As Jacques said in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, „All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.” Seeing a theatrical or musical performance is a shared experience. We watch the “players” on stage expressing emotions that we all have and portraying events that we all experience. We all experience a birth and a passing – a beginning and an end. Or maybe it doesn’t really end after all? „Hereafter” is a musical that brings to the stage an exploration of what happens after that inevitable final curtain call.
Frankie Keane is originally from Chicago, but moved to New York City along with her dreams. Within her was an intense desire to sing, write songs and act. Where else could you go, but the city that never sleeps? Eventually she met Vinnie Favale, whom she helped in the creative process of writing the musical „Hereafter.” In addition to being a part of the creative team, Frankie Keane is a cast member playing the role of „Anita.”
In our interview with Frankie Keane, we encounter someone passionate and open, with a desire to bring her heart to the stage and into the lyric and melody of the songs she writes and sings.
Let’s meet Frankie Keane.
I want you to take us back. If we could go into your house when you were growing up, what would we hear on a typical day?
We had a family business so everybody in my family worked and to get through some of the work, all of my siblings played instruments and sang so my older sister would play the piano and we’d play ‘Name That Tune’ with the books of music that we had while we were working so she played the piano and the rest of us would be working and singing and playing ‘Name That Tune.’ (Laughs)
So you come from a musical house?
Oh absolutely. My mother’s from Ireland and she was a singer and actress in Ireland. Not for long before she met my dad. Then they wrote back and forth from America to Ireland for I believe four years and then he went over and asked her to marry him. So, in that interim she was doing her acting on stage, and singing and such. My dad sings and my sisters sing and so we all kind of sing. Everybody sings or plays something in that house.
What kind of music did you grow up loving the most…your favorites?
I grew up listening to Irish music a lot and then whatever was playing on the radio was kind of what I was sequestered to listening to until we got some good TV and were able to get ‘American Bandstand’ and ‘Soul Train,’ and when I heard ‘Soul Train,’ I was like, “Oh my god! Somebody understands what I hear in my head.” (Laughs) So, every weekend ‘Soul Train’ was on and that was like my Holy Grail. I lived for ‘Soul Train.’
What made you decide to pursue music as a life?
As a life calling? I moved out of the house when I was seventeen years old and had to work several jobs to support myself and in doing so I met some musicians who were also older than I was but were working part-time jobs and one of them had invited me down to her show and I went down and there was nobody there yet. There was books of music on the piano so I went up on the piano and I kind of started going through the music and…actually, when you think about it, it’s kind of rude.
I started going through the music books on the piano and this gentleman came up behind me and he goes, “Do you play?” And I said, “Well, I don’t play anything anyone would want to hear, but I sing.” He goes, “Oh really?” He’s like, “Well what do you sing?” And I said, “Well I know this song.” The next thing I know, I’m singing with him and his name’s Vince Willis and Vince is one of the best piano players I’ve ever worked with and he actually happened to be with Mo-Town. He was Richard Pryor’s musical director. He played for pretty much everyone and he kept me in this sort of circle of close friends.
Next thing you know, I’m singing all over Chicago and having a lot of doors open for me because of him kind of going out on a limb for me and for understanding where I was musically as far as what my passions were and he really taught me a lot so he was a mentor and a friend and that’s how it all kind of started and then I started getting booked on this, that and the other. I joined another band and we were opening up for the group Chicago and Coco Taylor. I opened up for Isaac Hayes and R. Kelly so it was really kind of a miracle that I ran into this guy because need someone to take you under their wing and take you around a bit and that’s what he did for me.
When did you start to write songs yourself?
Oh, I’ve been writing songs since I was like ten. I still have this big leather bag that has all of these notebooks that I would have songs in and I go back to my early writing and it’s actually better than what I’m doing now because when I was younger, I looked at things, I think closer. You look at things a lot closer when you’re younger of how the world is and how you see it and it’s less trite and more honest so I started writing years ago and playing the piano years ago and so I started writing my own songs when I was ten.
You said that you felt your earlier songs were more honest. What do you think happens?
I think what happens is being in the music world. When I was younger, I really wanted to just get a record deal. I still really wouldn’t be opposed to it, but the music business is so different now. I really wanted to be recognized as a unique artist. I think everybody wants that when they’re younger and I was working with the people who could actually make it happen and you start to listen to the homogenized music that was being played at the time and you just kind of dummy your stuff down in order to feel like it’s marketable. Whereas when you’re younger, you write things from a more passionate place and that’s not on the forefront of what you want. You just try to be honest and get something good that represents what’s going on in your head.
What artists would you say have influenced you the most?
Oh wow! There’s so many. I grew up listening to Irish music of the Irish struggles and my grandmother and all the Irish struggles she went through and so you hear those songs. Those songs are just horrible songs actually…beautifully written and haunting. So that is the core of a truth, so to speak, but then listening to Donnie Hathaway and Aretha Franklin and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Creedence Clearwater, Bob Dylan.
Listening to Bob Dylan as a kid and singing Bob Dylan and listening to the words. There’s times I think I listen to songs that I knew all the lyrics to as a kid and could sing, but now that I’m older, I look at them obviously entirely different and understanding the point where he was coming from when he wrote stuff, but I actually had the enormous pleasure and honor to do a show with one of his wives—a musical. Not his current wife. It was eye-opening because her name was Carol Dennis and I put my head on her lap and said, “Tell me a story, Carol.” (Laughs) If I can call him “Bob,” Bob was such a huge influence on my writing when I was younger because I just found his writing to be so deep and obscure, to the point and so colorful and poetic. To get the real story behind some of the songs that he wrote from her perspective I was like “Really?”
It put him on a human plane and I don’t think a lot of people look at their musical idol as human so I have been fortunate enough to have a “Come to Jesus” moment where we’re all human. We all have good thoughts, bad thoughts. Some of us write them better than others. My musical influences are so diverse. It’s really hard to pinpoint the top five, but they’re definitely artists who can sing from their soul and it comes out that way or artists that write from their soul and don’t care if it rhymes and don’t care what the outcome will be, if it hits the radio. So I guess it’s very eclectic as far as my taste and influences go.
You have been a part of this musical…you are a part of this musical, ‘Hereafter,’ not only as one of the writers, but also as Anita in ‘Hereafter.’ What was your first impression when you met Vinnie Favale, your collaborator?
We had spoken until our phones died on the phone and how we met as even funnier, but we had connected so much on the phone and the irony was he was like, “Oh well, what are you doing this weekend,” and I said, “Well I’m taking my dog down to the shore. My boyfriend and I are going to take her down to the beach you know.” And he goes, “Where are you going?” and I said, I forget which beach it was. He goes, “Oh my god! On the way, stop by. I don’t normally do this but drop by the house.” So, I was like, “You know what? I think we will.”
And so we did and I get out of the car and it was just kismet. It was like we’d known each other for years and we never did make it to the beach. My dog got along with his dog and we were there until the sun went down and it was just like we’d known each other for our entire lives, or maybe other lives. It was really quite miraculous that you hit it off with someone and his wife and his son and his dog and of course, the neighbors. We’re as tight with neighbors where they are at this point so it was definitely meant to be. For sure.
But a first impression? He is gregarious. He is hilarious. He is generous. He is warm. He is insightful. He is funny. He is so many things that most people wish they had three of his traits, but he’s got about fifty but you just go…he just keeps going. The gifts keep coming. You know, he’s just a wonderful individual.
READ FURTHER, ON THE NEXT PAGESemnat de Paul Leslie