With Her Signature Guitar and an Undeniable Passion, MadameFraankie is One of Memphis’ Most Exciting Musical Talents

By Katie Kelly

When you scroll through MadameFraankie’s Instagram, you won’t see those seemingly obligatory food, scenery, or #OOTD posts that so frequently populate other users’ content. Instead, what you will see are hundreds upon hundreds of videos of Fraankie doing one thing and one thing only: playing her electric guitar. 

You see, for her the guitar isn’t just a hobby or something she just happens to be good at (for the record, she is INCREDIBLY good at it, so let’s just establish that from the jump). No, for Fraankie, it’s a true passion; one driven by an insatiable hunger to learn everything the guitar is capable of. As a result, she approaches her craft with an unparalleled amount of discipline, but also excitement. One gets the sense from talking to Fraankie that she believes every second she has with her guitar and her music is a chance to discover something truly magical.

When I ask MadameFraankie if this level of intentionality and dedication is something she grew into or something that she felt was always there, she looks at me almost confused. It’s clear I asked about something so innate and second nature to her, that she can’t even recall a start date. “Do you want the long story or the short story?” She responds, laughing.

“Music has always been a part of my life,” she continues. “I think my aunt bought me my first radio from Radio Shack when I was about 9 and I was obsessed. Once I got the radio, I started to learn about radio stations. We had just moved to Tennessee so I was trying to figure out what stations there were, and that was the first time I remember you could choose your music. That was the first memory I had of actively listening to music.” 

From there, her interest in music as a whole narrowed itself down specifically to the guitar thanks to JCPenny. No really. She was flipping through a JCPenny magazine at her grandma’s house when she was 12, saw an acoustic guitar on one of the pages, and had to have one. “I didn’t know how to play it or nothing, it was just so beautiful,” she says. “It was a must-have.” Once she got her own, it didn’t take long for it to become a permanent extension of herself. “I took that thing everywhere, everywhere, everywhere,” she tells me. “People knew if I was coming, the guitar was coming too.” 

This should come as no surprise, but Fraankie is a self-taught musician in the truest form. She credits a range of artists that helped influence her sound and style: Snoop Dogg, James Blake, Nick Hakim, John Mayer, D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, 2Pac, and funk legends Cameo are just a few she names. “Oh, and Dave Matthews. I used to play so much Dave Matthews band when I was teaching myself the acoustic guitar,” she says laughing.

It’s clear though that while Fraankie’s list of favorite or influential artists is diverse, it’s not anywhere near complete. She has playlists and playlists of artists that she wants to know more about, seemingly understanding that there are musical universes out there she has yet to discover. “I have a playlist of artists that I’ve been trying to tap into and learn more about. I got Incubus, Grizzly Bear, Marilyn Manson, Lit…that ‘Miserable’ track I think is absolutely genius.” 

Fraankie spent years honing her craft before she became what she calls a “public musician” in 2017. “I got a phone call and someone wanted me to play with them in a show. At this point I had been playing for years but anytime someone asked if I wanted to come do a show, I always said no. I was nervous I would mess up. But then I told myself if you’re gonna keep saying no, what are you even playing for? After that I committed to saying yes to projects and putting myself out there. Even if it’s ass, I’m going to still put it out there,” she says assuredly. 

This mentality paid off. The more “out there” Fraankie put herself, the more her phone started ringing. Over the past few years, she’s played and recorded with local artists like Talibah Safiya, Lawrence Matthews (FKA Don Lifted), and Aybil. She’s also involved with Crosstown Sync, which licenses music created by Memphis artists and musicians for use in movies, television shows, commercials, video games, and other on-screen opportunities. “The number of phone calls I’m starting to receive is wild – it’s like ‘okay, we out here!’ I’ve gotten calls like, ‘Hey we’re in the studio working on a track and we think you’d be a really great fit for this’. Jumping into a project and getting a placement from that…wow,” Fraankie reflects.

The momentum MadameFraankie is experiencing now doesn’t look like it’ll slow down anytime soon. She recently started incorporating more instruments into her musical toolbelt, teaching herself keys, drums, bass, and even exploring singing. “I don’t know if it’s a full-fledged singer/songwriter kind of thing, but I would love to do a line or two here in the same style Khruangbin does. I know I want my voice included in some way. I want to be a well-rounded musician. I didn’t intend to play more instruments, but it’s more happenstance. When you learn more, it does nothing but help because you can hear more.” 

I know I referenced Fraankie’s music as a passion for her, but after hearing her speak about her art makes that word feel deeply insufficient. In MadameFraankie’s world, music is a precious treasure, one she feels supremely blessed to be able to not only create, but also share.As talented as she is, she’s humble enough to know there’s always more to learn and determined enough to learn it. It’s a mindset that’s increasingly rare in today’s instant gratification obsessed society.

There’s a quote Prince once said about his creative process that feels especially appropriate when thinking about Fraankie’s music. He said, “To create something from nothing is one of the greatest feelings, and I would—I don’t know, I wish it upon everybody. It’s heaven.” It’s clear MadameFraankie feels the same, and as her audience, we’re lucky to witness that journey.

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