Francesca May Comes Home
Hi Francesca, thanks so much for agreeing to do a Q & A interview for Gigmann.com.
- What’s your full name?
Francesca May Greenwood
- How old are you?
I’m 18 (will be 19 in September)
- Where on the Island are you from?
I grew up in Ramsey.
Since moving to Liverpool, I really became aware of Manx Culture and the way it’s influenced me and my music, and it helped me discover the kind of music I enjoy writing.
- How long have you been playing music and what inspired you to start?
I started out in music with Mike Boultons folk group when I was in primary school. I played the penny whistle, and then moved onto the Northumbrian Smallpipes. I quickly realised I had a passion for music and began to learn the piano soon after. My first encounter with pop music was when I performed at ‘Rock School’, where young musicians from the Isle of Man were put into bands and after a weeklong workshop we had to perform to an audience. That was my first ever gig! After that, I knew I wanted a career in music.
- How long have you been songwriting for?
I have been writing songs for 7 years. I wrote my first song at age 11, just before ‘Rock School’. It wasn’t that great of a song, I mean, who can write a good song first try when they’re 11! But it will always be the first song I ever wrote – and I’ll always be proud of it.
- At what point in your life did you realise you could sing and how did people initially react this?
I’ve always enjoyed singing – I used to compete in the local competition Yn Chruinnaght and performed at the Shennaghys Jiu when I was younger. As I grew older and started writing songs, I began to work on my singing techniques and really started to take my singing seriously. I’ve always had so many people supporting me – especially my family and friends. At such a young age it’s quite hard to make people listen to you, as a lot of people think that you can’t be good because you’re young, which is completely untrue. There’s so much talent everywhere you look, from age 1 to age 100.
The Isle of Man is a great place to nurture your skills, especially in the arts. There are so many opportunities. I love that the community is always ready to support local talent too.
I started out in music with Mike Boultons folk group when I was in primary school. I played the penny whistle, and then moved onto the Northumbrian Smallpipes. I quickly realised I had a passion for music and began to learn the piano soon after.
- How would you categorise your music?
I would say that my music is folk-pop. My background in folk music is quite prominent in the songs I write, especially recently. It’s only been within the past year or so I’ve really begun to find my ‘sound’. Before that, I was writing songs in all different genres, and didn’t really like anything that I’d written. Since moving to Liverpool, I really became aware of Manx Culture and the way it’s influenced me and my music, and it helped me discover the kind of music I enjoy writing.
- What artists influence you? We hear artists like Sarah Mclachlan, Laura Marling and a bit of Embrace in there too.
I am influenced by so many different artists, in so many different ways. My main influences currently are Carole King and Radical Face. Their lyrics and writing styles are so unique and inspiring – and I love how different they are. Some other artists I love are Katie Tunstall and Marc Scibilia.
Grab every single opportunity you can.
- Tell us about your time spent at Paul McCartney’s music academy, LIPA (Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts)…how did you develop as an artist over the time spent there?
I had the most incredible two years at LIPA. Moving away at such a young age (I’d just turned 17) was such a massive step, but it was worth it. I grew so much as a person during my time in Liverpool, and because it’s so different to the Isle of Man, I was learning and adapting all the time – not just as a musician, but as a person.
Before I went to LIPA, I had never really performed in front of people that much. But whilst studying, I learnt so many different performance techniques as well as important factors such as marketing and promotion, sound recording, and music business. I learnt absolutely everything you need to know about a career in the music industry.
- What is the one, single most important lesson you have learnt from LIPA about entering the music industry? If you could give someone starting there some advice, what would it be?
Grab every single opportunity you can. In the beginning, I missed out on so much because I was so shy. If I could go back I would tell myself to do absolutely everything I can. When I started LIPA, I had in my head that I wanted to write songs for other people. Over the course of two years, that completely changed. I’d say to anyone starting out at LIPA, you might think you know what you want for the future, but you will learn so many new things that you may completely change paths. I had friends going into LIPA wanting to be the next Taylor Swift, and they left wanting to work in a Marketing company, or start their own record label. A lot of people forget that there are so many jobs in the music industry – not just singers and songwriters.
