Maja Francis — A Pink Soft Mess
While Maja Francis discovered much about herself in the making of her debut album A Pink Soft Mess, she hopes that listeners will learn more about who they are when sitting down to give the record a spin. That’s how it has always played out for the Swedish singer-songwriter when listening to other artists’ musical output – she found herself in their journeys. Now it’s time for us to get lost in hers.
I recently sat down with Maja Francis to discuss too little sunshine, letting her own light shine through, and putting Majawood up on the dream board.
Americana Highways: One of your childhood idols was Dolly Parton. How did you take that Nashville sound and blend it with your Swedish upbringing to find your voice as an artist? There’s no one making music quite like you are, so help us to understand how the Maja we hear on A Pink Soft Mess came to be.
Maja Francis: Yes, Dolly was and still is a big inspiration to me! She is one of few artists I can relate to ‘cause she writes all these sad lyrics but still has a glittery pink, soft package.
A Pink Soft Mess is the result of a swede getting too little sunshine and listening a lot to female voices like Dolly, Tori Amos, Kate Bush and Cyndi Lauper as a teen. But it’s also a personal journey where I went from being in the singer/songwriter world then visiting popstar land then back to the piano and guitar again. I wanted to get back to my roots, letting my voice be the main instrument and lead the way. Also, I lived in Nashville for a brief period and I think I took a lot of inspiration from that time with me home to Sweden.
AH: The album is a fantastic musical voyage. It feels cinematic, so it’s no surprise the track “Anxious Angel” was licensed for use in the Netflix series Love & Anarchy. Are you someone who thinks visually when you’re writing? Is there a picture or aesthetic in mind when you’re putting a song together?
MF: Oh, thank you so much! I do see pictures sometimes when I write songs. For “Anxious Angel” it was an actual bookmark angel hanging by my bed. She had a ripped wing and she looked as if she was crying and smiling at the same time, carrying both light and darkness. When I had a tough time with my mental health she comforted me and I pretended she would sing me to sleep. Then the “Anxious Angel” title popped up in my head and I thought, what if this song could be a comfort to other people like me struggling with anxiety – maybe we’re all just anxious angels that can help each other get our wings back when they get burned.
AH: Not only is your music uniquely you, but your look is as well – a mix of country-meets-punk rock with a marriage of cowboy boots and fishnet stockings. How important is expressing who you are as an artist, whether it’s through your music or your personal brand of fashion?
MF: I LOVE that description of my look!
I do like playing around with clothes and having fun with fashion and visual expressions. And it is important for me to be totally free in my expression, both in my music and my personal style. I’ve spent too many years trying to be this or that, less “girly”, more “minimalistic”… or having stylists and music industry people telling me what to wear or what to say, but it just doesn’t work for me. This album was a promise to myself to have no more compromises, and being all me, all pink, all in. No polished edges or Auto-Tune filters.
AH: A Pink Soft Mess was released last month. As far as major life achievements go, where do you rank having this collection of songs out into the world?
MF: It’s probably on my top 3 things in life so far, ‘cause it’s not only about the album… there’s so much more behind it. So many tears and heartbreaks… so many beautiful moments and breakthroughs, so many wars with my mental health, so many disappointments and brave decisions. And I do love the album. I must say I would listen to it even if it wasn’t my own. I’m really proud.
AH: If someone were to sit down and listen to A Pink Soft Mess front to back, what would they learn about you?
MF: I think maybe they would learn more about themselves, ‘cause that’s what I do listening to albums. I listen and create my own story around it. As if all the songs were written just for me.
AH: What are you most proud of with the album and why?
MF: I’m proud of how I never stopped singing even when I was sick in depression. I’m proud of how I opened up my heart and voice again after a long break up with music. I’m proud of how I healed my relationship with myself and music (with a lot of help from friends, family and therapy). I’m proud of not compromising with anything, and mostly I’m proud of giving myself time. Time to rest, time to write lyrics, time to sing until I understood where the song wanted to take me.
AH: At the start of this conversation we mentioned one of your influences, Dolly Parton. If your musical career was to last as long as hers has, where would you envision yourself going creatively? Essentially… what would you set out to accomplish if money and obstacles were no longer, well, obstacles?
MF: Ooohh, that’s such a hard question. I’ve spent so much time trying to be in the present so it’s hard to think about the future in that way, but I’m glad you’re asking ‘cause I do want to practice finding my way back to the dreaming big part of myself.
If money wasn’t an obstacle? Hmmm… I guess I might have a little less stress, be able to give more towards good causes and definitely have more stage decor and cute merch. (Laughter)
Also, it would be a dream to have as long of a career as hers – to be able to do this for life. ‘Cause I do think that’s what I’m here for – to sing and to meet people and hear their life stories! And who knows, I might even start my own Majawood someday!
AH: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist and how do you overcome those insecurities, especially in a day and age when social media tends to amplify ALL of our insecurities?
MF: I’m hard on myself when I look at myself too much from the outside, as if I’m creating this picture of how people should see me instead of just feeling things from inside. I also compare myself to others sometimes, and it’s like poison… ‘cause I will never be somebody else, that’s one thing in life I’m really sure about. I’m me. So, what am I gonna do with me? How can I be even more me and maybe even have some fun while I’m at it?
Social media does not help these insecurities, so I try to follow people who talk about both the beauty and the pain. And also I have to have detox days where I’m not on social media at all. Nature and animals help me a lot, just turning everything off for a while and experiencing life without mirrors. I always feel like I’m enough by the ocean or with my cat, Pony, or when I sing when no one’s listening.
AH: Music can touch people profoundly, often in ways that the artist never intended. What do you hope people take from your music and where would you like to see it impact listeners most?
MF: I think it’s not really up to me to decide. I mean, I write the songs and of course I want people to be affected by it, otherwise I wouldn’t release it. But what they feel or how they interpret the lyrics and music must come from them. My only hope is that they feel something.
AH: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
MF: No. I’m such a worrier so I would constantly think about that thing that’s gonna happen 10 years from now, good or bad. Also isn’t the magic of life not knowing what waits? I think so.
To get your hands on a copy of A Pink Soft Mess, visit here.