First Published August 2013
KEEPING IT IN THE DAY
Her outstanding achievements in both her musical life and through her involvement with the RISE Foundation have been publicly recognised with a number of prestigious awards, among them two IRMA’s for Best Irish Female and also two Social Entrepreneur of the Year awards, in 2010 and 2011. I asked Frances what does acknowledgement like that mean to someone who has been so honest about her lack of self-confidence and self-belief?
“Well that’s a great question, Anthony. I suppose the awards for my music would have been in the early days when I had just released my first, second and third solo albums. At that time, I suppose again coming back to my own feelings of self-worth, I didn’t have great belief or confidence in myself. So I don’t think I really enjoyed them the way I should have enjoyed them. I didn’t appreciate them the way I should have appreciated them. I had this thing in my head that I didn’t deserve them, ya know. That was the music awards. With regard to the Social Entrepreneur awards, it was absolutely life changing in the sense that we won it two years in a row and the validation that it gave me. And again, Anthony, coming back to confidence, the Social Entrepreneurs believed in what we were trying to. They wanted to help us changing peoples’ lives for the better and possibly saving lives. The fact that an organisation like Social Entrepreneurs believed in us really validated us. They thought, ‘Yeah, this is a great idea.’ They really mentored us and they brought the RISE Foundation to another level really. I don’t know would we still be here if it wasn’t for Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, to be honest with you. They have just been fantastic.”
Frances has often spoken about the late Bobby Sands as someone for whom she has great admiration and respect. Given that history will always link Bobby with Margaret Thatcher for reasons well known to almost everyone, what were her thoughts on Margaret Thatcher’s recent death and peoples’ very polarised reactions to that event?
“She was a tough woman, she was a harsh woman. Sometimes, ya know, I thought is she a woman at all? Does she have feelings? Does she have any kind of emotion in her? She didn’t seem to care really. She was obviously some kind of a businesswoman [in terms of how she viewed peoples’ lives]. I don’t know what it was, though, but I wasn’t too comfortable with people celebrating her death. I didn’t feel comfortable with that. I don’t think you should be celebrating anybody’s death, not more than their life, do you know what I mean? That’s how I felt, I suppose. She was a tough woman and I didn’t like what she did, and I don’t know many people who did like what she did. Particularly in Ireland. But I wasn’t comfortable with the whole party thing that greeted her death. I just don’t think it was right.”
The singer/songwriter James Taylor is one of her heroes and Frances has often recalled how meeting him for the first time left her speechless. What was it about him that made her feel that way, I asked.
“Well I think it’s just when you meet your hero or your idol for the first time. I mean, I didn’t even think I’d get to meet him actually! I went to his concert at the time in the Point, it’s the O2 now, but Mary [Black, her sister] was going backstage so I went back with her because Mary had met him a couple of times before. Now I was reared with James Taylor. He was my hero, my idol and still is in a way.I just don’t think there’s anybody like him really. So he was standing there with his partner anyway and myself and Mary were just talking to him. Mary said this is my sister Frances and he said hi, how are you? And I just went into, I don’t know what kind of a zone it was! But I couldn’t talk! His girlfriend saw that and she started chatting to me and that kind of eased it a bit. I suppose I was and I am and I’ll always be in awe of James Taylor.”
Frances has recorded songs by some of the best songwriters in the business; Carole King, Gary Burr, Sarah McLachlan, the aforementioned James Taylor and Paul McCartney on ‘Stronger’ alone. And also from writers such as Jimmy MacCarthy, Nanci Griffith, Charlie McGettigan, Christy Moore and even Garth Brooks. I asked Frances about the process she goes through in choosing songs for her albums.
“Well I suppose the first thing is I have to be able to relate to the song, relate to the emotion in the song, that’s the first thing. So I have to have lived the song in some way and that’s the first thing I would go for. Secondly, I suppose, obviously the words are important and how they’re put together. And thirdly, the melody and if the melody suits me. Sometimes I could love the song and I could love the words but the melody mightn’t suit my vocal range. So there’s three pieces of it really, but the first one obviously is the song and the emotion of the song, to have lived it in some way myself. I couldn’t just do a song that I haven’t experienced the emotion of, Anthony.”
I didn’t want to keep Frances too much longer given the time of night it was (after 9pm on a Friday evening, although it must be said again that Frances was generous to a fault with her time and her answers, even after just finishing her day’s work), but I did have one last question to pose before we said goodbye. As woman who has faced and fought so many tough battles in her own life and not only come through them, but come through them wanting to help others, what words of wisdom would she like to pass on to people out there fighting their own private battles these days?
“I suppose for me, the one thing I try to do is keep it in the day. Every morning when I wake up I just say to myself, I’ve only to do my best today. And I’ve accepted what my best is. I’ve lowered my expectations of myself and realised I can just do my best each day. If I’m helping others and trying not to hurt anybody, then that’s a pretty good day. Including myself, [it’s important] not to hurt myself either, through alcohol or any other substance, ya know. So I try to help people, Anthony, and try not to hurt people intentionally. There are times I’m sure when I have [hurt someone] but not intentionally. So that’s it, just keep it in the day and do your best.”