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#2 CUCKOO IN THE NEST

Fran photo by Mitch Love
Fran photo by Mitch Love

THE SHORT

  • Was born with shocking pink hair.
  • Has a walk-in robe full of capes.
  • Likes to lunch.
  • Is far from deluded, but watch this space.
  • If she’s not making music, she’s not breathing.
  • Is beautifully selfish, but only about her music.
  • Will she make the big time? YES/NO/WTF KNOWS.

THE LONG SHIZ

I have a cuckoo clock hanging on my kitchen wall. It runs on batteries and circuit boards, but fairly early on in its life the little pink bird inside gave up on popping out of its door every hour. It just sat there all exposed, never finding the comfort of home. Then it stopped cuckooing and it rested on the wall for years, just telling the time. Usually a few minutes behind the hour as if the stress of living had made it want to give up, but it wasn’t quite ready to let go just yet. Recently, the clock started cuckooing again, just burst into glorious life one hour. Freaked the fuck out of me and the Dogz. Now it randomly cuckoos every hour on the hour. It’ll fill the house with three cuckoos at five O’ clock, 12 at one O’ clock, eight at six O’ clock and so on and so forth. It doesn’t do a damned thing we expect it to, but we’re glad to have it back. Still freaks the fuck out of the Dogz, every hour on the hour.

She backs her product like she’s Hayley Streten, the femme incarnation of Flume, with platinum-selling albums and sold out shows under her belt.

Recently I met a local musician called Fran Veltman, who produces music and DJs under the moniker Fran. She told me a story about how life had nearly defeated her, chronic illness taking its toll. And then, even more shocking than that, how she’d decided to take up creating music later in life. Approaching 50 for goodness’ sake! She invited me to come see her first ever live performance. I admired her moxie. I could never have gotten over that mountain of nerves. I appreciated the costume changes, one for each of the three songs she debuted. I loved her demeanour. The songs were good, too, but I couldn’t see then how she could make it as a muso.

I would have walked away from her story right then, but there was something about Fran, her troll-doll pink hair and her unshakable self-belief that made me hang in for a few more meetings. She’d send me songs she’d produced with accompanying messages like, “This one’s going to be huge,” and “I love how this one’s turned out.” I found it a bit jarring at first, because most musos who send me their tracks either do it with a contrivedly boring media release or a very tentative, ‘I don’t know if this is anything, but…’ Not Fran. She backs her product like she’s Hayley Streten, the femme incarnation of Flume, with platinum-selling albums and sold out shows under her belt. Over time, I got over my prejudice — because that’s what it was — and gave Fran’s music a proper listen.

Fran doesn’t do genres. She’ll knock out anything from intimate family portraits dressed up as power ballads to music for films, all produced in technicolour with the sound turned up to 11 and every part larger than life. At the moment, Fran is best known for her house tracks. We’re talking real dancefloor bangers here, the sort of stuff that young people move to way past Fran’s bedtime. And that’s the crux of the issue with Fran. We still live in a world where it’s generally understood that making music is a young person’s game and something you make your way at after years of learning and practice. It’s just not the done thing to drop into making music when you’re a tick past middle aged and expect to be anything like successful.

Fran is a networker. She has a whole other professional career and a skillset that comes from being a successful businesswoman. She’s persistent, she’s planned and she’s perspicacious. Fran knows that reaching out to people is how you make your way. Notionally, the music industry knows that as well, but it’s a difficult industry to break into from the outside, especially when your life experience and age — there, said it — is so far removed from that of those you’re reaching out to. The music biz is one where people are usually looking to exclude rather than include. There are good reasons for this. People learn the ropes and make headway through years of grindingly hard work. You don’t just give that away for nothing. Also, the music biz attracts a lot of chancers and predators, so you have to be careful who you give your professional heart to. That’s another reason: making music is far more about the heart than the head. Most musos have had their hearts broken so many times, you can’t blame them for being wary.

Paradoxically, Fran’s both too old and too new for the industry to be inclined to take her seriously. Doors only open so far no matter how many times she knocks. Whatever. Don’t get me wrong, Fran takes the rebuffs personally, she is only human, after all, but having allowed herself to live her dream after a lifetime of fulfilling those of others, she’s never going to give up on making music.

“I know my music is good,” Fran said, “I’m writing and learning all the time and I’ve reached out to people, across Australia, in the [United] States, who want to play my music and want to collaborate with me. I want to get back to doing more DJing, too, but I want to play mostly my own songs. I know I can do this; I’ve just got to work out how to get my music out there and get people to listen to it.”

My lasting impression of Fran is of her tenacity and her human frailty. It’s like she’s going through a second adolescence, but with all the armoury that only a grown up can accrue over a lifetime of hard graft. That makes her a force to be reckoned with and someone the biz should sit up and take notice of. If they don’t, all good, but why not ride with someone instead of on their coattails? Cuckoos thrive best in the nests of others.

You can’t miss Fran, her energy matches her pink hair and she doesn’t just sit at home sticking to her knitting. Musos, next time you see her in a venue, sidle up and say, ‘Hello,’ it’ll be well worth your time.

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