Six years have passed since now-Nashville-based project Frances Cone's debut, Come Back, but founder/frontwoman Christina Cone returns mightily with the next level release, Late Riser, which dropped last month. Arresting in the beauty of its honesty, Late Riser presents a different artist who's undergone many changes, some of which were by surprise, like forming a relationship with former bassist/now guitarist, harmonizer, and fiancé Andrew Doherty. Other changes have been intentional, such as moving from Brooklyn back to the South — she's from Florence and, in another life, attended the College of Charleston — and surrounding herself with people she's 100 percent comfortable working with.
With Late Riser, Cone brought in a frequent collaborator from her Charleston days, Josh Kaler (Slow Runner), as well as Lucius drummer Danny Molad, who's worked with Cone since the beginning of her career and understands exactly what she means when she says things like, "I want that little portion of this song ["Failure"] to feel overwhwelming."
That feeling is obvious throughout the 10-track LP in songs like "Arizona," about growing up and forming your own opinions about the world, realizing they may not be in line with all you'd been taught and all you'd previously believed. "Arizona" was released three years ago, at a time when most fans assumed a new record would quickly follow.
"We had enough songs at that point to release an album pretty soon after that, but I was like I don't want to wait, I just want to put it out," she says, "and then it started doing very well and we started to build a team."
Seeing as how "Arizona" immediately began getting 25,000 streams a day, that team would indeed be necessary. Cone and company began talking to managers and label after label, eventually signing with Thirty Tigers in Nashville. "I didn't realize that 'options' in a record deal meant their options, not yours. So they can just have you for the next 15 years, if they want you, and it just blew my mind," she says. "But Thirty Tigers was so wonderful and so fair and I feel safe with them."
After some time focused on putting the right pieces together, Cone believed they had something great to build on. So she decided to start over a year after "Arizona," scratching six or seven songs from the original package and remixing every track to make Late Riser a cohesive piece of art that Rolling Stone recently called a cross between "the pop balladry of Taylor Swift and ethereal flutterings of Bon Iver."
The addition of Doherty, who didn't reveal himself as a guitarist or singer until well into the two's collaboration, made Frances Cone a duo. But while some songwriters are compelled to write about finding love, Cone's reaction was different. "Andy made me a little more scared of dying. I think some people fall in love and either they don't have anything to write about anymore or they only write love songs. I only wrote songs about being terrified of losing everything," she laughs, "so that's how that manifested for me."
These new fears are palpable in tracks like "Easy Love," written about Cone's crippling migraines — hers result in loss of vision and feeling in her face — which turned into a more overarching fear of early onset dementia. "I think [the feeling] was compounded by being so in love with this person," she says.
Another love, Cone's mother, is the catalyst for "All Along," a track that brings the record full circle. Reprising the chorus of "Arizona," the backbone for the album fans have anticipated for years, "All Along" ties everything together in a perfectly sublime package, proving that great things are worth waiting for. "We tried to make it sound like a whole record," she says, "and I think it does."
Frances Cone is on tour with SUSTO, opening for the band on Thurs. Feb. 21 at a sold-out Windjammer show. Christina Cone will also harmonize onstage during SUSTO's set.