For fans of Carole King, Lucy Rose, Joni Mitchell
Singer-songwriter Francesca Louise has been calling London home for six years, but originally hails from the northwest region of the UK. Though, she finds peace in living on the outskirts of the city centre where there’s space, trees and parks, a contrast to the “bit overwhelming” nature of the city. “Country girl living the city life,” she laughs over a zoom call.
Louise decided to stay planted in London during this quarantine, not wanting to leave her flatmate alone, but assuring there’s many phone calls home, including virtual pub quizzes with her family.
Much like her new single out today, “Ride The Waters,” Louise is manifesting empowerment during the pandemic. Finding peace in her home whether it’s trying new recipes, attending her best friend’s zoom yoga sessions, watching Miranda Hart videos, reading Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, listening to Laura Marling, returning to her piano or ultimately participating in her favorite form of release, writing music.
“It’s still a therapy for me,” she admits. “It’s still where I find peace.”
An uncharacteristically upbeat song for Louise, “Ride The Waters,” is an anthem for anyone to be confident and independent. Starting with a light percussion and airy feeling, the verses crescendo with Louise’s voice into a poised, yet loud chorus, persistently building upon itself. The track has all the ingredients of a solid pop song, mastering the balance of what simple production and a “soft fuck you” can accomplish.
“It was a general rush of emotion and a feeling of what I have gone through up to the point I’d written the song, and I realized growing up that I thought I needed other people around me to succeed. I thought I needed other people to find myself and to be my own cheerleader. Then, I realized as time has gone on and I’ve grown up that-- I say that like I’m about 60, I’m not-- I’ve come to this epiphany of wow, I am my own boss. I can do this myself, and I will do this myself.”
Due to the current climate of the world, Louise hasn’t announced an official release date for her debut EP, “Melancholic Antidote,” but is planning on a summer release. For that reason, she wanted to release only two tracks before then and give them “time to settle and embed themselves” to her audience. The first she released in April. “Out of Sight (Out of Mind)” differs immensely from “Ride The Waters,” showing a very vulnerable reflection of Louise processing past thoughts and feelings. The arrangement gives a new dimension to Louise’s vocal ability and its power to evoke emotions.
“I essentially am not great at showing my feelings, extensively and intimately. I’m not very good at that. I’m good at giving that whole brush off the shoulder comment like, ‘Oh, I feel a bit crap today,’ that kind of thing. I’m not good at delving deep into my emotions, especially when it comes to intimacy and romanticism. This song was essentially my way of confessing my feelings and confessing how I felt about a particular person,” she laughs. “That person will never know who they are, but it was my kind of release. I had to get it out. It talks about how though I’m really independent, I’m fighting it with the idea of this intimacy and this connection that you can have with someone, and the insecurities of what if that person doesn’t feel the same way. I may keep you far away, but you’re not out of my mind. Like my therapy to block these emotions and block these feelings doesn’t work. Someone might be out of sight, but they’re never out of mind.”
The concept that musicians constantly reopen old wounds or that they even share their diary to the universe can be a bit mind-boggling. Ever think about that? Do you ever think about how Bonnie Rait would sing “I Can’t Make You Love Me” every night on tour? Joni Mitchell singing over and over again “A Case of You?” Or Adele having to soundcheck “When We Were Young?” To Louise, expressing her personal thoughts and feelings is in music is an intimacy that’s become imperative to her coping mechanism
“I’m far more open in my music than I am in conversation with someone through normal social context. I find it a lot easier to express through my songs than I do otherwise. I think that helps me a lot. Other people have it in other ways. Some people journal, some people go to a yoga mat and just let it all out that way. Some people call their mom and confess everything. But, reservations in my music, I don’t really come by it. I suppose when I’ve written a song, at the end of it, I sit back and look at the song and realize what was in, needed to come out. That’s really the way I channel everything.”
It doesn’t seem like there’s ever been a part in Louise’s life that didn’t orbit around music. Her mum is a classically trained pianist and passed on the torch to her. It wasn’t until she was a teenager that she participated in singing lessons and self-taught guitar, really shaping the way she writes her music.
“It’s helped me a lot in my songwriting because learning classically, you have to learn the theory of music. Without the theory of music, I don’t think I’d be writing the way I write. Some people use their ear. Some people use their knowledge of the instrument. Some people use both, and I use a little bit of both. I think if I was just writing by ear all the time, my music would sound different. Funnily enough with the guitar, I tend to write more by ear because I was never classically trained on the guitar. I just self-taught. I picked it up one day and really loved it. I do a little kind of Joni Mitchell-esque thing and go into all these different tunings and just play and feel whatever is happening and go with it really. With the piano, it’s different because I know the piano so well. The mapping of it is a more strategic writing session.”
Multiple influences are present in her writing. You can hear her father’s taste of british pop music and The Eagles in those bench key changes and her mother’s love of Carole King in those effortless, yet hefty lyrics. “Tapestry was in my ears every day of my life,” she jokes. Her own love of musicals, particularly Sound of Music, can be heard in the harmonies of her songs. “I always wanted to be Fraulein Maria. Still could go on the hills somewhere and sing the ‘Hills are Alive,’ but I don’t think it would have the same effect.” Not to mention there was a lot of Celine Dion, Avril Lavigne, Joni Mitchell and James Taylor on the record player.
Her love for music hasn’t changed, and she knows she’s “so lucky” to do what she loves. With not having a planned agenda, many people are finding themselves in a state of reflection. Maybe life is too short and unpredictable for us to be stuck in careers we don’t love. Maybe we should go on that international trip. Maybe we should stop saving and planning for the future and live in the now. Maybe being happy is enough. What would Louise tell the younger version of herself?
“I would tell myself breathe for a minute. Don’t panic. Don’t rush. There’s time. Everything will work out, and you may not realize why in that very moment that something has happened, but time will tell you. You just kind of have to ride the wave. I was always an anxious person growing up, and to be honest, still am now. But as I’ve got older, I’ve learned how to keep myself in check and have taught myself to keep myself at a steadied pace and to just kind of take life as it comes as oppose to plan or forsee things. I think that’s part of the beauty of it, and part of the beauty of life is you do not know what’s around the corner. I would just tell myself hold on, everything does work out. Everything does happen for a reason, at least, that’s what my mum tells me anyway.”
There’s an ounce of comfort in knowing the population is experiencing a global pandemic of this scale for the first time together, making all emotions and experiences valid. For Louise, she hopes the pressure of branding is less prioritized for artists.
“I think a lot of the time, independent artists have the pressure to obviously make sure you're showing your brand and being representative of your brand and stuff when you do a live show before pre-COVID. I think going into this era of time with COVID, independent artists have no choice but to sit in your room and just go with what they’ve got. I think that it’s a really nice way for us independent artists to realize, you know what? No, fair enough you need a brand and have a consistency and need to have something to share and need to be able to offer something to your audience, but you’re just human like everyone else. Just be chill and be you. People are there for your music. They’re not there because you put your hair a certain way. None of that matters now, and I think that’s really refreshing.”