Francesca Blanchard gracefully finger-picks the opening notes of a song she calls “The Wanderer.” The acoustic guitar is followed by her voice, then by several layers of sound produced by her six-piece band. The song blossoms with harmonies, refined fills, and an occasional melody from a muted trumpet. A listener would never guess that the band had been assembled just a few days ago.
“Music is meant to be a collaborative effort,” says theater arts major Blanchard (CFA’14). “I’ve wanted to put together a band for the semester, and I knew I didn’t want to sing alone for the ‘BU Today Sessions.’”
The French-born singer-songwriter, whose original band is back home in Charlotte, Vt., searched the campuses at BU and Berklee for a new ensemble to perform the “Sessions,” and elsewhere in Boston. Distributing flyers and a little bit of “online stalking” led her to musicians “who understood my style and could pick it up in a second.” Of the six band members, five are from Berklee and one, Tessa Sacramone (CFA’14), from BU.
“It’s all about putting yourself out there and not being afraid to ask,” Blanchard says. “It’s always a fun process—you get to meet musicians and talk music.”
Her songwriting began at age 10 with inspiration from her mother, herself a singer-songwriter. “My mom would play ‘Blackbird’ on the guitar, and I became obsessed,” she says. “After I learned it, I didn’t stop playing it. My finger-picking style came from endless nights of playing that Beatles song over and over and over again. My family can’t listen to that song ever again because of me.”
“From there came songs of my own,” she says.
When she was still in her teens, Blanchard released her debut EP, “Songs on an Ovation,” a compilation of originals and covers that features vocal performances in English and French.
“Singing in both languages allows me to access different parts of myself,” says Blanchard. “I can express things in French that I somehow can’t in English, and vice versa. Language carries culture, and when I speak or sing in French, I’m brought right back to my upbringing on the Mediterranean and the moments that have marked me as being French. Singing in both languages is like sharing two sides of myself—two halves that make a whole.”
With a crowd-funding campaign for her first full-length record just around the corner, Blanchard has set her sights on a career in music. For now, the juggling act of academics and musicianship is more fruitful than overwhelming. She has composed musical scores for CFA productions, notably Our Class, which was staged in February at the BU Theatre by the Boston Center for American Performance.
“I’ve learned so much in CFA about the importance of telling stories,” Blanchard says, “and that has heavily influenced my songwriting and how I go about telling a story through song.”
Check out BU Today over the next few weeks as we feature three more new installments of “BU Today Sessions.”4 Comments