click to enlarge
- Courtesy Of Patrick Mccormack
- Francesca Blanchard
For all the idiosyncratic charms of our local music scene, the specter of loss always lingers nearby. We know that Burlington — and, indeed, the Vermont music scene in general — is a small pond. So it comes as no huge surprise when a musician ships off for a bigger market.
If there was one departure I saw coming, it was that of Francesca Blanchard. Aside from her prodigious talent, the singer-songwriter has always exhibited a wanderlust in her music that seemed to foreshadow her leaving Burlington one day. That day came at the end of December, when, after a sold-out farewell (for now) show at the Winooski United Methodist Church, she picked up stakes and drove west to California.
"You can make art from anywhere," Blanchard said by phone from an apartment she is subletting in Los Angeles. "And the most important thing to me is community. So why am I here? Why even move? I'm having a lot of these moments right now; I'm already so homesick."
After weeks of wondering whether she made the right move, she said, she's pared her motive down to a pretty simple one: She needed a change of scene. During the pandemic, Blanchard felt she lost a lot of her music-making momentum.
"Out here, you can assume everyone you see is working on five screenplays at all times," she said with a laugh. "It's a little ridiculous, but I like how it normalizes an artistic process that, back home in Vermont, I'd have never allowed myself the time to engage in. I've just needed to regrease the wheels, and for some reason, I was struggling to do that in Vermont."
So off she went, feeling a strange sort of grief as she drove farther and farther away from the Green Mountains.
In the months leading to her departure, Blanchard said, she fell even more deeply in love with the Burlington music community that she planned soon to leave. As that heaviness set in, she began to feel the need to write a sort of Dear John letter.
So Blanchard went to Future Fields studios in downtown Burlington. There, in a quick and dirty two-hour session, she and producer Dan Rome recorded a cover of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game," one of Blanchard's favorite tunes ever. Featuring her hushed, brokenhearted vocal over sparse acoustic guitar and a ghostly piano track, the recording encapsulates a lot of her feelings about her move.
"It just feels so metaphorical to record one of the most stunning love songs ever and release it on Valentine's Day," Blanchard said. "When I would sing that chorus, I couldn't shake this feeling that I was leaving something behind that I truly, deeply love. I don't want to break up with Vermont."
As I reminded her over the phone, the good news is that she doesn't have to. Burlington's music scene may be accustomed to our best going out into the world, but we're equally used to welcoming them back.
Blanchard knows that. "The common denominator in Burlington's music scene has always been musicians supporting each other," she asserted. "I know some musicians leave the scene and disappear, but that's not something I'm ever going to do."
"Wicked Game" hits streaming sites on February 14.