by Kristie Francis
This week we are taking a closer look at some of the performers coming to the 2012 Rogue Festival. Check back here every day through Thursday for more articles & soon for Rogue reviews & be sure and check out the ones we have already posted!
Come on in and meet some of my friends!
Essentially, that’s what I’ll be sharing with everyone at each of my Rogue performances: a chance to get acquainted with all sorts of people: misguided, earnest, annoying, enthusiastic, cautious, insightful, exasperated, risqué, disorganized, affectionate, clueless, gutsy, timid, loyal, devious, and hopelessly confused. These eclectic assorted characters live in my mind and my songs, and I’m very fond of them. They may have their faults, but generally, they mean well, they’re doing the best they can with what they have, and they never give up!
Where did these people come from, you ask?
I have always been fascinated by our species – how our minds work, why we do what we do, how we feel … I’m especially interested in relationships of all kinds – how people connect and interact.
Sometimes when a person in my life is particularly significant to me or unique (usually in a good way), I decide that they really need to be put into a song. Not the whole person; I’ll focus on their most interesting trait, exaggerate it, bring in characteristics of a few other people, make up some stuff, and … Presto! There’s my new friend!
Then I’ll write a song for them to sing – of course, I’ll actually be singing it, but I try to imagine what they would say, and I put it in their words. They might sing about things that happen to them, or about the people they know. Sometimes I’ll create another person, and see what happens when they get together – maybe they’ll get along, maybe not. Maybe one of them will sing a song to the other! I wonder what my imaginary friends are up to when I’m not looking …
Sometimes a character is based on a real person who has serious faults, makes big mistakes, and does things I really, really don’t like. Often I am that person; honestly, sometimes I annoy the heck out of myself. My songs help me to lighten up and accept people the way they are, and if I can accept myself, I can accept anybody!
How about some examples? OK!
I taught art in junior high for 18 years. One day I overheard a fellow teacher describing one of her students. “He’s a great kid – smart, friendly – I really like him! It’s always nice to run into him in the halls, the library, the cafeteria … but he sure is a pain in the class!” A pain in the class – now there’s a good refrain for a song! I knew the boy, and in my mind, I combined some of his less-endearing behaviors with those of other kids, and rolled everything into two composite students, a boy and a girl. Then I imagined how good it would feel to tell the parents untactfully what those kids are like in school, and I created a brave (and reckless) teacher who would do just that. “The Parent Teacher Conference Song” is the result.
Here’s another teacher song: One evening in the newspaper, I happened to see a help-wanted ad for a “banana ripener.” A WHAT?! Really? I imagined that person, and how he or she might spend his days – what a cushy job! Then I pictured a teacher who might become fixated on the fantasy of being a banana ripener – would she actually consider trying to get a job like that, become more and more dissatisfied as a teacher, maybe even quit her job eventually to pursue her new dream? Would the dream come true? The name of the resulting song is, of course, “The Banana Ripener.” (If you come to the Rogue and l sing that song, listen for the line that says “… frankly that could be a job that really has appeal!” I’m very proud of that line) (“A peel” … get it?).
Quite a few years ago, I had a couple of kitchen remodelers at my home to replace a damaged counter top. While they worked I kept my two little kids and myself out of their way, but I did notice that the new counter top had a definite slant to it. When the guys left for lunch, I got out my level … yep, way off.
When they returned, I asked them to check it, and the man who was in charge was amused at first, and then became downright hostile when I didn’t back down. “Lady, me and my partner have been doin’ this for a long time, and we don’t need a woman tellin’ us how to do it. If I hired you to babysit my kids, I sure wouldn’t try to tell YOU that you was doin’ it wrong!” I persisted and they finally discovered and repaired the problem. Years later, I still remembered him, and I invented three guys who shared his gender-related arrogance; I put them in a song, and I give them a piece of my mind every time I sing “Only one thing.”
Like most moms, I was often accused by my kids of being over-protective. I could be a lot worse, I thought, and I conjured up a mother who was so obsessed and paranoid that she wouldn’t let her poor kids do anything without warning them of the likely dire, dreadful, deadly consequences. When I sang the song for my kids, they didn’t crack a smile. “That’s not funny, mom. That sounds just like you.”
When I was single and dating, I got along fine with one guy until he heard me sing at a coffeehouse. One of my songs was a long, detailed litany of failed relationships and the reasons why they failed (coincidentally, it was always the guy’s fault). Afterwards, he was clearly unnerved and wanted my assurance that if we eventually broke up, I wouldn’t write a song about it. I said I couldn’t promise that, but if I did put him in a song, I wouldn’t mention his name. In fact, when I wrote the song, I switched our roles and created a woman who begs her boyfriend “Honey, Don’t Put Me in One of Your Songs!”
So, that’s where these friends of mine come from.
I mentioned above that my songs help me to lighten up and accept people for who they are. In addition, the songs help me to remember that we are all different and alike, and we’re all in this together! And the songs help me to celebrate things I love about people, and to laugh about the quirky things we humans do. Maybe my songs help other people to lighten up, accept, remember, celebrate, and laugh, as well. I hope so, although the laughing part is the only one of those five things I know for sure. In any case, we all usually have a lot of fun, and I love to be there when that happens … and I’m really looking forward to it happening four different times at the Rogue Festival!
You can see Kristie With A K at the Spectrum Gallery, 608 E. Olive Ave. (in the Tower District) Saturday, March 3 at 5 p.m., Sunday, March 4 at 6:15 p.m., Friday, March 9 at 10 p.m., and Saturday, March 10 at 1 p.m.