Courtesy of Francesca Blanchard
French singer-songwriter Francesca Blanchard has received praise from a number of publications, including Seven Days, for her signature brand of acoustic folk music, which incorporates influences of jazz and rock ’n’ roll. Fresh off her most recent LP, deux visions, released last October, Blanchard came to the Cat in the Cream for an intimate show backed by her current band. The Review sat down with Blanchard for a chat about writing lyrics in multiple languages, life as a touring musician and the Burlington, VT, music scene.
How did the show at Oberlin go? I got the sense that a lot of students were really excited to have you here.
It went well, considering I was quite sick! [Laughs.] This is my first time on the road for more than four consecutive days of playing and singing live, so getting a little cold was an inevitable part of the process. But I think the show went well. The audience seemed pleased, and the band and I had a grand time up on stage.
You once said that you like female vocalists “who speak for themselves” with intimate, emotional voices. Can you tell me some particular artists — of this sort or any other type — who have influenced you musically?
Norah Jones has always been a huge vocal inspiration to me. The timbre of her voice, its effect on people when they hear [it], it’s like sweet milk and honey. Then there’s a whole range of women I look up to, from Eva Cassidy, Françoise Hardy and Tracy Chapman to Joni Mitchell and Etta James. Some beautiful contemporary voices out there are really striking me, like Lucius, Margaret Glaspy and Lianne La Havas, to name a few.
You currently live in Vermont, right? What’s it like being a folk musician in an area with such a rich history of acoustic music?
It’s wonderful. Burlington has such a great music community with some incredibly talented musicians. It’s an incredibly open and sharing community. I feel lucky to be from there.
You’re French-American. Does this dual aspect of your identity affect your process as a musician at all?
Sure! Seeing as I write in both languages, my dual citizenship definitely holds a big spot in my music-making. It’s my way of sharing both worlds at once, of marrying my two sides. I don’t like to view my songs as being in either one [language] or [the other]. They just are themselves. Music is language in itself.
You’ve been touring pretty consistently recently. Have you done this before? What’s the touring life like for you?
This is my first headlining tour for more than three consecutive days. It’s been a blast. [I have] been learning a lot. I’m lucky I like driving! Like I said, being sick is something I have to learn to deal with and work with. When you lose your voice on the road, and the center of your music essentially relies on, well, your voice — then there’s a little problem. You deal with it, work with it and hope for the best. All in all, touring is fun.
Your music seems to display some level of jazz influence. Can you tell me about that?
Only that I am drawn to the warmth and sophistication of jazz. I certainly wouldn’t categorize myself as a jazz musician, but I borrow influences here and there. Growing up, I was exposed to a wide variety of music by my parents, and jazz always made me feel warm and happy.
Who is in your band right now? How have you come to collaborate with the specific people in your backing band?
Matthew Kloss on bass and Jesse Rosenfield on drums. We met through the musical grapevine of Vermont musicians. Matthew has been by my side for about three and a half years now, and Jesse is new to the Francesca family. I love playing with them, and they’ve been great road buds.