By Mike Peaslee
Francesca is the extraordinary voice behind our uniquely powerful and exotic solo alto vocal library, Voice Of Gaia - Francesca. We captured 16 studio hours with Francesca, covering 3 true legato types, sustains, staccatos and a whole host of performance phrase elements, including Melodic, Atonal, Bombastic, Bright and Whispered categories. We spoke with Francesca about the library recording experience, her creative background and the road ahead.
When did you begin singing seriously?
I've never sung seriously - it's a playful thing for me. :) I became more intent in my singing in junior high when I joined the choir. I really loved working with the harmonies and creating something beautiful as a part of a whole. I continued to sing (and dance) in musicals in high school and began to realize that my voice was quite strong. However, my focus was really dance and performance art in high school and through college. While I was in graduate school at the University of Michigan, I began to study dance with a local performer, Jesse Richards, who was also a singer/songwriter. When she heard my singing voice, she invited me to record and perform with her. From that point on, singing became an integral part of my expression as an artist.
What draws you to the rather exotic styles you specialize in?
I've always loved music in minor keys. It has always been so moving for me. When I was growing up, my mother would put music on and light candles in the mornings, so I woke up into music on a daily basis. She often played Gregorian chants and other haunting, deep styles of music. I know this had a strong influence on my leanings. I also studied Egyptian belly dance for a number of years in my 20s. Part of what drew me to the dance form was the incredible music that accompanies the dance. It's so full of longing and emotion! When I began to study yoga, I was introduced to kirtan, a type of call-and-response chanting in Sanskrit. I was very drawn to it and eventually began leading my own chanting circles, which I've done now on the east coast and in the San Francisco Bay area for over 15 years.
What has been your most interesting project so far?
Collaborating with Richard Wormstall on the creation of my last album, Lullabies for a World in Transition, was a very rich experience. Richard is a brilliant guitarist and arranger and we've been playing music together for many years. We improvise together very well, which is how we created almost all the songs on the album. We stretch each other's edges musically, which is challenging and delightful. The results were fantastic.
What has been your most significant project so far?
If you mean by "most significant" the most high-profile project in the world of mainstream media, singing on the soundtrack for Elysium is definitely it. Working with Ryan Amon was fabulous. He's a wonderful composer with a lot of integrity and sensitivity. I really enjoyed improvising the vocals for his work. The sound engineers at Sonic Fuel Studios were fantastic, as were the music folks from the film. It was a great experience for me and I learned quite a lot.
Which composers have you most enjoyed working with?
As I said, Ryan Amon was really fun to work with. I'm currently involved in a long-term collaborative relationship with Lincoln Jaeger, an incredible composer in the UK. I continue to enjoy co-creating pieces of all stripes with him. I also had a lot of fun working with Jo Blankenburg, who is based in LA.
How did you develop your skills in the middle-eastern, Mediterranean and Arabian vocal styles you sing?
My skills with these styles have developed mostly through listening to them a lot and imitating them. Although I have studied (and continue to study) voice formally, I've never trained specifically in these styles. I'm actually very good at imitating singing and speaking styles. The fact that I love these types of music makes it easy to go deeper with them and use my voice to touch the core of the music.
What was the overall experience like for you recording Voice Of Gaia - Francesca with us?
I had a great time! I learned so much about my own voice and how to modulate it more subtly through the Voice of Gaia project. It was also really wonderful to put so many of the singing exercises my voice teacher gives me to practical use! And although you were driving and shaping the project, it really was in a collaborative spirit. You were all very open and responsive to my input and questions. The fact that you got me gluten-free bread for lunch really took my experience over the top. ;-)
What was the most challenging or unexpected part of the process?
The most challenging part of the process was figuring out how to work with my voice properly as to be able to sing the more "crying", dramatic vocal lines without straining it. With the help of experimentation and my voice teacher, we figured it out. The most unexpected thing in the process was that I didn't totally go nuts hanging out in the singing booth for multiple hours. I'm a total Nature Girl and usually need to be outdoors often - or at least be in a room with windows and sunlight. But my strong connection with all of you and the focus required to create a super high-quality library saved me from lunacy.
What are you working on now?
As I mentioned earlier, I'm collaborating with Lincoln Jaeger on a number of projects for trailer, film and TV music as well as music for sound libraries. I'm currently in the process of writing lyrics and doing vocals for an imitation of a 60s throw-back song with an edge.
Where can people reach you and/or find more of your latest work?
Folks can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. My music website is www.lilacmusic.com or find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/francescalilacgenco. I also have a website focused on the somatic practices I teach and offer: www.songofthebody.com.