Frances England, mom and performer, will be playing at the Austin City Limits Music Festival on the Kiddie Limits stage on Saturday, October 9th from 2:30-2:55pm and again on Sunday from 3:00- 3:25pm. We thought it would be fun to feature a mom-musician. You know, try to figure out how they handle the pressures of being rock stars and a mom at the same time…. a problem that I don’t think I will ever have to deal with since I have a hard time carrying a tune.
Frances, on the other hand, has a lovely, soft voice, making her music perfect to either sing along with or to lull a tot off to sleep. Check her out at ACL and read all about what inspires her to make music. My sons (4 and 5 years old) are loving her newest album.
LiveMom: What were you doing before your music career “found” you, so to speak?
Frances England: I was at home with my boys and going to school, working on a master’s degree in library science. I thought being a children’s librarian would be such an awesome job and was just two credits shy from getting my degree when things started taking off with the music. I didn’t feel like I could do both and be a sane Mommy, so I went with the music. So I’m a library school dropout but I still think librarians ROCK.
LiveMom: At what age did you become interested in writing/ performing? Who are your biggest influences?
Frances England: To be completely honest, I was never interested in performing. I’m a behind the scenes kind of girl, and getting on a stage has never been easy for me. But that’s what’s so great about family music — the kids make it so much fun and the performance isn’t really about me. It’s about a community of families coming together to sing and dance and laugh and have fun. When I frame it like this, it’s a lot easier for me to do.
And influences — hmmm, I have lots. I listen to lots of indie music (M. Ward, Laura Veirs, Arcade Fire, Bon Iver) but I also like lots of old stuff (Woodie Guthrie, Carter Family, bluegrass). When I’m writing songs for families I really try and put something in there for everyone in the family — it sounds corny to say, but it’s true. It’s a really fine balance and something I spend a lot of time thinking about.
LiveMom: I read on your website that you are originally from the south; which state are you from? What do you miss about it? What do you love about living in San Francisco?
Frances England: We moved around a bit – I have lived in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi for one year and Arkansas. When we lived in Georgia, my husband was a professional bike racer and we’d drive all over the South for races so I feel like I know it well. I think the South is such a complicated, unique place and if you’ve never lived there you have no idea what it’s all about. There are so many things I miss — the friendly people, the slower pace of life, the green lush, thunderstorms, bar-b-que, wide open spaces, gravel roads – I could go on and on….
I moved to San Francisco right after I got married and we said we’d stay for two years — that was twelve years ago! It’s just the right size for me citywise and I like that it’s urban but there’s easy access to nature and the outdoors. We have an amazing community of friends here, plus I love the ethnic diversity, yummy food everywhere you turn, the pacific ocean, lots of used clothing and book stores, golden gate park — I could go on and on…
Frances England: Well, I’m not sure I have my wits about me all the time. Balance is something every mom I know is always struggling with and I’m no different. I try not to compare what I’m doing (or not doing) to others because it’s not productive and doesn’t get me anywhere. I try to set realistic goals for myself and am constantly fine-tuning and readjusting based on what’s going on with my family and the opportunities that come to me.
LiveMom: Are your children your muses when it comes to writing your songs?
Frances England: They are indeed and they give me so much to write about! I also work at a cooperative preschool here in San Francisco once a week so there are 35 other little muses running around my feet, inspiring me in all sorts of ways.
LiveMom: What is your favorite thing about performing for children? Do you have any funny stories to share about your experiences?
Frances England: I like seeing families dancing together or singing together, Mom’s and Dad’s holding their kids on their laps, listening thoughtfully to songs. We all have such crazy busy lives and I like that at family music shows we all stop rushing for 30 or 45 minutes and come together around music. I also love how free and unselfconscious so many of the kids are. You would not believe the dance moves I have seen 3 and 4 year olds pull off –very inspiring.
Funny experiences – on more than one occasion we have been in the middle of playing a set and my 4 year old has come up to me – right in the middle of a song – and said, “Mommy, I have to pee. Can you take me to the potty?” Luckily, I’ve always had friends on hand who could help us out.
LiveMom: Austin is a great city. Have you been here before? There is no shortage of things to do and to eat; do you have plans to do any exploring while you’re here?
Frances England: I have never been to Austin! I have been to Dallas and Houston and San Antonio but never Austin — it’s crazy! I’m so excited about seeing Austin but haven’t had time to research what I should see while I’m there — maybe your readers can help me out with suggestions???
LiveMom: Thank you so much for your time, Frances. I look forward to seeing you perform at the Austin City Limits Festival! Parting question: what is your favorite parenting tool (tangible or intangible!) that has made your life as a busy mom easier?
Frances England: Friday Night Movie Night. Every Friday night we have movie night at our house. Our kids don’t watch TV during the week so they look forward to movie night like crazy. And so do I. It’s the one night of the week we don’t sit around the table for dinner – instead we throw an old sheet over the couch, order take out and chill out together. It’s fantastic.
Written By: Jennifer Ford