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Quarantine compels musician Megan Rose Francisco to explore what she can create solo

Singer-songwriter Megan Rose Francisco
Singer-songwriter Megan Rose Francisco performs at Half Off Books as part of the Fullerton Art Walk on March 6.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Megan Rose Francisco has performed in jazz band, marching band, choir and wind symphony since she was an elementary school student growing up in Tustin. But until a few years ago, she was on track to become a computer engineer.

In late 2018, on the cusp of finishing her university classes, she decided to pursue music full time. Francisco said she’s always been the type to dive headfirst into projects: “I get stuff done.”

Within a year, she recorded her first album, “Origin Story,” which came out in late 2019.

Francisco describes her music as being “under the umbrella of R&B and neo soul, with jazz and funk elements,” but she also likes the label her older brother made up for her: “R&B cosmic.”

O.C.-based musician Megan Rose Francisco's debut album "Origin Story" was released December 13, 2019.
O.C.-based musician Megan Rose Francisco’s debut album “Origin Story” was released December 13, 2019.
(Courtesy of Megan Rose Francisco)

“Right Moves” is about finding confidence and self-validation. “Friday the 13th” is an ode to a former relationship that both started and ended on Friday the 13th. “Just You Wait” is about how current insecurities won’t get in the way of her success in the future.

“Graduation,” her favorite song off the album, was at first inspired by her transition out of college, standing in defiance of social norms and other people’s expectations.

But it soon evolved into an anthem and call to action for her generation.

“You’ll see a mass shooting, then a funeral, and someone celebrating their birthday or someone releasing a cool project, and that all just comes in one newsfeed,” she said. “And you get desensitized.”

“Turning our heads / From the main problems / Of humanity / Killing each other,” read the lyrics. “Turning our heads / On children with no parents / Why do we inherit disinterest when we should express our interest?”

The song mixes in sounds of Black Lives Matter protests and shootings in the background.

The album was recorded with the help of her community of musician friends in Southern California.

For the music video for “Friendsgiving,” she invited everyone to hang out at her local park in Orange for a picnic.

“The song is essentially about how awesome I think my friendships are and how there a lot of people in my life that really care for me,” she said. “In the very last chorus, everyone who recorded with me on that album came into the vocal booth and we all sang the chorus together, and it was really wholesome. I got emotional about it.

She spoke in admiration of the talents of her fellow musicians, who have taught her so much.

But one of her goals was to figure out how to “do more with less. Less instruments and more pushing of the vocals.”

“One day, I’d love to have an album where everything is done by me,” she said, back in March. “That would be so awesome, but that’s way in the future.”

The opportunity would come sooner than she expected.

A self-described extrovert, she had been active in numerous open mike scenes including the Coollab Project at downtown Santa Ana’s 4th Street Market, to Mystic Water Kava Bar in Huntington Beach, to Sunday Jump in Los Angeles’ Historic Filipinotown — usually with a small ensemble or band.

Francisco even started a YouTube series with called Arts Tell-a-Vision with her friends Tonalli and Ash Malekshahi to showcase local artists.

Megan Rose Francisco performs with Steven Cacerasr and Alex Poisal.
Singer-songwriter Megan Rose Francisco performs with Steven Caceras, on guitar, and Alex Poisal, on the keyboard, at Half Off Books as part of the Fullerton Art Walk on March 6.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

But in the early months of the pandemic, she had to quickly adapt to performing solo for virtual concerts and festivals.

And as the George Floyd protests spread throughout the nation and tensions rose, she retreated away from the internet to take care of her own physical and mental health.

Whereas her debut album was a large collaborative effort, her second album, which she hopes to release next month, was recorded in her bedroom studio, with the help of just one friend, musician Austin Poznoski, also recording in his bedroom studio.

“It’s a lot more honest and stripped down, which is great since my music is reflective of the things I’m going through in my life,” she said.

During the pandemic, Francisco has been focusing on a more minimalist lifestyle. She said she’s also learning to slow down and learn that she doesn’t always have to be so productive all the time.

Now, she is “living a life full of purpose and really discovering [herself].”

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