Francine Honey – Add a little honey to your coffee this holiday season

Francine HoneyLeamington singer/songwriter Francine Honey takes the COVID bull by the horns, hammers down on a series of powerful emotions with her latest double COVID themed singles Can’t Press Reset and 2020 Vision.

She was preparing her uplifting song 2020 Vision when the pandemic hit and ended up venting her frustrations and anticipation in the stark Can’t Press Reset.

We sat down with Francine by phone and looked at 2020 in great detail.

How has the pandemic affected you and your career?
Actually, it has not affected me all that much because I’m not a touring artist. My whole model is based on doing online concerts and streaming. So I’ve actually been busier than ever. I hear about people saying, oh good, I’m cleaning out my closet and I’m doing this and I’m doing that. It’s like nope. I’ve been really, really busy. I’ve been fortunate because it was down in Nashville in January and I did a bunch of recording. And then I did have some videos planned to be filmed and I was going to release my album sooner. Obviously I’ve deferred that a little bit, but for the most part, like I said, I’ve been busier than ever and I feel lucky because a lot of musicians are really hurting.

Your newest release is a double single, themed after the drastic failure that became 2020. Tell me about why you decided to record a double single on the same topic.
I was going to be releasing an album called, 2020 Vision and I had actually recorded and written the song 2020 Vision in January about how great 2020 was supposed to be. I mean, I’m 55. So I remember when I was 25 signing the paper. I worked for the Canadian federal government for many, many years and back then 2020 was the date on the paper that I was supposed to retire. And I thought, huh, I’m not even going to be alive in 10 years. So I’m never, ever, ever going to even see 2020. It just seems so far away. So I started writing this song last year. And like I said, had a whole album about, my life story in song up until now. So I had recorded 2020 Vision down in Nashville in January, and I was set to release it in March.

Of course, the pandemic hit and the world kind of fell apart. I really didn’t think that I could release 2020 Vision at that point in time because certainly I knew 2020 was already way different from what I thought it was going to be. So I wrote, Can’t Press Reset as the follow-up to 2020 Vision. So here’s kind of what my plans were for 2020, we all had great plans for 2020. In Can’t Press Reset, I talk about how everything went down the tubes. I really wanted to write a song that showed what we’ve all been going through and not just about COVID, but also about, Black Lives Matter, the anxiety that people are feeling because a lot of my friends were saying, I’m just stuck in the house and I feel like I just can’t breathe. Right?

I’m having panic attacks and I’m really struggling with what’s going on in the world. So Can’t Press Reset, talks about not being able to breathe. And so there’s all those different levels. If you dig deep enough into the song it also talks about the hope that I personally feel as human beings, I think we’re very resilient and we’re probably more resilient than we each individually realize. So, that’s why I released them both at the same time, because one mentions about what was planned and here’s what actually happened.

Was Can’t Press Reset your way of dealing with everything that was going on?
Oh, completely. I think that’s how most songwriters process what’s happening around us. It’s through our songs.

The music is a little different from what you had on your last album. So it sounds like a progression to something. So tell me about the sound that you created on that song.
I love rock music and wanted it to be more of a rock song because 2020 vision is more of a ballad and I wanted, Can’t Press Reset to be a contrast to that because 2020 has been a big contrast to what I thought it was going to be. So yes, it’s more of a chugging folk rock kind of vibe to it. I actually wrote it, I don’t write a lot of songs to tracks, but actually made a track and I wrote the song to a track just as, something different to do. I’m really happy with how it turned out because obviously, normally I go down to Nashville and we record live off the floor.

We record all together and make music. Whereas, this time in June, the band was all in Nashville and I was there on Zoom on the laptop and they just moved me around in the studio. They recorded the song there in Nashville and then they sent me up with their recorded version and then I recorded my vocal here. So that was different too, for sure. I wanted it to have more of an upbeat, more of a groovy kind of sound. So I’m really happy with how it turned out.

