From the intimate, plush surrounds of the swanky Aura Sky Lounge at the rooftop of The National Gallery Singapore, you could see the day's blues turn for a darker shade as it welcomed yet another luscious, dewy evening. The stage was set for Frances to make her Asian debut. Travelling some 14 hours and living on just two hours of sleep, the Brit charmer was on a whirlwind Asia Pacific tour before her set at the Glastonbury Festival 2016 this weekend.
After touring with the likes of James Bay and performing at Coachella this year, the 22-year-old has racked up some frequent touring miles since her debut EP Grow. Released last year, other notable singles included Borrowed Time — where she teamed up with Disclosure — and the sorrowful ballad Don't Worry About Me. Due at the end of summer, her debut 10-track album will feature collaborations with industry honchos Jimmy Napes and Greg Kurstin, who've worked with Sam Smith and Adele respectively.
Before Frances started her short showcase with Borrowed Time, we check in on the BRIT Award nominee on what to expect from her Glastonbury Festival 2016 performance, whether she'll cry at fellow performers Coldplay's set and sprinkling fairy dust on her upcoming album.
Welcome to Singapore, Frances! I hear Borrowed Time everywhere in Singapore, it's always playing in retail shops. Have you stepped into a store and heard your song playing?
It happened once, I was driving somewhere and I had to stop. We went to this McDonald's and it was playing in there. I walked in and went "Oh! That's so weird." But that's the first time it's happened.
Did you sing along?
No (laughs). People might be like, "oh you sound really similar to that girl!"
You covered What Do You Mean by Justin Bieber. Were you a Belieber from the start?
No. I'm a bit too old when he first came out. I'd never disliked him at all; I always kind of thought he was great. But then this new stuff, it's just amazing! The production is just incredible — he's just made himself into this incredible pop star as an adult. He was just a boy before.
It's also his first time working in a more electronic route. You did the same with Disclosure on Borrowed Time. Do you find yourself exploring that further with your new album?
Yeah, I've done a little bit actually. I've worked with some people who are more used to doing electronic things. I think it's really cool because it brings something different. I'm so used to just singing with the piano but to be pushed out of my comfort zone and to have someone bring something out. Quite a lot of times, I have recorded a song like literally just piano and voice, and some basic guitar, and then this really amazing guy called Dave, he basically does post-production, and he's given it a more electronic-y sounds, kind of like fairy dust over what we've done.
Lets go back to the beginning for a bit. Your father used to buy you Radiohead and Coldplay records when you were young. Are you still influenced by what he listens to right now? Has he introduced you to any artistes recently?
Yes, absolutely. Yeah, this little band called the Night Beds and a band called the Boxed Rebellion. He's just so good at scouting out all these stuff. He used to buy me CDs and piano books, so I could learn how to play the piano part.
Do you have a favourite Radiohead and Coldplay song?
Radiohead's probably No Surprises, and Coldplay, just everything.
And Coldplay's coming to Glastonbury Festival 2016 as well!
I literally can't wait! I've seen them live before, a few years ago and I like, cried.
Which songs did you cry at?
Fix You is the obvious one, but Up in Flames...I can't really.
You've been writing songs since you were about 13 about issues revolving school, bullying and all that. Where did this all stem from?
I just really liked writing songs, it just felt really natural and a normal thing to do. I didn't really like my voice up to like two years ago. I hadn't really found the way of singing that I really liked. I had classical singing lessons as a child; I think they kind of made me not use my voice in a way that sounded great. A couple of years ago, I just started singing naturally and I was like, "oh that sounds better!"
You played in Coachella this year. What were some important lessons you learned from such a massive gig like that?
Probably more like life lessons, like wear sun cream? But also technical things, it's amazing how much different environments can really affect your voice. Coachella was really hot and dry because it was in the desert. Then you'd be in an air-conditioned dressing room and my voice was all over the place, so actually just keeping your voice healthy during the festivals. It's pretty hard, so you've got to work really hard at it. I played in a tent, and I watched a lot of the acts that were on the main stage just sing like how they perform in such a big space, so that was really cool. Maybe one day, I'll be on a big stage too!
Are you going to use the same tips and tricks for Glastonbury? And have you been as part of the audience?
No, I haven't! I made a promise that I wouldn't go to Glastonbury until I play, unless I got to 40 and decide it didn't work out.
How do you deal with being so vulnerable on stage, seeing as you're singing about pretty personal stuff?
I'm very chatty between songs. Because I'm not really singing very happy songs, I feel that for the audience and I, it would be fun if we could laugh. Otherwise, people will just go away feeling drained and just awful. If we could have a laugh between it, it would just lighten up a bit, makes it better and it would help me relax as well!
What do you think the secret of a good performance is?
I have no idea.
You toured with James Bay quite a bit. What did you learn from watching him perform?
He is amazing. It looks like he's been studying it for years, but he hasn't. It just comes so naturally to him. I think it's all about keeping it about the audience, and not about you. I think that's what James does: Keep it about the audience, play what they want to hear, and not necessarily what you like to play — which could just be some rubbish album.
What's your favourite song to play then?
Don't Worry About Me.
I gathered that most of your songs are about relationships. Are they about a particular person or different people whom you've met?
Yes, I've been with the same person for eight years.
Does he know that the songs are about him?
Oh yes, he loves it. (laughs)
How do you jot down your song ideas or lyrics?
My voice memo app on my phone is like, full. But I don't name them, so it's like "new voice recording", "voice recording 420"...or something. I record things there, and I have my notes on my phone as well.
Lastly, what song do you sing in the shower?
I tend to sing super pop-y stuff in the shower, like the new Clean Bandit song. It's called Tears, with the girl from X-Factor UK (Louisa Johnson). But she goes really high, so I kind of have to struggle.
Frances will be performing at Glastonbury Festival 2016, Pussy Parlure Stage on Friday, 4.30pm.