Staff Profile: Francesca Lee
Francesca Lee graduated from Sir Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts with a B.A. in Performing Arts (Music) in 2002 majoring in vocal performance and songwriting. In 2004, she moved to San Francisco and established herself in the Bay Area music scene as an emerging artist/singer-songwriter. A top ten regional finalist in the Lilith Fair Talent Search Contest, songs from her CD The Pieces Left were featured on KFOG’s Local Scene Vol. 6 and Songwriters Unplugged Volume One—Live at Yoshi’s. Francesca has been a staff producer and performer for Bread & Roses since 2010. Diane Pickell-Gore recently sat down to learn more about Francesca Lee through a Q&A.
Question and Answer (Q&A) with Diane Pickell-Gore interviewing Francesca Lee.
If you go to the staff page of the Bread & Roses website, you’ll find the biography of one of our producers, Francesca Lee. But, like most of us, there’s so much more to know about Francesca (aka Franny in the office). I had the chance to talk to her last week and here’s what I found out about the musician-behind-the-producer who has been with Bread & Roses for over ten years.
Q. Where did you grow up?
A. I was born in Santa Monica in LA, grew up in the Bay Area, and moved to Texas at age ten. I spent my senior year in Alameda. I am a Texan/Californian who considers Texas home with Mom, sister and friends in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. In 2003, I moved back to SF.
Q. When was the first time you performed in front of people? Did you do a vocal or Instrumental performance? What did that feel like?
A. I was six-years-old when I first did a vocal performance for a talent show that I won! I remember feeling high after the performance from the energy from the audience. The best part of me is always brought out through song and music. I feel completely present through music and discovered myself through being a musician and songwriter…. This was what I wanted and felt called to do! I studied ballet as a child but singing was more natural for me than dance which required a lot of practice and work. Also, I grew up having a father who is a professional musician, so I was surrounded by music.
Q. What was the first song you ever wrote? When was that?
A. I have made up songs since I was a child. I wrote my first song at age 15 on guitar, which was recorded in Texas at a studio. Mom had a friend who was a well-known country drummer who helped me on my first demo, an analog recording on reel-to-reel tape! There was a smell of smoke in the studio -- a rough cowboy feel!
Q. What drew you to go to Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts?
A. I had a friend who told me about the school, with its special focus on pop music. The entrance was based on raw talent, not a formal music education. Originally it didn’t seem like the timing was right. I kept checking in with the school. When they were accepting applications, I looked at the audition procedures and realized I could do an on-line package. At seventeen, I sent them a bunch of songs – had to buy a video camera to do so and then return it because I couldn’t afford to keep it! My sister did the video. I also performed a live concert at a bar and filmed myself doing an original song. I sent it in… and got accepted! I was the third American to get into the school. Forty students are accepted for the full BA music program each year.
Q. What were you doing between 2002 and 2004 when you came to San Francisco?
A. I was working in England playing shows and also gave tours at the Beatles museum! I loved England and felt at home there. I went to Texas, performed there, and worked with musicians from the University of North Texas in Denton. They had a famous Jazz program with artists such as Norah Jones and Erikah Badu. I played festivals such as LadyFest in Austin and released an album that had been recorded in Texas.
Q. How did you come to be a producer at Bread & Roses?
A. I had a strong local buzz going as a musician and was looking for a music organization to get involved with. I was playing in Oakland when another musician who knew of my administrative and organizational skills told me that Bread & Roses had an opening for a producer. It’s been a great match up of my skills versus B&R needs. And… the video touched my heart! To do something good in the world and work in music in a different way has been a positive thing for me. I was pulling away from playing in bars with people drinking, etc. Working at B&R has given me a lot of confidence.
Q. If you were to give yourself one musical challenge or goal for this year, what would it be?
A. I want to continue to share my knowledge and experience as a producer, as a person who has been in the music business for so long, and as a teacher… I will continue in a bigger way to have a presence on-line and reach out to inspire young musicians and artists. For example, I want to create a membership mastermind group for people to write songs, share tips and knowledge. I will continue to keep on expressing myself, and keep recording. I realize that music is such an important part of life, so I’ll never stop… there may be other things in my life, but music is life and I won’t be living if I stop writing and singing. The most important thing is family, kindness to other people, sharing your gifts, love pouring through your music. The more we do this, the more it spreads. Connection… connecting the human spirit is what Bread & Roses is about!
By Diane Pickell-Gore, Administrative Coordinator
Photos by Peter Merts
Bottom: Francesca performing at 2016 San Quentin State Prison Day of Peace