In 2020 Vision, you mentioned your age and earlier in the interview, so it sounds like you reached the point where you’re very content.
I am. I’m fine. A lot of people say, well, don’t tell people how old you are. I’m proud of the fact that I’m 55 and I’m proud of all of the things that I’ve had to do to get here. Number one, never ever in my wildest dreams did I think I would be a full-time songwriter, and making music and recording music, with the pros down in Nashville. Right? So, I want to celebrate that and inspire people. So that’s why I tell people my age, because I hope that it doesn’t define who I am. I hope it doesn’t impact how people listen to my music.

I’m not shy I guess about it. At my age, I feel like I can own it. I have my life story in song and I think by sharing my story, that will help others, who’ve maybe been through similar things or who are going through similar things, it feels like they’re not alone. And also to know that, hey, life isn’t easy and, we all have our path through life. But I think it’s a common journey, we all kind of go through similar things and we’re just maybe at a different point in the path on the same kind of journey, which is life, right? I don’t know if I’ve made the right choice in, divulging my age, but, it is what it is. I write what I consider to be real songs about real life and I’ve lived.

Your songs are very personal and they tell stories. So you’re like a storyteller, but you take it from a very personal approach.
Yes. I’ve tried writing songs that are not based in my own life and I find that they don’t resonate as much with people as the ones that are truly about my life do. I write songs that are based on my life and I try to make sure that they’re specific, but universal at the same time. And I think that’s the real art. I hope that they resonate with other people. It’s a choice, I guess that I’ve made, but like I said, they just resonate with people more. And I think because when I sing them, I can place myself in them, obviously more than singing a song about, driving a truck somewhere down the road.

Are these songs part of an upcoming release or is it part of that 2020 Vision that we might see the light of day?
Yeah, I have a whole bunch of music recorded. So I’m going to be releasing probably a couple of projects in the next year or two. I’ve changed from 2020 Vision to, Unfinished Business because all of these years, I was a federal government employee and I always wrote songs and I have this whole pile of songs that have, finish later written on the bottom of them. And so I decided, later is never going to come unless it happens now. So at 47, so eight years ago, I quit my job in the government to become a full-time songwriter and finish a lot of the songs that I wanted to finish. So Unfinished Business is going to be an album of a lot of those songs and some new ones that I have recorded. So it’ll be a full album.

And then after that, I’m going to be releasing my life story in song. Which is re-releasing some of the songs that I’ve previously released, just in a special box set. And it’ll be in the order of my life story. Then I’m planning on doing a two hour show, along with that. Take people through my life and hopefully, as I said before, they’ll recognize themselves and where they are maybe in the journey. So that’s what I have planned coming up and I’m going to release a couple of singles before I do my album, Unfinished Business. Those are my plans, we’ll see if they actually happen. Hopefully 2021 will cooperate.

On your Facebook page, you mentioned that you enjoy working with your publicist, Eric Alper for many reasons, but one of them is because he supports a late bloomer. So what are some of the challenges you face as a late bloomer?
Oh my gosh. There are a lot of challenges that I face as a late bloomer. I remember, my first conversation with Eric I said, Eric, I know that my age starts with an F, right? And I’m a female. And, I’m not like Bo Derek, or I’m not like this skinny young thing that you’re used to promoting, but I have a song coming up called, Rockets in my Boots. I’ve Got Rockets in my Boots, I’m determined to write songs the rest of my life and I do believe that there’s an audience, I do believe that there are people that want to hear my music.

I think the biggest challenge for me is in Canada, there is no real venue for Americana music. I wasn’t really sure, when I started out, I heard the sound in my head and when I write a song I hear everything. And I wasn’t able to, at the beginning find a producer that had that sound that I was hearing for my songs, we would record something and it would be like, okay, well it’s well-produced, the songs nice. It’s not exactly what I hear in my head. So it took me a long time to find my sound with, Neilson Hubbard, who is my person that’s produced all of my music since 2018 with and to be continued with other albums.

