It’s become tradition to invite the winner of Best Unsigned Artist at our annual Exposed Awards to take on the next In Session slot – and with just a number of weeks free until recording started on a new EP, the timing was perfect for rising talent Caroline Francess to step in and fill her boots. Meeting one sunny afternoon at Roco on Glossop Road, we got to know a bit more about what makes the Sheffield songstress tick.
First things first, kudos on being crowned Best Unsigned Artist at the recent Exposed Awards. How did that feel?
It was awesome! Last year I was nominated for it as well; just surrounded by all these amazing people just thinking ‘I’m never going to win’, and this year was the same because I’m a massive fan of bands like SHEAFS and Cellar Door Moon Crow. I just assumed that one of them would win.
How did it feel beating them to it?
Beating is such a horrible word! It was just a bit bizarre, and I was wondering how I managed it. But without sounding too cheesy, the fanbase I have are really, really supportive and I think that it just showed when they came out and voted.
So, for those not yet in the know, could you tell us a bit about your musical style?
It’s sort of powerful vocals mixed with melodic piano and now filled out with a band. We’ve got bass and drums in there to give in more of a fleshed out, dramatic feel. So it’s quite… er… musical-esque? I tend to focus on the lyrics and the vocals and then build around that with the instruments in a sort of way you would in a musical. I don’t really intend to do it that way, it just tends to happen.
And when did you decide to get a band together?
Back in August last year, our drummer came up to me at my headline gig and basically asked if I wanted a drummer, so I was like ‘Hell yeah!’ We started working together and both agreed we needed a bassist to keep it going. An old friend popped up when I asked around and it gradually came together.
You touched on the writing process. Is it a case of you writing the lyrics and piano, then the band work their magic on top of that?
Yeah, that’s it. Most of the songs are ones I’ve had written since 2009 or something! Then when we go to practice and flesh them out together. That’s the best thing about Dan and Adam, they just clicked straight away when we were jamming. They got the style of my music really well, which was a relief because I was a bit worried about that.
You’re still performing and reworking songs you wrote back at high school?
I started writing some songs on my first ever EP when I was about 14, and yeah, I’m still playing them now. Ever since then, I’ve just been determined to keep writing as many songs as possible. When I finished Sixth Form, I was like ‘What am I going to do with my life now?!’ – but I quickly decided to take a crack at being a singer.
Your music is often described as powerful. What makes a powerful song?
I tend to write about things most people go through life; I like to sing about things other people might feel they can’t express themselves. When I released ‘Ready, Aim, Fire’ that was about bullying and my personal experiences, and I did a lot of campaigning with charities about that. I got lots of lovely messages from people saying it’s made them feel they can talk about it and that they had someone to turn to. It was like a dream come true. When I was getting messages like those, I knew that this is what I wanted to do with my life!
Has the Sheffield music scene had a big impact on you?
The Sheffield music scene is unbelievable. It’s just the best place to start out, as there are just so many people looking out for each other. It’s been so important to me.
What’s the plan for the rest of the year?
I’m really excited because I’ve finally decided to do my next EP, which I’m hoping to record over June and July. Basically, I’m getting into the studio as soon as possible! They are songs that are already part of my set, but a couple of them are going to sound a bit different on the record.
Will you be playing a new track for your live session with Exposed?
I’ve got a new song which I’ve only played once in Manchester and once in Sheffield, so it’s quite a scary one because I’m still trying to judge what people think about it. It’s a very, very emotional song. But I think I’m going to play that because it’s a fresh one. It’s called ‘Can You Tell?’.
Let’s have some quick-fire questions to finish off. Number one: what’s your favourite place in Sheffield to go for a drink?
Ah, it’s got to be the Washington!
Any guilty music pleasures?
Well, I’ve mentioned musicals before – but I wouldn’t call them a guilty pleasure because musicals are amazing. There are certain ones which are a bit embarrassing, but I love them all – Blood Brothers, Les Mis, you put any musical on and I’m hooked.
What’s one song that you wish you’d written?
‘Song to the Siren’ by Tim Buckley. It is like the most depressing song in the world, but it’s just so beautiful. He killed himself by overdosing with heroin after he wrote the song, and the song is about his relationship with heroin – so, yeah, that’s the kind of music I’m into!
Exposed In Session
An exclusive YouTube gig from some of the city’s finest musical exports, filmed live every month at The Greystones.
Filmed & directed by: Tristan Ayling www.rentonproductions.co.uk
Recorded & Mixed by: Big Sky Records www.bigskyrecords.co.uk
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