Fran Wyburn Press Shot 1

Course Studied: MMus Creative Musician

Year of Graduation: 2014

 Top Career Highlights: 

  • Writing, recording and releasing my album ‘Wood for the Trees’ in 2018
  • Building a career as a community musician, exploring music and wellbeing
  • Re-writing the music and working as a musical director for a musical called JunkYard, performed at Edgehill University.

An acclaimed folk-artist, Fran combines her work as an independent singer-songwriter with a whole host of projects, including the Leeds-based Sisterhood Music Colletive and community work, engaging and inspiring people through the power of music. Fran offers some great advice on how to find your individual voice as an artist, as well a fresh perspective on working independently as a self released musician in the commercial music industry.

How did studying at Postgraduate level at Leeds Conservatoire aide your career to date?

I had very little formal musical education before my MA in Composition, just a feel for songwriting, so I was a little overwhelmed being surrounded by incredible instrumentalists and people who spoke about music theory like it was common language. Once I got my head around it and found my place I thoroughly enjoyed the collaborative element, working with my tutor Stefan and other fantastic musicians to really immerse myself in a creative journey, discovering what made me tick as an artist. Stefan helped build my confidence and my belief in my own art - this has been the most valuable tool. He instilled in me ‘why not, you’ve got as much right as anyone else to do it’, type of philosophy.

In a lot of your musical projects you work with Jazz graduate George Birkett. How did that relationship begin?

‘At his kitchen table on a raining December afternoon', we always reference it like that! I came in, in a whirlwind of frantic energy, after a hectic day (very usual for me) and George, as he always does, sat peacefully and played the songs I taught him sublimely first time! He was recommended by a mutual friend and over 4 or so years working together, he has become one of my closest friends, or what I flamboyantly describe as, “my musical soul mate”.

You’ve released two EP’s (Little Moments in 2014, Postcards in 2016). How does the album ‘Wood for the Trees’ (2018) differ musically from these previous releases? What does a full album enable you to achieve that an EP perhaps doesn’t?

I see each musical project as a snap shot of my artistic journey at that time. Stefan’s open approach of, ‘just do it, learn from it and grow’, has helped me detach from the product so I feel less fretful about what I put out and am proud of it. Wood for the trees has been more experimental than the previous EP’s; there’s a few solemn piano songs in there and a lot more strings. I feel it introduces different energies and song styles to keep it from all blending into the same sound. It feels like a holistic expression of my artist journey - I included 2 songs written many years ago that sparked my passion for writing.

How important is it for an independent artist to self-release their work?

I’m under the mind-set of just get on with it. The music industry is in a massive flux at the moment and now that artists have a lot more control over the release process, I figured, ‘why wait for someone else to dictate that you’re ready or that your music is good enough’. I think everything we do in life is a learning opportunity so, as a DIY musician, we get lots of opportunities to learn about the practical and emotional aspects of being a musician. If you don’t brave it and self-release, you lose all the knowledge and development that comes from taking control of your own journey.

Where do you find inspiration from for your songwriting and lyrics? How did a year of travelling across the world influence this artistic creation?

The year away when I was 27 gave me the space to dream up a new career for myself and to build the courage to try something I always thought was for other people. I started writing simply because I took my guitar (of which I could hardly play). I had a broken heart and no-one to talk to, so I just spilled everything out to a few chords and a simple melody line. I always write when I need to figure something out or feel swamped; through songwriting I discover some sort of closure.

Alongside an active performance schedule, you’re busy working as a community music practitioner for a variety of projects. Could you tell us more about this work? What does this allow you to achieve that you perhaps can’t through a busy performance schedule?

I am a real juggler of, ‘yes sure I can do that’, projects… maybe that's the attitude we need these days as freelance musicians - a willingness to try new and different things! I work for about 10 different companies, from theatres to universities, charities and independent organisations. I deliver a range of projects: I work with a refugee choir, with people with dementia, I deliver early year’s music workshops and work with at risk teenagers. Having a rich and diverse network of musical relationships keeps me in awe of the power of music and its ability to touch our lives.

Your work has received notable acclaim in many folk publications (most recently in Folk Radio). To what extent as a singer-songwriter do you feel that you are/are not a folk musician? What do you think of the contemporary folk scene (alt-folk, world music, sombre pop etc.) and do you feel immersed within that?

For non folkies my music is quite folk and for folkies it’s really not… there’s a lot of different influences in my music. I feel that, even though I’m influenced by the likes of Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen etc. as well as the more recent wave of Laura Marling and her contemporaries, I don’t really know that much about the folk form. I like meandering melodies and storytelling. I feel quite 'un-boxable' at the moment, but then maybe a lot of artists say that. Losing the indefinable element might compromise my creative process, yet I recognise the importance of identifying and immersing oneself within a genre.

What’s coming up next for you in terms of projects, releases or gigs? How do you plan to make the most of the recent release of your album ‘Wood for the Trees’?

I’m part of a female band of singer songwriters called Sisterhood Music Collective. Since George has moved to Berlin, a lot of my creative focus has been on the Collective, working together rehearsing our set and organising live music events and tours. We host live sessions where we collaborate on each other’s songs, discussing issues that are relevant to us as DIY 35+ year old female artists! We’ve had an incredible response to our ethos and shows - this year we are putting together a tour of fantastic Yorkshire venues, running song writing workshops and Sisterhood performances.

3 weeks after releasing Wood for the Trees I discovered I was pregnant and have been quite poorly for the best part. I’m looking forward to getting my energy back once baby arrives and having the space to promote the album. I’ve got a couple of music videos coming out and I’m playing at Holmfirth Folk Festival in May.

Click here to follow what Fran is up to via her twitter.

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