As the daughter of falconers, island singer-songwriter Rianna “Emree” Franklin based her stage name on a falcon. Like her namesake, her career is soaring to new heights. One recent pinnacle was speaking with rockstar Sheryl Crow.
“I was obsessed with her music,” Franklin said with a laugh.
At age 9, Franklin bought her first guitar specifically to learn how to play Crow’s songs. She continued to be drawn to music as her way of self-expression and connecting with others.
Her fellow middle and high school classmates encouraged her to pursue her dreams, as did parents, teachers and other adults — a testament to the San Juan community, Franklin said. “In school, music was my identity, and no one ever put me down,” she added.
While the positives of growing up in a small rural town outweighed the negatives for Franklin, living on an island wasn’t without challenges.
“You don’t realize it is a challenge as a kid,” she said.
As Franklin grew older, she expressed frustration to her parents that no one in the music industry would notice her in such an isolated area. Their response, according to Franklin, was “Well, what do you want to do?”
The Franklin family found a voice coach and studio in Bellingham and traveled frequently to an array of music competitions. Franklin also performed at the San Juan County Fair as a teen.
“The community has been fantastic,” Franklin said. “It is filled with all these talented artists who were so welcoming and encouraging to this young musician.”
Art as a whole, Franklin noted, is important socially in part because it can be thought-provoking, an emotional release and challenge pain.
“Honestly, [the performing arts] gets me high,” Franklin laughed.
“If anything makes a person feel alive, I think it’s important,” she said.
Franklin describes her current music as being in the pop genre, adding that it’s more mellow-dramatic, with a focus on lyrics.
After graduating from Friday Harbor in 2012, Franklin began using Emree as a stage name. Emree was the name of one of her family’s falcons, Franklin explained. The name sounded strong and feminine to her so she adopted it as her own.
Franklin metaphorically flew from the island after graduating and stretched her wings into another skill.
“After moving to Los Angeles I was, of course, exposed to film,” Franklin said. “I was at a point where I felt like I needed to shake things up in my life so I began to take acting classes.”
Franklin explained that acting for her is therapeutic, as the goal of acting is not to act but “to be.” Through acting, Franklin was able to tap into her emotions and give herself permission to feel.
“It sort of cracked me open as a person,” she said, adding that it strengthened her music, giving it layers and depth.
“I suddenly could forget worrying about things like ‘Am I on pitch?’ and connect emotionally to the song,” Franklin said.
Nearly 20 years after originally learning Crow’s songs, Franklin’s journey brought her to meet the woman who had been the inspiration behind her passion.
“Everything just felt right- the timing was right, the person was right,” Franklin said.
Franklin met Crow on NBC’s morning show “Today” in a segment titled “Women Who Rock: Music & Mentorship,” which aired on Dec. 16, 2019.
Meeting Crow made Franklin realize that frequently the difficulties in one’s life build-up to prepare and position individuals for key moments and milestones.
Franklin noted that while Crow was filled with wonderful advice — especially regarding being a woman in the music industry — one of the significant takeaways for Franklin was regarding the songwriting process. Trauma and pain may be a motivating factor creatively, however, the musician may feel too emotionally raw while in the thick of the event, and even for some time after.
“A lot of times you want to mask the pain in order to be able to write the song,” Franklin explained.
Crow’s advice, however, was to set the song aside let the dust settle and hopefully the lyrics will come.
“Pain doesn’t have to be productive,” Franklin said.
At the end of the interview with Crow, Franklin played her first single, “Hurt Forever.”
“I love it,” Crow told Franklin afterward. “It sounds like a hit. I’m afraid to say that because you never know, but it sounds like a hit.”
The video of “Hurt Forever” will be released soon.
To view the entire interview, visit https://www.today.com/video/sheryl-crow-shares-the-big-moments-that-shaped-her-early-career-75162693676.
To learn more about Franklin, visit her website at www.emreefranklinepk.com.