Frances: "I’d eat baked beans every night and live in a shed for this"

Neu Frances: “I’d eat baked beans every night and live in a shed for this”

By geeking out on chart stats, this 22-year-old learnt how to become a star. Now she’s taking her first steps.

Frances makes heart-on-sleeve, affecting pop. It isn’t revolutionary, but her voice could pierce the most stubborn of surfaces, and when combined with stirring piano notes, out steps something different. It’s a talent you can’t teach. But as for the rest of the 22-year-old’s early career, she’s learnt everything from scratch.

When the reality hit that she wanted to become a songwriter for a living, Frances got down to business. “I studied the charts,” she declares, looking back on her late teens. “Anything that went top ten, I checked out who wrote it, who they were signed to.” Without being given the keys to success or having everything dished out on a silver spoon, she learnt the ropes herself. “I knew nothing. I didn’t come from a musical family, I didn’t know anyone in the industry. I had no clue what the whole thing was about. I just needed to do some work and gain a textbook understanding of how it works.”

She spent years following the work of songwriters who get credit behind the scenes without stepping into the spotlight. The inner-workings of today’s biggest hits are fascinating, pretty much the only aspect of music she’d fixate over. “I was never interested in the money thing - at all,” she states. “Being a songwriter? I’d do that for free. I’d eat baked beans every night and live in a shed for this.”

When did you get into production?

I fell into it. I didn’t really realise I was producing… Someone said to me ‘Should we get a producer in,’ and they told me we shouldn’t, because I was already doing it on my own. Without really realising. But I was dictating it. It’s a hands off producing role, because someone else is mixing. But I know what I want to hear and where I want things to sit. I just thought that’s what you do. I’m a bit of a control freak, maybe.

The thing I’m drawn to on ‘Grow’ is that you’re not surrounded by too much. That’s refreshing - not too much murky production.

I think it’s funny because I feel like I’m a songwriter first, singer later. Listening to music growing up, I wasn’t attracted to voices, I was attracted to songs. I always want the song to speak first. Not purposefully, but my way of doing that was to not put too much in a song. You need to make sure nothing’s getting in the way of a lyric that’s important.

Have you ever written for other people?

I’ve dabbled with it, and I love it. But then I was concentrating on stuff for me. I just love writing songs. It’s a different headspace, writing for someone else. But it’s a very free one. You see things through the eyes of the person you’re writing for. It’s me saying things I might not allow myself to say, and actually they apply so I end up using them.

What was it like being thrown into the Live Lounge situation?

Literally flung. Libertines pulled out. It was really last minute. I covered ‘What Do You Mean’, the Justin Bieber song. Adele did this amazing cover of ‘Promise This’ by Cheryl Cole, and I always remember thinking about going in the Live Lounge and doing an unexpected cover. Her version of that song is so incredible - you heard the song in a different way. I wanted to do that. When I heard the Justin Bieber song, I thought the lyrics were so frank and direct, but it was under this pop production. I became Bieber. Live Lounge was on the bucket list.

What else needs to be done?

I need to go to America. I’ve never been in my life, and I think I’m going to do some writing. I might just play Madison Square Garden when I’m there… And I’d like to release an album at some point. I’m ready. I’m raring to go. I’m just doing music all the time. I’ve been writing since I was twelve years old. That’s ten years of music to compress. It’s squished into one little album. It’s not finished yet, though.

Taken from the November 2015 issue of DIY, out now.

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Tags: Frances, Features, Interviews, Neu

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