Fran Smith is a singer, songwriter, musician, producer and activist from Yorkshire, UK.
Happily bucking the trend for bland boys with beige lyrics and acoustic guitars, Fran is an artist whose passion and individuality pours out of every line she sings. Her unashamedly northern voice has soul and bite, and teeters on that fine line between strength and vulnerability.
Fran exposes her life's dramas to us with disarming honesty and intimacy, teasing the darkness and beauty out of every heartbreak and love affair. Her lyrics are sensuous and direct; sometimes witty, sometimes erotic, and sometimes cosmic and other-worldly in the vein of Joanna Newsom, Bat For Lashes or Florence Welch.
A mesmerising solo performer, Fran was named a 'Live Music Highlight of the Year' by the BBC in 2014, and has toured with the likes of Martha Wainwright and punk-poet John Cooper Clarke.
She released her debut EP in 2013, which was subsequently championed by Steve Lamacq and BBC Introducing. All four tracks from the record received significant national radio play on BBC Radio 2, Radio 4 and Radio 6 Music, despite being self-released without a manager, record label or publicist.
Fran is an activist and campaigner for peace, social justice, feminism and the environment.
Fran will release her new single, Contours, on 23rd March 2016. It was written, performed and co-produced by Fran, and recorded in New York and London.
Contours demonstrates Fran’s rare gift for merging complex yet emotionally-resonant lyrics with moving and memorable melodies, and here they are beautifully enhanced and embroidered with daringly intricate arrangements. Fran’s warm and sultry vocals brood against a backdrop of soaring strings, glittering guitars and relentless, pulsing heartbeats. The track manages to sound both sweepingly cinematic and darkly intimate.
The track is a continuation and a furthering of Fran’s idiosyncratic, heart-on-sleeve approach to song-craft, which has been inspiring and moving an ever-growing number of devoted fans. Contours' sensual and evocative lyrics take inspiration from the late Yorkshire-born artists Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, whose curvy, abstract sculptures compare the human form with the shape of the landscape. Fran says, “I loved that concept - that a person could BE a landscape. I wanted to paint the picture of these two lovers in bed, navigating, exploring and conquering each other like a foreign country.”
But Contours’ rumbling, swelling bass and piano hint at an underlying tension. “It’s really a song about trust,” says Fran. “Physical intimacy and emotional honesty don’t always go hand-in-hand, and sometimes the person lying with you is also lying to you. Like the land, we change and shift; trust flourishes or it’s worn down over time.”
Contours was recorded on both sides of the Atlantic, and earned Fran her first producer credit. She stayed at the New York home of singer-songwriter Martha Wainwright, and spent some time in the studio with Wainwright’s producer/husband Brad Albetta. From their rather fraught Brooklyn sessions emerged an early demo version of Contours, already brimming with potential.
Fran returned to the UK, where she developed and finessed the track with co-producer Andy Page, a talented programmer whose previous collaborators include Pharrell Williams, Alanis Morissette and Hans Zimmer. "Mixing can feel a little bit like sculpting - we spent ages thinking about how we could create texture and shape and depth."
Rob Moose – a virtuoso violinist known for his work with Antony and the Johnsons, Bon Iver, St. Vincent, Joanna Newsom and The National – contributed expansive, atmospheric string parts to Contours’ intricate and inventive soundscape, bathing Fran's vocals in ambience.
Contours will be self-released on 23rd March 2016, with a music video to follow, and original artwork by photographer Ben Hodges.