The language of song

Francesca Blanchard brings her multicultural music to UD

By Gary Spencer

Inspiration for writing music comes from many places and personal experiences. That inspiration is drawn from far away memories, experiences growing up, places we lived a long time ago and everything in between. For Francesca Blanchard, a singer/songwriter, style, sound, lyrics and inspiration is drawn from her background as a child “born of two cultures.”

“I was born and raised in France, with a French father and American mother,” Blanchard explains. “French was my first language, but I quickly learned English as my mom would often only talk to me in English. Growing up, language has always been a secret code of sorts; being bilingual has given me access to two completely different worlds that host different people—different mindsets, perspectives, habits and general ways of living. These worlds have shaped me—I belong to two worlds. The ways in which this cultural duality has influenced my music vary, as it is simply the way that I am. I think it’s up to the audience to discover that.”

Indeed, audiences have a lot to discover when it comes to Francesca Blanchard. One of the first things a listener will notice upon listening to her debut album, Deux Visions, is her propensity to sing in not just one but two languages—French and English—in almost equal quantity. According to Blanchard, it just felt like the right call for the vibe she was going for on her new long player.

“I think it’s so freeing to be able to sing in several languages,” Blanchard says. “The meaning of songs can change and be given a whole new light when sung in one language versus another. I am not making any kind of cultural statement by singing in two languages—it’s simply that I can express myself in more than one way. Certain songs just feel nicer in French. I can also vocally express myself different in each—different personalities of mine become exposed and I can evoke different feelings, different moods—it’s fun and explorative.”

Blanchard’s musical background began at a young age while living in Europe, and after relocating to the United States as a teenager she started writing and recording in a not surprisingly ramshackle fashion. Still it was a learning experience for the work she would make in the future and a jump off point for Blanchard to become a musician and songwriter.

“I started singing at a very young age as a child in France—I was in middle school musicals and sang leisurely at home,” explains Blanchard. “It wasn’t until I moved to the states when I was 10 that I started writing songs of my own. In the 7th grade I recorded a little EP—most of the songs were improvised or written on the spot. It was fun, free and explorative. I picked up the guitar around then as well and started writing more.”

For an artist born in the early 1990s, Blanchard’s work on Deux Visions shows a remarkable grasp on her musical craft and maturity beyond her years. The songs are mostly laid back and dreamy with a sophistication that is usually associated with artists twice her age. Even then, the musical landscape on Deux Visions is encompassed by introspective acoustic guitars, lilting pedal steel guitars, lyrical piano play, light but appropriate percussion and an intangible air of atmosphere. And to top it off, there’s Blanchard’s soft but sublime vocals that add an extra layer of intrigue to the musical proceedings.

“The music on this album can be categorized as Anglo-Franco folk-pop with hints of jazz,” Blanchard says. “It’s a little blurry, but I like it that way. My influences as a singer that really stick out were Nora Jones, Diana Krall, Carla Bruni and Eva Cassidy. This body of work is my first professional musical declaration. I am also still discovering myself, and what I want my mark to be. I am at a point in my musical growth where I want nothing more than to find my own personal musical stamp, something that only I am able to offer. And I think that comes with time. And I perhaps will never find ‘the thing,’ but I will have made my identity in the process.” Blanchard is about to embark on her first extended US tour, including a stop at Sears Recital Hall on University of Dayton’s campus. Her upcoming engagement at UD will be a new experience for the artist herself as well, and she looks forward to sharing her songs of two worlds with an audience here in the Gem City.

“I have never been to Ohio, so this is all very new,” confesses Blanchard. “The Dayton opportunity presented itself initially, and I planned a tour around it. I love playing in University settings—I feel like what I’m doing is worthy of teaching and exploring. It’s very rewarding to share my experiences, to learn from them by revisiting them. Intimate stages where people come for the music, limited talking [and] full audience engagement means the performance and experience is all the more rewarding.”

Francesca Blanchard will perform at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4 at University of Dayton’s Sears Recital Hall, 300 College Park in Dayton. Tickets are $16 in advance. For more information, please visit francescablanchard.com or udayton.edu/artssciences/initiatives/artslive/events/event_5.php.

Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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