The fast-rising, female singer-songwriter who picked up nominations for both the Brits Critics Choice and BBC Sound Of 2016 shortlists
Name: Sophie Frances Cooke
Location: London and Newbury, UK
Style: Piano-driven pop anthems that manage to sound somewhere between Carole King and Coldplay
Look out for: Frances’ latest single Say It Again out now and her debut album coming very soon
In less than 12 months, Sophie Frances Cooke has solidified herself as one of 2016’s fastest rising stars, winning critical acclaim across the board, sweeping nominations for both the esteemed Brits Critics Choice and BBC Sound of 2016 Poll. But her story began as a child growing up in Berkshire, learning the piano and violin, and encouraged by her father to learn to play his favourite Britpop albums.
“He used to a lot of indie music like Coldplay, Radiohead and Keane, and then some other stuff like Beck,” recalls Frances. “But I was always drawn to more piano-based stuff that he was listening to, so when I could play well enough he bought me the songbooks, like [Coldplay albums] Parachutes and Rush Of Blood To The Head, and the first couple of Keane albums. But he didn’t know anything about music, so the first one he bought me was a guitar one! I was just learning it all on piano – I just loved the way they voicing their piano parts and it really inspired me, I think. And so I started experimenting with chords myself.”
As the experimentation continued and she finished school, Frances went on take a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts and the idea of becoming a singer-songwriter flourished. “I went through a stage of wanting to be a backing vocalist, because that sounded fun and I love writing harmonies. So I went through different things and then sat down one day, just sat playing the piano, singing and writing something, and I was like, ‘Ah, this is how I write songs all the time, so why can’t I just perform like this? Why can’t this just be the thing that I do?’”
Then, in the last year of her course at LIPA – while back home in Newbury for the summer holidays – the songstress started venturing into nearby London each day to collaborate. “I’d commute in to write with anyone that my manager put me in contact with, just building up this portfolio of songs. At the same time, my manager was starting to chat casually with publishers.”
And so by the time the new academic year came back round, Frances’ songwriting experience was building momentum and the idea of moving back to Liverpool seemed senseless. “I said to my mum and dad that I needed to move to London, and they were like, ‘What?! You’re so young…’ But I did and did manage to finish the degree… just!”
Moving into a small flat in Finchley, Frances would spend her days writing songs in her box-room and doing everything she could to take advantage of the opportunity: toplining tracks for producers and doing sessions for other acts, but also writing for herself as an artist. And it worked. In her short time in London, the 23-year-old found herself in sessions with some of pop music’s heavyweight songwriters such as Jimmy Napes and Adele-collaborator Greg Kurstin, as well as Jonny Lattimer who wrote Starry Eyed with Ellie Goulding.
Asked about the difference these collaborators make to the process, Frances replied: “It really depends on the writer. Greg, for example, took charge of the music and I did the melody and lyrics. But someone like Jimmy is the most incredible lyricist, so you can’t write a song and him not be involved in the lyrics. One of my first writing sessions with Johnny Latimer, he would get really involved in the lyrics and get down to the nitty-gritty, changing one word or a syllable. So it really depends on the writer and what their skills are.”
It was during this fruitful time that Grow was written – which would go on to be the single that bagged a TV sync slot and hit the top of the iTunes and Shazam charts in Portugal – and several other songs that will see the light of day on her forthcoming debut album. When we spoke to Frances, the record was “pretty much finished”, about to be mastered and scheduled for release mid-to-end of October. With her last single, Don’t Worry About Me amassing over four million streams on Spotify and the superb new release Say It Again continuing the momentum, we’re betting the album will be a success and Frances’ bold piano-driven anthems reach many more millions of listeners.
To find out more about Frances, check out her official website: francesmusic.com