After a decade of playing mostly solo gigs in and around the Capital Region, siner-songwriter Frankie Lessard is ready to take the next step.
He’s a regular on the bar scene in Saratoga Springs, playing three- or four-hour sets heavy on cover songs for the racing fans who crowd downtown during the summer. Occasionally he’s played shows with his former group, Frankie’s Theory, and he’s always managed to get some original songs into his sets. But he never really pushed his own music the way some people thought he should have.
“It’s just a matter of, for lack of a better word, complacency,” Lessard said. “I was living the musician thing; I was a musician getting out there, but I was doing it more on a week-by-week thing. I’ve had enough people, from random people to people I know, say to me, ‘Dude, what are you doing here?’ … And after the 100th story of some idiot on Youtube getting a million hits on a video of him crashing into a tree, I figured I could take a shot, you know?”
In the past couple of years, Lessard has begun focusing more on his songwriting. He recently disbanded Frankie’s Theory and is working on a 12-song, full-length album with a new band, titled the Frankie Lessard Band for simplicity’s sake. Although Lessard has made recordings of his original music in the past, which he hands out at shows, this is the first time he’s focused on a professional studio product to be released to radio and online outlets.
When: 5 p.m. Friday April 27
Where: The Bayou Cafe, 79 N. Pearl St., Albany
How Much: Free
More Info: 462-9033, www.bayoucafe.com
“I’m not one to record a song to just record it, but I wanted to have something decent,” Lessard said. “This is the first full-fledged record or CD, and I hope to get it on iTunes, possibly have it on local radio, that kind of a thing. They’re all three-and-a-half, four-minute, poppy radio songs, so hopefully someone will hear one of my songs on a Doritos commercial or something, or at the end of a Jennifer Aniston movie.”
Lessard is working on the songs in batches in a friend’s home studio in Troy, and hopes to have the album finished by July. After the release, he’ll start ramping up with more full-band shows and touring.
But in the meantime, solo acoustic shows are still Lessard’s bread-and-butter. Next up is a happy hour set Friday evening at the Bayou Cafe in Albany, where Lessard used to have a weekly solo acoustic gig.
“I find that I do tend to prefer the solo stuff, just because I can play whatever I want, and it’s easier — I’m in and out, whereas with a full band you have to set up your own gear,” Lessard said. “But I’m going to be doing that more towards touring and trying to open up for bigger acts, once I get the CD out. That’s where the full band is headed.”
Music has always been a major part of Lessard’s life. His father started him on accordion when he was 5 years old, but he quickly switched it out for violin and later trumpet.
“I turned 6 and realized that accordion wasn’t cool, so I played violin for a couple years in elementary school, and in sixth grade I switched to trumpet,” Lessard said. “But my father was a musician, so he always had a guitar around, and I pretty much taught myself on guitar.”
A big fan of The Beatles growing up, Lessard began gravitating toward singing while attending Schenectady County Community College to study trumpet. He began taking guitar more seriously out of necessity. “It’s very hard to play trumpet and sing at the same time,” he said.
With influences ranging from Tom Petty to Jack Johnson to his first love, The Beatles, Lessard usually writes most of his music on guitar or piano, although live he’s usually on guitar.
“It’s a different way of writing on piano than guitar,” Lessard said. “When I write on guitar, I write on an acoustic. I don’t have an acoustic guitar style of writing, I just have a mainstream — I try to pluck out different chords, instead of underlying bass lines with chords. Piano is a different animal — you get more into melodic changes on chords than you do melodies. I find I get more melodic singing on guitar, and more melodic chord changes on piano.”