Lover Of All Things Beautiful – Interview with Fanny Franklin
Contributing Writer – Garret K. Woodward
The crowd buzzed like a frenzied hive.
Though a curious stick or hungry bear didn’t provoke these busy bees, they were prodded by the ultimate tormentor- cabin fever.
With fat snowflakes tumbling from above, I strolled through downtown Boston to Copperfield’s, a venue within range of a wandering foul ball from nearby Fenway Park. The space is full of sweat, spilled beer, sticky floors and unrelenting smiles from those eager to checkout the next big thing to radiate from the stage.
And fate made sure I picked the ideal night to find my soul vulnerable to the unknown.
Huddled in the backroom like a boxer readying themselves to hit the ring, Fanny Franklin sat in a dark corner, hooded sweatshirt pulled over her head, gathering all of her strength, physically and mentally, only to pour it onto the listener until her tank was empty.
These people came here to see something special as she takes that word and twists it into something extraordinary.
Fronting the phenomenal funk/soul project Orgone, Franklin commands the stage in the footsteps of James Brown, Janis Joplin or Sharon Jones. Her steamy voice sends chills up your spine like a cold breeze. Her body shakes, gyrates and mesmerizes any who fall into her trance.
Watching her do what she does best, I was awestruck by the power and style bubbling from her small frame. Her talents and stop-you-in-your-tracks soul conjure the memories and potential I felt upon initial glance of Grace Potter, some five years earlier in the same city.
Now embarking on a solo journey, Franklin is currently putting together a slew of promising material reflecting her life, aspirations and rising career as a polished gem amongst the rockstars and pitfalls of an industry in dire need of pure, honest talent.
Garret K. Woodward: Who is Fanny Franklin?
Fanny Franklin: A mixture of a few things. I’m a teenager, an old lady, a lover of all things beautiful and an artist.
GKW: How would you describe your sound? Who are the influences?
FF: I listened to a lot of Michael Jackson, The Beatles, Janis Joplin and Motown growing up. Then I got into the whole modern era of the 80′s. When I got out of high school, I met the funk heads who led me to Parliament, Funkadelic and the black rock scene in LA, which included Fishbone, 24/7 spyz, Total Eclipse, Living Color.
GKW: When did you first know you could sing? Did you always want to be a singer?
FF: I’ve always wanted to be an entertainer, ever since I was a little girl. That was my first feeling, looking at a stage and saying, “ooo, I wanna do that” at the age of nine. The talent to be a singer/entertainer naturally had to comply with that little girls dream.
GKW: If your voice were an ice cream flavor, what kind would it be?
FF: Mint Chocolate Chip.
GKW: What do you love about the LA music scene?
FF: My job is to be out on the scene everywhere, so, when I’m home, I don’t really go out much anymore. But, my time on the LA music scene introduced me to all the amazing musician friends I have today. So many of them have gone on to do really big things, like my peeps Fitz and the Tantrums. I can say that anyone living in or visiting LA has the opportunity to see a variety of music on any given night, of almost any genre you could think of, and much of the shows are free. So, in that way, the LA music scene is alive and very accessible.
GKW: Where does that voice of yours come from?
FF: I had a few voice coaches when I was much younger, but mostly it’s been on the job training and absorbing. I went to cooking school, but it didn’t make me a better cook, it just taught me techniques. I think people are born with certain natural gifts.
GKW: What are you channeling onstage? What’s going through your head as you hit those high notes and climax of a melody?
FF: There are some definite moments of high vibration on stage when everything aligns with the instruments and the vocals. In those special moments I’m not thinking, but sharing in a moment. Just feeling.
GKW: How did your relationship with Orgone come about? Why did you decide to take a step back from such an incredible collaboration between you and them?
FF: Back in 2003, Orgone needed a singer to cover a version of “Funky Nassau”. A mutual friend, Dan Ubick (Connie Price and The Keystones), passed my number along to keyboardist Dan Hastie (Orgone) and he called me up. The session went well and they invited me to do some gigs. They had some cool covers they thought would suit my voice and we all got along, which is an important factor in moving forward with any group. From there, the relationship was born. My departure from Orgone happened for many different reasons, but mainly it’s time for Fanny Franklin to do Fanny Franklin.
GKW: Tell me about your new projects. What can we expect? How is this new chapter going to unfold and what are your hopes for it?
FF: I’m super excited about the music I’m writing right now. I can’t wait to put it out. It’s more personal whereas writing lyrics in a group is more edited to fit the group message. Writing for myself is about where I’m at now and how I want to express myself. I have faith that I will satisfy all of my desires as a singer and then some, which includes putting out amazing music and traveling the world playing that music live for people.
GKW: What are you thoughts on the current music industry? How do you want to be different, or contribute to the evolution?
FF: With today’s technology, the world of music is at all of our fingertips. We no longer are subject to what the radio wants to shove in our ears. We are free to explore any country, any genre at free will, and it’s amazing. My hope is that reality inspires people to do the art they want to do without compromise, knowing that it will be heard. Recreating the concept of industry to mean the world of music, not the world of making money over the true expression of the individual or collective group. If people feel forced to make music that they think will sell over what they really want to do, they are shorting the world of their unique vision and of the change that is possible. I just want to be me and spread the message that to be “the best you” is important, ain’t no one else fixing to do it.
GKW: How receptive have audiences been to your creation onstage?
FF: That’s a good question. I’m excited to see the reaction to my new project. With Orgone, my hope was that people would dance and party and have a good time, and that was generally what happened. There are many factors that play a part in how a crowd may react to me, or anyone for that matter. I know the day after New Year’s Eve, opening for the Roots in Reno, the crowd was understandably tired so they weren’t giving it their all. They were burnt, but committed to seeing the Roots and were glad to see a great opening band as well. The experience I plan to have with people, when I perform my music, will be different I imagine. We shall see.
GKW: What do you want the listener to ultimately witness or walk away with when they see you perform?
FF: A really good feeling, a feeling of excitement about his or her own lives and what’s possible for each person, truly. That’s the feeling that I get when I see someone like Sharon Jones or even watching old live footage of Nina Simone. It’s a feeling of connectivity that happens amongst human beings when they come together, all excited about the same thing, whether they know each other or not. And, from that, you feel inspired to do something wonderful.
GKW: How has your stage presence or confidence changed onstage over the years?
FF: I have always felt pretty right at home on the stage, like I was meant to be there. But, of course, the pure magnitude of shows over the last two years especially has been a great space for me to grow. There is always more to explore when it comes to live shows and stage vibe.
GKW: What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen on tour?
FF: Watching and opening for the Reverend Al Green, who I never saw backstage, he stayed on his tour bus until show time, was life altering. I felt like myself and everyone else in that building had the top of their skulls blown off and there were beams of light being poured in through the tops.
GKW: What’s your state of mind right now?
FF: Positive. Focused on the goal of finishing my record and sharing my music with the world.