes I did. Can we expect more of such songs from your upcoming album?
Yeah! But I mean, I could have quite happily written an album full of ballads. But I didn't want to do that because I wanted to put some more up tempo songs on there because I think it gives the ballads more room, makes them feel more special, like a quiet moment. So there is quite a nice balance of a few up tempo tunes, but there are definitely some more heartbreakers.
Are there any songs that you're particularly proud of that we can look out for?
There's one called 'The Last Word', which was another quick one. Weird. The quick ones always seem to be the best ones. When you're taking ages writing a song you think "Ugh! It's never gonna turn out good," because it's taken two hours or whatever.
Two hours is long for you?
Well...yeah. Or if you're over thinking something, it's probably not right? I'll probably change my mind within a year but (laughs). Yeah, 'The Last Word', I'm pretty proud of that one.
How was touring with James Bay? Any weird warm up rituals you could tell us about?
Really cool! It was amazing. Him and his band do like a big quite kind of laddy football type chant thing before they go on stage. I never quite heard what they were actually saying, but they kind of jump around and get themselves sort of hyped up. Which was just really funny. It was so fun, especially because the set is so energetic. But yeah anyway, he's amazing!
Is that a "J" on your necklace?
Oh it is a "J"! Yeah.
Why a "J"? Why not an "F"?
Well. Oh no that's embarrassing I should have tucked that away! Because — oh this is so embarrassing — my boyfriend's called Jack. We've been together since we were like 15, and when we were 16 he gave me that, with a little J on it. I've just never taken it off!
That's so sweet!
But it's so yuck! So whenever people ask me about it, it's just so embarrassing.
With more and more singer songwriters with amazing voices emerging all over the world, what do you think differentiates your music from the rest?
I don't know! I don't know...I think it just comes very naturally I guess? And so, I wouldn't want to ever try and make it different. I just do whatever comes naturally to me, and if it works and people like it then that's amazing!
Even if people didn't like it, I'd probably still be writing similar songs anyway — just on my own, just for myself. So the fact that people are listening is great!
You collaborated with Disclosure's Howard Lawrence for the song 'Borrowed Time', how was that? Did you find it challenging to work with an electronic artist especially given that most of your songs are piano and vocals?
Yeah it was interesting, because although of course Disclosure is super electronic, Howard, who's the kind of writer of the two, he kind of plays piano, and we sort of wrote it in a more kind of stripped back way.
And he writes a lot like that, just on a piano. So it wasn't too far away, but it was really cool to just be in the studio with him because he's really great. Like when I'm singing, he'll be like "Oh change this change that, try this try that," and it's just really really cool.
I read that you were more or less unknown just a few years back...
Oh yeah. More like just a few of months ago (laughs)
Now you've got two EP's, several awards and nominations, and you've toured plenty. Looking back on the last few years, what has been one moment that you're particularly proud of, or look back upon with particular fondness?
Probably playing Coachella, which is a crazy huge festival in Palm Springs near LA. It's such a super famous festival, and I didn't expect to play it when I hadn't had an album out yet.
That wasn't your first time playing a festival was it? You played SXSW?
No, thank God! But Coachella was just so huge and just so amazing. That was a big one. The audience were great. I wasn't even expecting any one there to know the music, but there were definitely a few fans. Which was just really nice. But lots of new people too which was good.
So to end off, if you could say something to new listeners here in Singapore, how would you want them to approach your music? Anything you'd want to let them know?
I guess just that it's really honest music. And if you like the stuff that someone's actually singing the truth of what they feel.
Then they're for you? Or more like...
I'm for them. And they're for me!
Special thanks to Universal Music Singapore for setting up the interview.