Firing up, Frances

Name and location? Sophie Frances Cooke, London.

Profession? Artist/singer and songwriter.

First instrument? Violin (piano now).

First song you penned? Unbreakable when I was 13.

Age you realised you wanted to be an artist? 18, previously just wanted to be a songwriter.

What did your parents say about that? Very encouraging, if a little nervous I’m sure!

A song you wish you’d written, why? Firework by Katy Perry. It’s uplifting and empowering but without being cheesy. A hard balance to strike.

Favourite place to write? At home when no one else is in the house.

Name dropping (people you’ve worked with/supported)? Sam Smith, James Bay, Disclosure, Greg Kurstin, Linda Perry, Jimmy Napes.

Who are you listening to now and why? New Radiohead album, Liv Dawson, Drake, The Chainsmokers, Honne, all sorts! I love keeping up to date with new music, but at the same time I always go back to my old favourites.

What you wish you’d known from the start? As an artist you also have to be a PR expert, model, fashionista, social media guru and serious business person.

Upcoming gigs/projects? Debut album, summer full of festivals including Glastonbury, Bestival, T in the Park, Latitude, Longitude, Festival No.6 and others in Europe and the US.

iSing: You’re a multi instrumentalist, so why singing?

Frances: I love playing music, but singing is a way to communicate with words and share things with complete strangers. It’s empowering and beautiful all at the same time.

iSing: First singer/songwriter you noticed, and what about them attracted you?

F: Carole King. The songs attracted me first. Her voice is beautiful and an amazing means of delivering her incredible songs. But it’s the songs that really attracted me. To be able to sum up how so many people in the world have felt is just amazing.

iSing: Which five music industry people (alive or dead) would you like at your “ideal” dinner party and why?

F: Michael Jackson, Carole King, Rick Rubin, Chris Martin and Bjork. The talent around the table would be outrageous, and they’re all not just great artists but producers, songwriters and icons.

iSing: You are rumoured to have perfect pitch. How does this help, and hinder you as a musician, singer and songwriter?

F: It helps sometimes because if I hear something in my head, I know what the notes are so I can write songs very quickly if I want to. I can write hooks in my head and immediately sing them into the mic without having to experiment using my voice (saves my voice working too hard). But at the same time, it can be frustrating always knowing exactly what sound is going to come out when I press notes on the piano. I’d like to be surprised sometimes as I feel like it could make my writing better and open me up to combinations I may not have thought of. Sometimes I shut my eyes and play, or try writing on a different instrument that I’m not as familiar with. 

iSing: How did your signing with Capitol come about?

F: We were meeting a few different labels, but I knew the team from Capitol were perfect for me. Their dreams matched mine, they were so passionate but at the same time they were not at all afraid to tell me where I could improve and how they might challenge me. That’s what really sold them to me because I just want to be pushed and challenged and so far they’re doing pretty well at that.

iSing: How did your artist name “Frances” come about?

F: It’s my middle name. I felt like not being “Sophie” on stage could help me separate my artistic life from my home life. It’s working so far.

iSing: You’ve been supporting such great artists such as Sam Smith, James Bay and working with people like Disclosure. How have these experiences helped you in your development as an artist so far?

F: They’ve been amazing. It’s really inspiring to meet artists who are further ahead in their careers. They’re very inspiring and make you realise that things really are possible if you work hard enough.

iSing: What surprises you about the music industry to date?

F: The amount that an artist has to do as well as singing and writing – interviews, press shoots, showcases, meeting fans, signing, negotiating and essentially being the boss/final voice of a 20 to 30 person team. I wasn’t quite prepared for that, but I’m loving it.

Grow – Frances

iSing: What annoys you?

F: There are “annoying” parts to every job I’m sure. But if I ever feel annoyed I just have to remember that I’m getting to do my hobby/passion every day of my life, and for that I’m incredibly lucky.

iSing: What role does vocal care and technique have in your singing?

F: It plays a huge role. I have a vocal lesson once a week when possible, and I try to exercise my voice around that as much as possible too. It can be hard to fit it in sometimes but even 10 to 15 minutes here and there feels beneficial to me.

iSing: Do you have any specific vocal exercises that work well for you?

F: I use a small straw pretty much every day. Even if I’m not singing, I feel like it gets my voice ready for a day of talking or even just singing round the house or laughing which I do a lot of.

iSing: You attended the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, what are the pros and cons of taking a formal educational route as a music artist?

F: Those kinds of schools are great, and I loved my time at mine. But you really get out what you put in. It’s all about being around like minded people and just throwing yourself into as many musical experiences as possible. One con I can think of is that some people can feel like they’re going to walk out with a record deal, or like an opportunity is going to arrive on their doorstep one day. I worked out fairly quickly that that wasn’t the case, and made a promise to myself that I would be a signed writer and artist before I left so that I didn’t have the graduation scare I’d seen my peers have. So I signed to Capitol and Universal Publishing during the first term of my third year. I’m not entirely sure how, but I did everything I could including writing until 3am or 4am a lot of nights. I believe you create your own luck.

iSing: Do you think artists should get training of any kind? What kind of training in particular?

F: I think vocal training is very important – you have got to keep that voice healthy and happy. Media training is also pretty important. Just understanding how to avoid a tricky or intrusive question whilst still remaining polite and charming.

iSing: Live versus recording, which do you prefer and why?

F: Recording. I love performing live, but the studio is my habitat. Creating music is just so special.

iSing: You recently played Coachella, what did you enjoy about it? Any surprises?

F: The atmosphere was amazing with beautiful surroundings and amazing artists. The conditions were pretty harsh on the voice though. It’s in the desert so you’re constantly moving between 35 degree heat and then your lovely air conditioned dressing room. Add to that the dryness and dust in the air, especially when the wind picks up. So that was certainly a challenge.

iSing: You are very involved with producing your music. Tell us what aspects in particular you like to control and why.

F: I generally write every part that’s played on my records. Guitar lines, bass parts, drum patterns and obviously the piano and vocal parts. I have a lot of say on the mixing as well, I’m a little nerd underneath it all. That’s not to say that I’m averse to other people’s ideas at all though. I love collaboration and I’ve collaborated a lot on my debut album, both in terms of writing and the production.

iSing: Tell us about your song Don’t Worry About Me. Who did you write it for and why?

F: The song is about someone close to me who was unwell, and me wanting to tell them to not worry about me and to concentrate on themselves because it’s my turn to be strong for them.

DON’T WORRY ABOUT ME – FRANCES

iSing: What advice would you give someone who wanted to become a signed artist today?

F: You just have to work really hard and keep at it. If you’re good enough then someone will sign you at some point, even if it takes a few years. And in the meantime there is nothing stopping you from releasing independently and getting things going on your own.

iSing: What is your overall goal as an artist?

F: I’ve always just wanted to move people with my songs and to make people feel something, the more people that hear my songs the better. To share my music and give back to an industry that has provided me with so much joy would be just wonderful.

iSing: What’s next for Frances?

F: Lots of festivals over the summer and then my debut album towards the end of the year. So lots of travelling and experiencing lots of new things. It’s an exciting time!

Website: frances.com


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