Frances Cone’s Charleston musical roots run as deep as the roots of the Angel Oak. Her mother and father met here years ago when he was an opera singer and she was his accompanist, and the most memorable concert that Cone has ever attended happened at the Music Farm the day she graduated College of Charleston. “I saw Cary Ann Hearst play and lost my musical mind,” she says. This week, the now Brooklyn-based singer is returning home for a show at the Tin Roof. She also plans to spend a few days visiting her old stomping grounds.
Cone will be sharing the stage with French Camp, featuring fellow Holy City natives and musical mates Owen Beverly and Benji Lee, along with Andrew Doherty. “Andy hasn’t been to Charleston, so I feel like I’m going to go into insane tour guide mode with him for our short visit here.” Cone says with a laugh. “It’s gonna be all boiled peanuts, shrimp and grits, sweet tea, Folly Beach, pimento cheese, Shem Creek, for a solid 48 hours here. I cannot wait.” Slow Runner’s Josh Kaler will be sitting in for French Camp’s Edward Barton.
In February, Frances Cone released Come Back, a bittersweet mix of indie R&B, singer-songwriter confessionalism, post-modern Americana, and enchanted harmonies all propelled by Cone’s old-soul vocals and piano playing. She draws her sound from Patty Griffin, Rufus Wainwright, Feist, the Zombies, the Local Natives, and Beverly’s old buddies Shovels & Rope. “Music is math, sure, but I don’t believe it’s science,” Cone says. “I don’t want to take the intellect out of it completely, but it’s so important to me to have my songs in a heart space, not a head one.”
Growing up, Cone was classically trained in piano like her mother and grandmother. “I was taught pretty technically, but as soon as I realized where I wanted to take it, I tried to put away the head and write songs that came from my gut,” Cone says. She wanted her music to come from that raw place that couldn’t be taught, only felt. “I basically had every major but music in college, because I knew that if I wanted a music career, I didn’t want a music school brain. I wanted a pretty emotion-based sound — not lyrically, necessarily, but in a chord change or dissonant note. I wanted those choices to be emotional.”
Come Back effortlessly expresses that raw emotion. “I think music is supposed to be about the listener’s story, so I’ve tried — and probably failed — not to get too specific with inspiration. But I also can only write about what I know so there’s definitely some real personal heartache and loss in there,” she says. Each song on the record is a sliver of the over-arching theme of love and loss. “Edith” is based on a J.D. Salinger short story, “Soon” is about the relationship of an older couple in their 70s who divorced and then remarried, and “Rattles Your Heart” is about the weight of living in the city.
Cone’s Tin Roof debut is just the beginning of a phase of adventures. “We’ve been playing a ton in New York City and Brooklyn and are excited to finally get out of the city and play,” she says. “After Charleston, we’re headed to a couple other East Coast towns before we head back to New York City. Hopefully, we’ll be making it to the West Coast this fall.”