Thanks to a new deal with Phoenix-based Fervor Records, Atlanta vocalist Francine Reed is set to get wild again November 13. That’s the release date for “Wild Hearted Woman,” the first full-length studio album of new material from the blues and jazz singer since 1999’s “Shades of Blue.”
Reached Tuesday in Seattle where she’s appearing nightly in Teatro ZinZanni’s “Hollywood Nights” through January 31, Reed says she’s thrilled to have a new album out this fall. “I’m overwhelmed,” Reed tells Eldredge ATL. “It wasn’t this big planned out thing. It just all happened. And this album is really good, baby. Really, really good.”
The seeds were planted for the project when Fervor Records producer and bassist Andy Gonzales (who routinely performed with Reed when she lived in Phoenix 25 years ago) contacted her about recording some original songs he was working on with fellow Phoenix songwriter and singer Jennifer Bone. The pair sent Reed the tunes and she rehearsed them in Atlanta. Just before she went on tour this summer with Lyle Lovett and His Large Band, Reed flew back to her old hometown and spent a week laying down tracks at Bomb Shelter Studios in the Sunnyslope section of Phoenix.
Gonzales assembled an all-star line-up of Phoenix’s best R&B, blues and jazz musicians and singers for the sessions (including Reed’s vocalist brother Michael Reed and Bone). Explains Reed: “I thought I was going to Phoenix to help out a couple of old friends, Andy Gonzales and Jennifer Bone who had written some songs together. I would do anything for Andy. He’s such a passionate musician and songwriter. I thought it was just a chance to go to Phoenix and hang out with Andy. To get to see him producing this project was wonderful. But I treaded very lightly. I didn’t know where any of this was going. When it was done, it was done. I signed some paperwork. Turns out, we made a record together!”
For Fervor Records CEO and co-founder David Hilker, recording Francine Reed was a no-brainer for his label. “Francine operates with such a great vocabulary of jazz, blues, gospel and R&B soul licks, all the songs just speak to her pedigree,” he explains. “They were written to reflect her personality. We thought she was way overdue for a new album and that’s why we wanted to get her into the studio.”
And with Fervor’s reputation for getting songs from legacy artists licensed and strategically placed in film and television projects, Reed’s voice could be popping up in some high-profile places on Hulu and Netflix in the coming months as well.
Explains Hilker: “We’ve had particular success licensing material from heritage artists like Francine who have a unique identifiable sound that’s basically timeless. It’s an opportunity for us to get new ears on what she does. One of our goals at Fervor is that we focus on perpetuating the legacies of these great heritage artists.”
More accustomed to singing blues and jazz standards, “Wild Hearted Woman” represented a fresh challenge for the seasoned singer. “ I was so thrilled to be able to perform songs that no one else has ever recorded,” Reed explains. “It’s the first time where I worked on a project where I didn’t select the songs. They were written for me and selected for me. I’m so used to doing the same thing, the same way, over and over again. To have original pieces written by an old friend was a real gift. I tried to approach it the same way Lyle does when he goes into the studio with a new original song. It comes down to that originality you bring with you to the process. This is absolutely the kind of material I would pick if I was pickin’ ‘em, too!”
From her new laptop in Seattle, Reed has already signed off on the album’s cover (the photo was shot by Reed’s Atlanta photographer Jennifer Boxley). Fervor plans to release digital versions of “Wild Hearted Woman” via iTunes and other digital music outlets and will sell physical CDs through Amazon.
Just back from a day-off visit to a Seattle casino (“Don’t worry Eldredge, I came home with my money intact!), Reed, whose longtime signature tune is Ida Cox’s “Wild Women Don’t Get The Blues” took a minute to reflect on her lingering association with a particular W-word.
“Right?” she says laughing. “’Wild Women,’ meet ‘Wild Hearted Woman.’ Get ready. Here we go again!”