Up Close Kelly Franks

Yes, Kelly, you can do anything!…

You may recognize alternative pop artist Kelly Franks from all those fun nights out at local hot spots such as the Woodlands, Hardware Bar and Bar Louie at Mohegan Sun. As the lead singer of popular cover band POP ROX, Franks is well known in the local music scene, and she performs in Atlantic City and Philadelphia venues as well. But as we discovered when we recently caught up with her at a local café, there is more to this Hazleton native than her high-profile singing gig. She’s a multi-talented artist, wife, mother and teacher. In addition to singing and songwriting, she is a pianist, plays guitar, and has a history of involvement in community theater. Franks also teaches ballet, tap and jazz at Shining Stars in Mountain Top and choreographs Marian High School’s annual musical. Just in time for the holidays, Franks is releasing “Yes, Virginia,” inspired by the famous New York Sun editorial published in 1897, and her 4-year-old daughter, Virginia. The single is her first original work as a solo artist, and an accompanying video is soon to follow in December. Fans can also expect the release of Franks’ first full length CD in the spring of 2012. Meet Mountain Top’s Kelly Franks…

How many years have you been singing and writing songs?

I’ve been performing as a professional musician on the cover band scene for about 10 years. I started playing locally and then played in the Philadelphia area, moved out of the area for several years and I moved back home when it was time to start a family. It’s just easier to have help. I took about a year or two off and when we started back up, I started the band I have now which is Pop Rox, and we play locally a lot and Philadelphia and Atlantic City. So it certainly keeps us busy.

Did music play a large role in your childhood?

I started playing when I was very young. I started with piano and I picked up guitar. I always sang and I did community theater for many years, and I was lucky to have the experience of being on stage and in front of people and getting into the business that way. And then I just gravitated to the band scene and I really liked it.

Who taught you how to sing?

I think I may have inherited it to a certain point. My father was a musician – singer and guitar, piano, keys, drums, bass, lots of instruments. We have a musical family and I kind of just followed suit. He passed away when I was very young and I didn’t really get a chance to know him so I hope that he looks down and says that he would be proud of what I’m doing.

How about your daughter? Is she showing signs of being a performer, too?

So far, so good. She’s a little singer and we started piano lessons with her already. She’s a ham (laughs). She’s definitely a character!

How did Virginia inspire your new single?

I was always a fan of the editorial piece (“Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” was published in the September 21, 1897, edition of The New York Sun). Even as a child I had a book with the piece it – my mom actually just gave the book back to me recently. It was always something that stuck with me. And my daughter is at the age now where she’s starting to ask a lot of questions about Santa Claus, and how it works and I’m kind of just waiting for that day when she starts asking in-depth questions. Hopefully, it won’t be this year, but she’s getting close.

In addition to releasing this single, you’re working on a new album, too. Tell us about that.

Basically it’s different pieces I’ve been working on for the last year or two. I’m the type of writer where you check under the bed, and check under the sink, and you check under the TV and there’s notebooks with pieces of songs and lyrics and different things all over. I finally thought “Well, it’s time to put this all together and make something out of it. Instead of just writing for myself, why not put an album together and put it out there for other people to hear, too.”

What genre does your new album fall into?

I think it falls into adult contemporary, alternative pop. It is somewhat pop with a rock feel to it to a certain extent. Being a pianist I’m drawn to that type of music when it comes to writing.

What’s the album about?

A lot of my songs are based on my own personal experience or people I know, particularly women, who have affected me in one way or another – whether they’re friends, relatives or acquaintances. I think that sometimes there are stories wanting to be told all around us.

Can you give us an example?

I have a song called “Leave the Light On.” It’s about a family member. I remember a Fourth of July and our families were all together and having their parties and fun and I happened to look around and wonder “where is she?” And she was texting. Her (now) fiancée was in the military and it really struck me at that moment that we were all very much enjoying ourselves, and not that she wasn’t enjoying herself, but she was there (physically) but her heart was somewhere else. He only got a specific block of time to talk to her, so normal life stops and you take that time to spend connecting with that person you love who is off doing something for their families, their children, their country. The idea of her waiting, and leaving a light on for him at night is the concept behind that song.

Musically, you’ve been inspired by artists like Tori Amos, Kate Bush and Alanis Morisette. Who are some women in your life who have inspired you?

My mother and my grandmother are two strong women. And they’ve definitely taught me to decide what you want and don’t be afraid to go after it. And that has to do with anything in life. I don’t mean that just careerwise, but any dreams you have. Don’t be afraid to follow them.

- julie imel

“Yes, Virginia” is now available on itunes and amazon.com, and cds will be available at all Gallery of Sound locations on Friday, Nov. 25. Proceeds from cd sales will benefit the Hazleton Chapter of the All American Girls Softball League. The video for single also premieres on Nov. 25. Check it out on www.kellyfranks.com, www.youtube.com/kellyfranksmusic, and www.facebook.com/kellyfranksmusic. In addition, Franks will perform at the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on Dec. 4, from 4 to 6 p.m. at Hazleton City Hall, and there will be a Christmas Single Release Party featuring Franks, POP ROX and guest performers on Dec. 11 from 6 to 10 p.m. at Lobitz’s in Hazleton.