- Who produced your singles, Home and Catacombs (both in the Isle of Man Music Chart), where were they recorded and what was the sound you wanted to achieve?
The entire EP was recorded with Robert Whiteley, at Whitewood Studios in Liverpool. When I wrote the songs, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted them to sound like. I had rehearsals with my band prior to the recording session, but it wasn’t until I got into the studio and showed Rob the songs that I realised their potential.
He helped me with arranging the songs, and showed me how I could make them sound better. The whole process was so professional, and I felt at ease in the studio. I was so happy with the outcome, and they turned out better than I ever could have imagined.
I had in my head that I wanted to write songs for other people. Over the course of two years, that completely changed.
- You had a LIPA backing band with you for your EP launch at Peel Centenary Centre on 24th August. Are they going to be joining you on the island full time or will you be playing solo for future concerts?
I’m so excited to be playing with the band – they’re all super talented musicians. Unfortunately they won’t be able to join me for future gigs, as they are heading off to University this year. I’ll be playing solo in the meantime, but I’m always looking for opportunities to play with new people.
- How did the launch go?
The EP launch was incredible. The band played so well, and the support acts were amazing. It went so much better than I expected, and there was a great turn out too! I got some really good feedback afterwards and everyone really enjoyed it. The EP is now available on all streaming/downloading platforms.
- As a songwriter, what is your writing process and what do you try to achieve with your songs theme, message and mood wise? What or who do you write about?
I wrote the ‘Home’ EP in the time that I was moving away to Liverpool. The songs are mostly about the Isle of Man, and the people that have helped me on my musical journey so far.
When I’m writing, I usually start with the music. I’ll come up with a chord sequence on the piano or guitar, and maybe a riff to go with it. Once I’ve found something that works, I’ll start playing with melody lines over the top. Lyrics always come last for me. I think they’re the hardest part. I always try and finish my songs in one go. I find that when I write a verse or chorus, then leave it, I don’t get the chance to come back to it.
- What are your plans for future releases? Have you started writing for your second album yet or do you already have a backlog of songs you will be able to use for this?
I’ve been so caught up in the release of this EP that I haven’t really thought about future releases yet. I’m always writing new songs, so hopefully there will be more to come in the near future.
- Who are you a fan of musically on the Isle of Man and who would you like to open up for or play on the same bill as from the Manx music scene? What big, well known acts would you like to support?
There’s so many talented artists on the island at the minute. I’m excited to be supported by Mae Challis and Sunset Jet at my launch, they’re really great. Matt Creer is also brilliant – he used to teach me songwriting, and helped with my writing techniques.
If I ever got the opportunity, I’d love to support Jack Savoretti. He’s a massive inspiration and I love his music. It would also be incredible to support Dua Lipa or Ed Sheeran. They’re so influential in the music industry today.
- Do you have a manager or agent?
I don’t have either – yet!
- Finally, what is your experience of playing around the north west of England and do you have any plans to go back and play there once you have established yourself over here?
Whilst studying in Liverpool, I didn’t really gig much outside of the sixth form events. I decided that I should spend the time improving my songwriting, and focusing on my studies. I think that over the past two years, my sound has developed a lot, and that’s because of the many hours I put into my writing and rehearsing.
The gigs that I did do were incredible – I played at the Buyers Club, Studio 2 Parr Street, and Parkgate festival, to name a few. I also took the time to go and see as many gigs as possible – I think the best way to improve (other than performing yourself) is to go and see others who have the same passion, and maybe more experience. I met so many people who have had the most amazing performance experiences, and it’s great to hear these stories and use them to develop your own style.
I’d love to go back and play in the North West, it’s one of the friendliest places I know other than the Isle of Man.
Thanks for your time Francesca, much appreciated!