It’s a familiar story—musical boy meets musical girl, they join musical forces, and fall in love along the way. Lee Ferris and Bianca Caruso, otherwise known as soul-icana duo Freddy & Francine, have put twists, turns, and an alternate ending on this age-old tale.
The pair met on the set of a musical, formed a band, released a couple of albums, and then went their separate ways. Several years later, Caruso decided to record a solo album which included a song that she had co-written with Ferris; she worked up the courage to ask Ferris to join her in the studio, and their musical flame was rekindled. Now, Ferris and Caruso are releasing a brand new album as Freddy & Farancine, Gung Ho, on June 10th. “We hadn’t seen each other or spoken for three years; it was quite intimidating to reach out to him,” Caruso admits. “I’ve been hesitant to discuss this in the past, but I got sober a few years ago, and that really changed my overall outlook on my existence,” adds Ferris. “A lot of things were clarified, I could see our situation more clearly. I’d thought about making music with her every day we were apart, about how I missed our musical connection. When she reached out to me, I felt like it was time to revisit that.”
This time around, the duo acknowledges that the passage of time has brought new perspective to their situation. “We both grew up, went through some self-discovery, traveled all over the world. We had so many new and different things to write about,” says Caruso. “You gain experience as a human, and when you’re an honest and sincere writer and performer, you put that into your music,” adds Ferris. “When you spend a lot of time apart, following other dreams, you bring that to the music. In reuniting, there’s an element of reflection about the time we spent separately, and what it’s like to come back.”
The soulful singers were raised on everything from Dylan’s folk storytelling to En Vogue’s 90s R&B, and have combined their individual styles and sizable voices into a substantial and soulful blend. “A lot of the songs on the record are about our experiences. ‘Tryin’ Hard To Love You’ is particularly sentimental for me,” explains Caruso. “That song is about my relationship with Lee, about trying hard and giving it your all, and realizing it may not be the right time for that relationship.
“‘Ray’s Song’ is different though, in that it’s not a story about us. I met this guy who was the ‘Ray’ in Joni Mitchell’s song ‘Ray’s Dad’s Cadillac’. Ray was Joni’s high school boyfriend; he had just lost his wife, and Joni had flown him to Los Angeles from his home in Canada for her birthday party,” Caruso recalls. “I asked him, ‘Ray, when are you going back to Canada?’ and he said, ‘When I’m done crying.’” That phrase hit Caruso in the gut, and compelled them to write Ray’s story in song.
Choosing to leave the stress and bustle of Los Angeles for a retreat in Eugene, Oregon to record Gung Ho, combined with a stellar roster of musicians and famed producer Todd Sickafoose made for a magical experience that comes through loud and clear in the music.
“We’ve been touring these songs for a while. We were such fans of our producer, Todd Sickafoose. We just trusted his instinct. We surrendered to what was happening in the midst of these live takes,” recalls Ferris, as Caruso adds, “We’re bringing something modern to the Americana world.”
Purchase Gung Ho: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/gung-ho/id1098516117