Opera House Holiday Concert Series: Don’t Miss Freddy & Francine, 12/28

Opera House Holiday Concert Series: Don’t Miss Freddy & Francine, 12/28

Anyone who heard Freddy & Francine (aka Lee Ferris & Bianca Caruso) at the 44th annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival knows the Americana-Soul duo came, saw, and conquered. In other words, we fell hard for them and they for Telluride. This summer, Denise Mongan of Beyond the Groove Productions  brought Freddy & Francine back to perform for the second time at her popular Music on the Green series.

And now Freddy & Francine are to be part of the Sheridan Arts Foundation’s Holiday Concert Series 2018. They perform at Telluride’s Sheridan Opera House on December 28. Tickets are $30-40 reserved seats, (plus a $4 ticketing fee is charged at all ticket outlets.) Tickets are for sale online at www.SheridanOperaHouse.com or by calling 970.728.6363 ext. 5.

Following the main stage performance, live music continues at the AfterSHOW with Cousin Curtiss in the SHOW Bar. 

Please scroll way down for a sample (or two) of the duo in action. 

Freddy & Francine, courtesy Kaitlyn Raitz.

Authenticity in the music industry is slippery when wet. Everyone praises its value, yet when an artist is truly authentic, it is often only embraced if it can be easily walked on without slipping and landing in a pile of genre-related questions. To the casual observer, Freddy & Francine seem safely cemented as a folk duo. They got the look. The soulful harmonies. The folk circuit bookings — over 150 a year, including the legendary Telluride Bluegrass Festival. They just got married. Cute. Even their act’s name is cute. You could make a movie about their story. Someone probably has.

But Freddy & Francine – actual names are Lee Ferris and Bianca Caruso –  aren’t interested in acting, or genres, or talking or not talking about their relationship. They’ve done all that. Freddy & Francine recently left their longtime home of Los Angeles for Nashville and have never looked more like themselves.

“We just want to play music all the time and we don’t care about the rest of the bullshit,” Ferris said.

And there was plenty of b.s.: the Hollywood types, the rat race, the traffic, Ferris’s struggle with alcoholism (he’s now five years sober). Longtime fans know the band took a three-year hiatus when Ferris’s and Caruso’s relationship unraveled, a time which found Ferris turning his back on music while driving trucks in L.A., and Caruso working an office job in New York.

During that break, both seemingly were able to land on their feet. Ferris was cast as Carl Perkins in the Broadway and touring productions of “Million Dollar Quartet”; Caruso co-wrote and filmed a television pilot in Joni Mitchell’s Laurel Canyon home (her friend rents it), featuring Seth Rogen. And she managed to sell the project to ABC.

But all that glitters…

“I was miserable during the whole process, because I wasn’t connected to myself in my gut,” Caruso said. “I didn’t enjoy it. I enjoy traveling and playing music.”

Despite rockin’ in Perkins’ blue suede shoes from Memphis to Japan in front of thousands of people, Ferris was also unhappy because he was singing someone else’s songs.

“My heroes were Joni Mitchell, The Stones, Dylan, B.B. King, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Carl Perkins, the guys who just tapped into something in themselves, who needed to write and speak their own truth. That’s who I am,” Ferris said, adding, “The experience of sitting down with an instrument and coming up with something for the first time, you can’t beat that. The best experience I’ve ever had as a person doing that and coming up with something that is bigger than the sum of its parts is with Bianca.”

But all that is old news. Freddy & Francine are now full-time musicians who have released three full-length albums and two EPs, not to mention Ferris’s production of an album by award-winning actor William H. Macy (featuring Caruso’s vocals) and the duo’s collaboration with Dead & Co. keyboardist Jeff Chimenti on the musical direction and casting for 2017’s Off-Broadway musical “Red Roses, Green Gold,” which featured the music of The Grateful Dead.

Keeping on truckin’, Freddy & Francine plan to release their latest Nashville-recorded EP in September. The six-song Moonless Night, co-produced by Dan Knobler (Lake Street Dive, Rodney Crowell) finds Freddy & Francine — which has often used full bands on its recordings — still produced, but more intimately portrayed, a sound closer to the duo’s live performances.

But don’t call it folk music. The sound is way too energetic.

“We’re performers. We’re not just folk musicians who play and sing mellow songs with little voices … there’s screaming,” Caruso said. “Don’t call it Americana either. They don’t wear hats.The minute you think one of our songs is an Americana song, it can turn into a retro pop number.”

Despite the reaction of most roots music fans to the dreaded “P” word, however, Caruso says she doesn’t mind Freddy & Francine being labeled a pop band.

“Pop music gets a bad rap, but it comes from the word ‘popular.’ I’d love to be popular,” she said. “I never discriminate against a song because it’s popular if it stays in your head … every Beatles song is a pop song.”

That said, mostly Freddy & Francine sounds exactly like Freddy & Francine. That is not the easiest thing to explain, but it makes sense when you hear them and finally it makes sense to the two people who matter most.

“I’m really happy with who I am and I’m happy with the life I have,” Ferris said.

At the end of the day –  or road – authenticity is an internal thing. It’s Freddy & Francine’s thing.

And praising Freddy & Francine to the skies as we do, we are singing harmony with a chorus of  critics:

“Ferris and Caruso have found their respective vocal soulmates, the kind of perfect harmonies that send a gripping shiver down the backbone of the listener,” raved The Deli Magazine.

“Freddy & Francine currently top my list. There is definitely a palpable chemistry between these musicians, with their vocals blending like milk and honey,” said No Depression.

“National audiences continue to be drawn to the duo as they “bring it all out on stage from a lullaby so sweet you’d swear a choir of angels were harmonizing just for you; to gut-busting, foot stomping tunes befitting a New Orleans gospel choir,” wrote the Flagstaff AZ Daily Sun.


More about Cousin Curtiss and the AfterSHOW:

AfterSHOW artist Cousin Curtiss describes his style as John Butler meets John Popper meets Keller Williams. He combines the picking style, soul and energy of John Butler, the incendiary harmonica style of John Popper, and the multi-instrumentalist-live-looping talents of Keller Williams. Cousin Curtiss’s life and music has been featured by Business Insider, MSN, Fox News, USA Today, Cosmopolitan and Daily Mail UK.

The Sheridan Arts Foundation was founded in 1991 as a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization to preserve the historic Sheridan Opera House as an arts and cultural resource for the Telluride community, to bring quality arts and cultural events to Telluride and to provide local and national youth with access and exposure to the arts through education. The Sheridan Arts Foundation is sponsored in part by grants from the Telluride Foundation, CCAASE and Colorado Creative Industries.

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