Asheville-based singer-songwriter Frances Eliza’s second EP, No Longer Mine is a deeply personal collection of songs that blends folk, jazz, and indie influences into something distinct and unique. With lyrics that are raw and intimate, Frances is a storyteller that invites the listener into her private life as she shares and explores experiences of love, loss, and pain in the hopes that sharing in these experiences will bring some measure of comfort to those listeners. Producers and multi-instrumentalists Cole Covington (vocals, guitar, bass) and Daniel Harris (drums) provide support for Frances’ gifted voice. Matt Laird (strings), Tristan Ferner (keyboard), and AJ Huang (saxophone) are also featured in No Longer Mine.
“Selkirk”, the EP’s opening track, is a beautiful piece. Tristan Ferner’s organ just gently lifts everything up by the roots. Frances Eliza’s vocals rise above it all. Her voice is somehow both powerful and soft, both familiar and haunting. Her lyrics have the specificity that speaks to a great writer: /It’s only been 48 days, 3 weeks, 1 night/ And who will be wrapped around your finger?/Who will remember the little man you are?/ That “little man” makes a few appearances in this EP. As Frances scathingly speaks directly to him throughout this collection it does leave you wondering, “who is this jerk?”
The next track, “Oberlin Road” takes things in a much more indie-pop direction with Covington on the electric guitar and Frances hitting incredibly effortless octaves. The skillful guitar solo at the end has a not-so-subtle accordion effect to it that really lends it a European vibe.
“Little Man” (he’s back!) is very much a break-up song, but a fun, jazzy break-up song. Covington’s envelope filtered funky bass, Ferner’s fast paced-piano, and Harris’ bopping rhythms make this pieces move as Huang weaves smooth saxophone solos around the lyrics about angry break-up with an emotionally abusive alcoholic.
Frances says she draws inspiration from artists such as Lucy Dacus, Joni Mitchell, and Alice Phoebe Lou. Listening to No Longer Mine it’s hard not to also hear Cranberries meets Decemberists. Her voice sometimes seems to take on a folky hard “R” lending it an almost Irish quality while songs both upbeat and fun or mellow and beautiful share tales of tragedy and heartbreak.
Take, “Intertwined,” a beautiful song with unexpected lyrics. Wrapped up in lukewarm towels on your bed you told me/You would keep me safe but instead, you’re draped underneath/ And sweating up a storm confidently silent and reeking of porn/
“Daughter” features Matt Laird’s perfect strings, upright bass, dreamy guitar, and lovely meandering melodies. Both of these songs are delicate and sweet, and they both include bloody imagery in the lyrics! It’s hard not to love a sweet-sounding song with deceptively bloody lyrics.
“Paint Me a Picture” is a standout in that it is an absolutely perfect live take. Covington holds down the clean, airy guitar and Eliza’s ethereal vocals soar through it all. The melody here is modal, deceptively jazzy for what is essentially a ballad. The final lyrics are captivating as Frances sings what might very well sum up No Longer Mine: /These words will set me free/ /oh paint me a picture in blue/Can you find me somebody who/ will love me the way I wanted you/to.
The EP ends with a cover of Coldplay’s “Fix You.” A bold move for a bold artist. It’s a strong cover and the band proves they can match the uplifting energy of the original. But it’s Frances Eliza’s original songs that stand out on this release.
Your melodies are so original and often quite complex, where do they come from?
The vocal melodies I write are usually created pretty spontaneously. I’ve been singing since I was around four years old, and studying voice with professional vocal instructors since I was around eleven years old. So, that has definitely affected the way that I approach composing. Studying jazz vocal performance at UNC-Asheville for the past four years now has also continued to shift the way that I approach melodies. I’ve continued to use some of the techniques I gained from my classical voice training, while focusing much more on vocal improvisation techniques.
When writing a new song, I usually start by messing around with different melodies and chord changes on the piano or guitar, and then I just improvise different vocal melodies and lyrics over top of whatever I’m playing. Whenever I play something that seems memorable or like it could evolve into something really special, I record a bit of it and usually move onto another musical vibe and come back to the recordings on another day to continue working on them.
I’ve also gotten a lot of musical influence and inspiration from musicians and songwriters Alice Phoebe Lou, Lucy Dacus, Julia Jacklin, and Lily Allen over the years, and their material has really influenced my melodic composition.
Asheville is notoriously cool. Has the city influenced you as an artist?
I honestly love living in Asheville. I moved to Asheville about four years ago to go to school at UNC-Asheville to get a BFA in Jazz and Contemporary music. When I decided I wanted to study music in college, I realized that I really wanted to live in a city that provided me with a lot of opportunities to perform outside of school.
Asheville has provided me with an amazing little music hub to meet and work with other musicians and artists. I’ve attended so many great jazz, funk, soul, and bluegrass jams over the years in Asheville, and that has definitely opened up my eyes to some musical experiences I hadn’t experienced before. I’m from Raleigh, NC, and I used to play at a lot of songwriter showcases and open mic nights in the Triangle, which was awesome, but Asheville has exposed me to some more unique styles of music than I had seen in Raleigh when I lived there.
