PDBY interviewed local, talented, and self-taught musician, Carla Franco. Franco says that she tries not to focus on a single genre of music but prefers to create material that feels musically connected and lyrically authentic instead. While trying not to limit herself genre-wise, Franco says that more often than not her music leans towards acoustic/pop folk. Franco has also written EDM/Dance tracks, ballads, rock songs, and has dabbled in hip hop. Versatility is key for her and she says that she finds joy in all of the music that she creates.
When did you first discover singing?
During my primary school years, I was in the school choir. I also used to sing at the top of my lungs to Avril Lavigne in our bar because that is where our surround sound system was. At the risk of sounding incredibly cliché, I do not remember a specific moment where music and singing entered my life – I just know that once it was there, it never left. So perhaps it is easier to just mention when I started writing my own music – which was when I was in Grade 7 (13 years old).
When did you know that you wanted to make music and how did you go about reaching this goal?
I clearly remember the day I finished writing a song on my piano called “Save Me” – which centered around my feelings of isolation and depression. I was 14 years old, in my pajamas [on] a Sunday morning and at this stage my brother had already walked into the room begging me to shut up at least three times. I knew that it would not be the thing that would make me ‘famous’, but it was the first time in my life that I knew I had discovered something about myself that would lead towards what I knew I was destined to do.
The music industry in South Africa is incredibly tough and being born and raised in Bloemfontein, there was not much I knew about music or how to become a singer. It all seemed far-fetched, like I was just dreaming of Hollywood and becoming a celebrity. So, it did not occur to me that it was at all something that could realistically be accomplished.
I remember messaging my primary school music and art teacher, asking her if I could meet her after school because I had something I wanted to share with her. She was a pivotal person in my life at the time – a safe space, and the only space where the dreams did not seem like they belonged in some distant far-away land. I played “Save Me” for her and the room filled with silence when I was done. She did not say much, she seemed shocked and immediately asked me if she could call my mom and a man named Andre (who became my producer). She set up a listening session with him and he begged my mom to let me record. [The] rest is history.
“Could She” is your most recent release. What is the personal meaning behind this song?
Something that is truly important to me is to use my music as a vessel to make people feel less alone. “Could She” is my most recent release and honestly, it was not really something I planned much. It was a song I had not even finished writing when I messaged my friend, Wesley West. I asked him if he would be interested in filming me finishing the song, to record the song once it was done and to use the candid footage for a YouTube video. “Could She” was also inspired by a very loose folk sound and was something that turned out to be a far more beautiful project than I anticipated.
I went through a devastating break-up from an incredibly toxic relationship mid-last year and it shed a lot of light onto things I was passing by, as well as the people I took for granted. It also made me realise that I have lost the capacity to love like I once did, to be present for a significant other like I want to be and should be. “Could She” centers around the idea of someone perfect coming into my life but [me] not being able to give them what they deserve; not being ready to commit to something with my entire being, because the world has not exactly been the kindest place – hence the lyrics “could she be patient, could she be kind, could we just leave the world behind”.
Is your music based on your own musical preferences?
My music is based on my lived experiences, or a reflection of the lived experiences of those I care for the most. My music preference is scattered all around but I love my country music, traditional folk music and rock, and I even love my stereotypical sad pop songs and rap music. There is a bit of everything – and I try to draw inspiration from that. Music inspires my writing process. The writing process is the first step in my music creation, and I draw my music from whatever I am feeling and whatever message I have to say. Once I feel I have authentically accomplished that, I start thinking about the production elements I want to add to bring the song to life.
Who are your musical idols, and is there anyone who inspires your musical sound?
Definitely LP – through and through. There is no artist that inspires me more.
Who would you say your number one supporter is?
That is a tough one because I have a really good support structure when it comes to the amazing people I am blessed with in my life. My friends have supported me from the first time I started sharing my music with them in my boarding school room. If I were to choose two people who have had to endure hours of voice note recordings (I am talking hours of amateur hour, voice-breaking, terrible guitar/piano playing voice notes) and ‘listening sessions’, it would be my best friend Erin Grant, and another dear friend of mine, Lizani Brits. I must admit, I continue to see growing support for my music, however big or small, and all of it has a huge impact and reminds me to be grateful for it every day.
Which of your songs is your favourite and why?
My favorite song is not actually something I have actually released yet – but I have played it at live shows. As a songwriter, it is super challenging to figure out which songs to keep close and which songs to share with the world. Sometimes it can be scary to throw yourself out at the wolves – especially when I think of my own music and how personal and revealing they can be. Sometimes it is easy though – with “1,2,3” I immediately had a gut feeling that it would be the song that gets my foot in the door, and it did. My phone is stacked with recordings of songs I have written and studio recordings of projects I have not released yet – and my particular tendencies make it even more challenging to know what to do with it all.
If I had to choose my favourite song from what I have already released there would be three: “Used to”, “Shackles” and “Long Gone”. Each of these tracks required unpacking the core of the pain I was feeling at the time and truly aided the hardest healing processes to date. For that reason, I will always hold them dear to my heart.
What has been your biggest obstacle in relation to your music?
Probably my hearing loss (struggling to pronounce words clearly in the studio, not being able to hear the metronome while trying to lay a foundation for a track, etc) and not being signed. People underestimate how expensive the entire music process is: from the recording, producing, videos, marketing and so on. It is quite a nightmare to do as an independent artist with no marketing team or record label to push it to its full potential. So that would definitely be the most challenging part.
According to your Instagram page, you are a proud member of the queer community. Does your pride come through in your music, and is your sexuality a source of motivation for your music?
I am loud and proud – here and queer. My sexuality is something I have never shied away from – despite how my journey with my sexuality first started. I think a lot of queer folks might relate to what I am about to say which is that, at least for me, there is always a constant battle between “hey, this is who I am […] this is who I love and I am going to own it,” versus having your sexuality become the defining factor of who you are once you embrace it. Often, I find myself saying that I do not want to be known as the ‘partially deaf, queer girl’ but as time has passed, I have come to accept that there is an importance in sharing your voice in this world – especially if it is a marginalised one.
I remember in high school, how scared I was to use female pronouns in my songs despite being out of the closet – how scared I was that it would ruin any chance of a successful music career in South Africa. I was so much younger, there were so many rich, conservative thinkers I was surrounded by and I honestly did not know whether it was a risk I was willing to take. Going to Rhodes University and having a song signed by Universal Music changed all of that for me. I would not necessarily say that my sexuality is a source of motivation, but it is simply one factor of the many factors that make up who I am both as a person and as an artist. I will say that I have stopped giving a f**k about hiding it in my music. If I want to sing about a beautiful woman who makes my heart feel things, good or bad, I am going to do it.
What do you love most about being a musician?
Knowing that there is something in life that inspires me, motivates me, ignites the passion within me and allows me to connect with and to people from all walks of life. I just love that I have something that brings me joy like nothing else in this world; something that never leaves you. My music is mine, it will always be mine; an untouched sacred place for me to always turn to. There is so much power in that, a place where your reality and experiences are undisturbed.
What advice would you give to your younger self about becoming a musician?
Sing about it, sing about her, write about it, write about them and just create, create, create and share, share, share. I spent far too much time questioning myself and fearing the consequences of the honesty within my lyrics.
Is there anything you’re working on now that you’d like to give us a sneak-peek into?
I am actually working on a new sound and some projects with Nasty C’s producer which I am really excited about, definitely keep your ears and eyes out!
You can follow Carla Franco on Instagram @carlafranco_official or check her music out on most major streaming platforms and YouTube.