Tuesday, November 4

The Tuesday Ten: Children's singer Frances England

Wow, it was way back in June that I had the chance to fall in love with the musical stylings of indie-kids music fave Frances England. Now, the woman with the magical voice that can soothe the "terribles" right out of my toddler has made me go all giddy with a girl-crush because she agreed to be interviewed by me! Right here!

I know!

So why am I crushin' on this woman? Because she, and her voice, are magic. Buttercup has deemed it so. Read on for my Tuesday Ten interview with Frances England!

Q.: So tell me a little about your company or product and the inspiration behind it.
A.:I make indie-folk family music and have two cds out – Fascinating Creatures and Family Tree. While life with little ones is at the heart of all my songs, my sound has been compared to Norah Jones, Liz Phair, and Sarah McLachlan, to name a few. The songs I write are inspired by my two boys, by the families I work with at a cooperative preschool here in San Francisco, and by music ranging from Woodie Guthrie and the Carter Family to Cat Power and Yo La Tengo.

Q.: So many good ideas never get past the idea phase...how did you make your dream a reality?
A.: I recorded my first cd, Fascinating Creatures, as a fundraiser for my son’s preschool and really never imagined anyone outside our own circle of family and friends listening to it. At first I was actually burning the cds myself on an Epson printer and using a rickety paper cutter to make the jewel-case inserts by hand. But pretty soon, word of mouth and the Internet took my little homespun cd to a place I honestly never imagined it would go. Later that year, it was named the sole winner of the 2007 Oppenheim Award, which was a total shock. The whole thing happened in a really organic way -- I saw that people were responding to the music and ever since I’ve been trying to get it out there as much as I can.

Q.: What's your "It" factor?
A.: A lot of music critics have said that my “It” factor is my cross-over appeal. If you’re not paying attention to the lyrics, you might not know that you’re listening to a children’s album. Yet at the same time, I want to make sure that the lyrics are really engaging and relevant to children’s lives. The songs are often about finding the beauty and wonder in the ordinary everyday things our kids experience – riding tricycles, reading books, digging in the dirt, painting pictures. As parents we know how precious this time is and how it feels like it’s gone in a flash. I also think that because I’m a mother of young kids, the music reflects how close I am to this world. There is definitely an intimacy in some of the songs that people have responded to.

Q.: What's your favorite part of owning recording CD's for children/etc?
A.: Writing songs is one of my favorite things in the world to do. I’m thrilled (and still sometimes a little shocked) that people enjoy listening to my music. It’s always just been something I’ve done for myself and I really never expected to be making albums and playing concerts. This summer, my band and I were booked to do the Tricycle Music Fest in North Carolina, along with They Might Be Giants and the Jellydots. The organizers of the event made these great posters and I still can’t believe my name is right there beside TMBG – in the same font size, I might add. That’s pretty great….

Q.: What's the nitty-gritty on you!?? Come on! I want age, rank, and serial number!
A.: I’m a Bravo reality TV junkie. Project Runway and Top Chef feel like little slices of heaven after a long day.

Q.: Glass half empty of half full? Or can you not tell because it already got spilled by one of the kids?
A.: I’m Irish so I come from a “half empty” clan. Most people probably don’t see that in me because I’m a fairly upbeat and positive person. But when you are raised on Yeats and Irish ballads, there will always be a place in your heart where sorrow and sadness and disappointment can rest easy. Does that sound too dark? It’s not really….

Q.: Secrets to success? Tips for making it through to tomorrow with our sanity intact? (read: how did you do it?)
A.: Since I’ve had kids I’ve gotten a lot better at knowing and respecting my own personal boundaries. I spend much more time on the front-end weighing how much I can feasibly do and the affect it will have not only on me, but on our entire family. My husband calls it my “crazy barometer.” Mama can only take so much craziness so I try and be aware of that and plan accordingly.

Q.: What press have you received since you started? what's the coolest, berrie sweetest press you have gotten to date? (answer carefully....*wink wink*!)
A.: I’ve been lucky to have my cds reviewed in publications like Cookie, Real Simple, Parenting magazine, 7x7 (a SF magazine), and Daily Candy, to name a few. Here are a couple of my favorite quotes: “Each song is a little treasure of creativity, artistry and heart” (Los Angeles Times) and “Calling to mind such performers as Sarah McLachlan, Ani DeFranco, and Neko Case, England is the indie/alt rocker for the preschool set.” (School Library Journal).

If you’d like to read more reviews, you can check them out on my website at www.francesengland.com

Q.: If you could have one mommy superpower, what would it be?
A.: I would add more hours to the day (much of which would probably be reserved for sleep).

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