AFDA student returns to complete studies after touring Europe & the UK

News, 26 February 2020



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At 22 years of age, Frances Clare Litten has returned to AFDA (The School of the Creative Economy) to complete her third year of studies after touring Europe and the UK with her band, Frances Clare. Here’s how Frances went from full-time student, to touring muso, to full-time student/front lady/band promoter/tour organiser/working employee all in the space of five short years.

When Frances strolled onto the AFDA campus as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed first year in 2016 after completing her high school tenure as head girl of Elkanah House in Tableview in 2015, her heart was set on screenwriting. Little did she know that the semester of music that formed part of her first-year subjects would set her on the track to launching the Frances Clare band and following a brand-new career in music.

“I had always written my own songs, but never performed them,” says Frances. “By the second year of my degree, I began performing as a solo act around Cape Town, and by the end of that year I had turned the act into a band, and we’d started performing as a group. When it became clear that I would not be able to continue my studies due to financial constraints at that time, I decided to pursue the music for a while to clear my way to return at a later stage.” 

When 2018 rolled around, Frances was employed as a music teacher at Curro Century City, and also worked as a radio presenter promoting local artists at One FM. She also started actively promoting her own brand, and in the next two years they performed at Splashy Fen and White Mountain Festival in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Up the Creek in Swellendam and The National Arts Festival in Makhanda. This afforded them the opportunity to play alongside celebrated acts like Majozi, Mango Groove, Zolani from Freshlyground, and Monark. They toured the Garden Route with Matthew Mole twice, and were also featured on Expresso Morning Show and Hectic Nine 9. 

“Our first ever tour was at the end of 2018 and saw three of us squished into my Hyundai i10 with a full PA system and instruments - we drove from Cape Town up the Garden Route and to Durban packed tight as sardines,” recalls Frances. “This is when I fell in love with the business side of the industry and realised that I love booking and promoting my own shows.” 

Today, the Frances Clare band features the talents of Emil Terhoven on drums, Devon De Swart on guitar, Tricia Brink-Jones (a dynamo with a masters in violin from Stellenbosch) on violin, Steven Jarvis on bass, and Frances herself on vocals and acoustic guitar. All of the band members are music teachers, and Devon and Emil actually taught at Elkanah House while Frances was a student there. Their reach has grown in leaps and bounds over recent years, with high points including a nomination for Best New Cape Town Act alongside Medicine Boy and Brynn; the release of two EPs and inclusion on a Spotify Editorial Playlist alongside Billie Eilish.

“I started a full-time job at the beginning of 2019, but I had a bee in my bonnet about taking our music overseas and I started to put into practice what I had learnt at AFDA to make this dream a reality in my spare time. So, after six months of planning, we left to tour Europe, touching down to play shows in Paris, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. This included an epic gig in Berlin alongside Beatenberg,” enthuses Frances.

The tour lasted five weeks, and Frances put away every penny she had made. The moment they arrived back in SA, she missed touring immediately - the bug had most definitely bitten. So, in between studio sessions to record their single ‘Go’ and working full-time, she set to work and began planning a separate UK tour for December 2019.

LISTEN UP! ‘Go’ is currently getting plenty of airtime on local stations around South Africa. It also plays in Luxembourg and was voted in top 15 Best Tracks by a radio station in Australia. Listen to it here.

"We left for the UK on the 26th of December and performed in Newcastle, Scotland, London, Windsor and Manchester (we celebrated New Year in Scotland!). The reception was incredible and extremely warm. A standout moment was when I noticed a lady singing along to one of our originals at a show just outside of Glasgow. We also had the opportunity to perform at some incredible venues that have hosted artists like Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, U2 and Amy Winehouse," says Frances.

When the band arrived back in SA in 2020, Frances returned to AFDA in the same week. She is fired-up and ready for a bumper year of growth as she prepares to juggle her responsibilities as full-time student and performer.

“I returned to AFDA because I felt a strong need to finish what I started, and I know that I will be able to make full use of the opportunities and facilities provided to us here. In fact, Frances Clare is already filming a music video for 'Go' with the TV and film students and I'm in the studio as much as possible! The entertainment industry is one of the biggest constantly growing industries in the world; I love being a part of it and I believe the skills I have the opportunity to gain at AFDA will allow me to take my career to exciting new heights,” explains Frances.

Frances will be returning to do another tour of the UK in July during the winter break.

DID YOU KNOW? Touring and making music independently is absolutely possible! Frances has started a blog on the band website www.francesclareband.com to help indie artists through the steps of touring internationally. You can also send questions to fran@francesclareband.com and she will answer it as best as possible on her next blog.

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