We’re still refining my sound, but I’m really happy with the latest stuff and this new stuff that I have recorded that I’m going to be releasing in the next couple of years. So that’s been one challenge for me. Maybe because I’m a late bloomer, I write more, maybe a little bit more traditional kind of sound. So, getting radio airplay has been a bit of a challenge because there’s no real format, I’m not sure if this is going to be on Cool 100 or not, but anyway, I appreciate you bringing my music to people.

How did you become a late bloomer?
I started playing piano when I was six years old. I wrote my first song when I was 12 and started playing the guitar when I was 12 and played all through high school. I was also really good at math. Music and math are really very closely related. And when I was in grade 12 and 13 I mean, I was so shy when I was a teenager and never ever thought that I could make it in music. I just didn’t believe that about myself. So I went the mathematics road and went off to university and did that. I got married, I had my kids and then my husband left, when my children were very young. So there I was by myself raising my two children.

I honestly, didn’t have time to do my own music and put it on the back burner for all those years and just kept writing as a way for me to process what was going on in my life. So I guess that’s how I became a late bloomer because I was focused on my career in the government as an IT Project Manager and raising my children. And then, they leave, right? Your children leave eventually, they get their own life. So I remember, my daughter was off to university and my son, he was getting ready to go off to college. And, of course my whole life had been focused on them. So I was still, hyper-focused on him because my daughter was gone already.

My son literally said to me, mom, what are you going to do when I go? I can’t leave you if you have no life of your own. We have been your life and I’m worried about what you’re going to do. And I said, oh, that was an epiphany for me, the whole get a life, right? So I went out the next day, got my guitar strings and a tuner and dragged my guitar out from under my bed, dusted it off and just started writing again. And that just was the start of this whole thing and believing that, oh my gosh, maybe I could actually do this. And here I am years later, still doing it.

When it comes to your career, you do it all.
It’s more than a full-time job. I didn’t realize the business part of it. I didn’t realize how much time that would take. I had these rose colored glasses, life is all roses and rainbows vision, right? That I’m just going to get up in the morning have my coffee and I’m going to sit in my studio and write a song. The social media part and all of the other stuff that comes along with being an independent artist, it’s very demanding, but it’s also very creative. So, I love managing projects and organizing projects. And I love doing my website. Actually, if you look at all of my skills, I remember I had kind of an aha moment, I was at some workshop.

And they were saying, well, you need to be able to do website design and you need to have this, and you need to have that and you need to have this and the other thing. And I thought, wow, I have almost all the skills I need. Like up until now, I have everything that I need to do. I don’t have a lot of time though, so I put together a team of people that are helping me so that I can spend more time doing the music and making music videos, because I love videos. I think when I write a song, actually see the video, it’s like a little movie playing out in my head. I think a lot of artists are like that.

I try and think about it in a creative way that, oh, I don’t have to do a social media post. I don’t have to design that t-shirt, I get to design that t-shirt, and I’m not getting up at six o’clock in the morning so that I can be on the road for an hour in traffic to get to my job. So, it is a lot of work, but I try and find ways to make that creative for me, because I love making something from nothing, whether it’s a video or a poster for my live stream show or, like right now we’re doing a Christmas thing next week. So I’m having fun, designing that little Christmas poster and putting snowflakes on the website.

What are some of the upcoming shows you’re planning?
I released a Christmas album last year. So this year I’m doing a weekly live stream. It’s called, Honey In Your Coffee. And yesterday was the first of the Christmas edition. So I put my Christmas tree up and did all kinds of decorating. Next week, for example, I have a choir coming in and we’re going to be outside, because of COVID, we’re making sure everybody’s safe. We’re not breaking any rules.

And then I did a CD release party last year at The Bank Theater for my Christmas album, which is called, Take Me To The North Pole. I’ve edited down to a one hour show and it’s going to be broadcast, Lake Shore has a Light Up The Nights. It’s an online virtual concert series that they’re running. So the one-hour show is going to be streamed on their site on December 7th, which is one year from the date that I did the CD release at The Bank Theater in Leamington and then December 23rd. And I’m going to do watch parties.

Photo: Lisa Carriere
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