The musicians and artists I’ve collaborated with in Asheville have greatly influenced my style, pushing me to explore different genres of music that I hadn’t really considered exploring before.
What was the recording process like for this EP?
The recording process for this EP was very fun, and I’m really glad we spread it out over the course of a year the way that we did. At the start of recording this project and currently, I’m working as a full-time student, a gigging musician, and a part-time barista. So, it was nice to spread out the recording process so that we could really capture the sound we wanted for each track.
The recording process for my EP, “No Longer Mine,” started in Fall 2020. When we started the project, we focused on the first track “Selkirk” and worked a bit on “Intertwined.” Tracks like “Little Man” and “Oberlin Road” took a bit more time to record the vocals because they were more demanding lyrically and emotionally.
We recorded almost all of the vocal and guitar sections in the UNC-A recording studio between Fall 2020 and Fall 2021. UNC-A Music Technology majors Cole Covington and Daniel Harris worked together to help me make my songs come to life in the recordings. Daniel Harris played drums on this project, and Cole Covington not only recorded and mixed this project, but also played some guitar, electric bass, keyboard, and sang on a lot of the tracks. Joseph Keenan then did a phenomenal job of mastering the entire project.
Musicians Tristan Ferner (keyboard), AJ Huang (saxophone), Matt Laird (string section) were all featured in this project too. For each of the tracks on which these musicians were featured, they were sent the rhythm section and scratch vocals for them to play over. So, I actually haven’t gotten to meet any of these musicians face-to-face yet. They’re all friends and bandmates of my producer Cole Covington. Once we got a lot of the music and featured artists recorded, Cole sent me updated mixes of each of the tracks and together we made any adjustments we felt like the songs needed.
You’ve been featured at numerous fundraisers and rallies. What are some causes that are close to your heart?
Over the past couple of years, I’ve primarily played at smaller music venues, breweries, and coffee shops. But between 2015 and 2017, I played at several events and fundraisers in Raleigh. One of the most memorable experiences I had was definitely playing at the March For Our Lives gun sense rally with my sister in Raleigh in 2018, a demonstration in support of gun sense legislation. Soon after that event, I played at another march in Raleigh called “Why Wake Walks” that also was an extremely memorable experience. In the past couple of years, I’ve been focusing a lot more on writing, performing, and recording my own music.
A lot of the songs I’ve written address emotional abuse that women in my life and I have experienced. I also like to use my songwriting to address the experiences of female musicians in the male-dominated music industry business. One of my newest unreleased songs, “Notice Me” really addresses that experience of being the only woman in the room of all men talking over you and trying to control you and your work. In the future, I’d love to perform at some more fundraising events and rallies like I used to.
I’m hoping sometime down the line I can perform at one of the annual women’s marches, or something like that, because I think some of my songs would be well suited for that type of event.
Many of these songs revolve around a problematic person or people. Has the songwriting process provided some level of catharsis and closure regarding those situations?
Yeah, the songwriting process has definitely provided me with a level of catharsis. I really love performing the songs from this project for an audience, because I feel like my connection with each story has changed a lot over the years. The song “Oberlin Road” deals with a very personal experience of mine, and getting to perform and record the lyrics to this song with more of that rock sound has helped me feel some sense of empowerment and closure.
I also had some instances in the songwriting process where the song I was writing started about one type of person and ended up telling the story of a very different type of person. The process of writing “Intertwined” was absolutely that way. I started with a lot of concepts and ideas surrounding different people I’d met in my life, and little did I know it would later end up being a song about the person I was seeing at that time.
The sixth track on No Longer Mine, called “Paint Me A Picture (Live)” has some of the lyrics I am most proud of writing. This song is about an old relationship of mine that I kind of became stuck in, because I was too scared to end it and feel “alone.” This song in particular definitely helped me feel a lot of closure the first couple of times I performed it, and performing it really reminds me of those extreme emotions I was feeling at the time I wrote it, and that I’m grateful for where I’m at now in my life.
Originally from Raleigh, North Carolina, Asheville-based singer-songwriter Frances Eliza blends her love of songwriting with her passion for jazz, indie-folk, and pop music. Her jarring, unexpected lyrics and intricate melodies delve into the challenges of human relationships from the perspective of an independent-minded young woman and musician. Frances plays with producers and multi-instrumentalists Cole Covington (vocals, guitar, bass) and Daniel Harris (drums). Tristan Ferner (keyboard) and AJ Huang (saxophone) are also featured in Frances’ new EP.
Frances’ bittersweet music and raw vocal timbre first came to life in her debut EP “Sleepwalking,” released in late 2019. Since Fall 2020, she has been recording new material with Covington and Harris. Frances’ single “Selkirk” explores the grief of losing the simplicity and innocence of childhood. Her new EP infuses jazz elements and unique melodies into the raw imagery of human connection, hope, and loss.
Frances draws inspiration from artists such as Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers, and Alice Phoebe Lou. Since Frances was 13, she has been featured at numerous fundraisers and rallies and has toured across NC and SC. She has played at venues like Local 506 (Chapel Hill), The Pour House Music Hall (Raleigh), and The Grey Eagle Music Hall (Asheville). As venues continue to open up again, Frances will be playing more live shows with her band to showcase her new music.
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