Lillian Frances' entry takes the Tiny Desk Contest to new heights Entries to the Tiny Desk Contest tend to be incredibly creative and fun — maybe none more so this year than an entry from the singer-songwriter Lillian Frances.

A rock climber takes the Tiny Desk Contest to new heights

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You might say that this year, Lillian Frances took the Tiny Desk Contest to new heights.


LILLIAN FRANCES: So we are going up to the top of that thing.

SIMON: You might say she thought outside the box, that her video is off the wall.


FRANCES: We're about to set up a portaledge - well, Kevin's setting up everything.

SIMON: Certainly rocked my world. OK, OK, I'll stop.


FRANCES: There are a lot of very important nuts and bolts and anchors and ropes. But the most important item - my tiny desk.

SIMON: She hauled a guitar, a whole bunch of gear and a very tiny blue desk up a big mountain to perform her song, "Gravestone Feel," on a tiny ledge." Lillian Frances joins us now. Thanks so much for being with us.

FRANCES: Hi, Scott. It is my absolute pleasure to be on here today. hello.

SIMON: And why? I mean, just why?

FRANCES: It was so fun, I got to say. I don't know. I had the idea for it because I rock climb and I produce music and perform music. And I'm always trying to figure out how I can do both at the same time. And it just hit me one day. I'm like, oh, duh, portaledge concert, obviously. And then it was a little bit of a jigsaw puzzle to put it together, but it worked. Everything recorded. It all went according to plan, so it was really spectacular.


FRANCES: (Singing) Baby, you know I got that gravestone feel. I'm going to run run run till I break my heels. What you doing? You should join me. I got a long ride ahead, but I could use the company. I got six strings, 10 fingers, 10 toes. I'm going to run these soles as far as they can go, 'cause I'm a string, an instrument, a chime...

SIMON: The song you're singing moved me - "Gravestone Feel."


FRANCES: (Singing) Running to my gravestone quick. Running to my angels, hey. Running till my ankles click.

SIMON: It's a very clear-eyed song about life, isn't it?

FRANCES: Yeah. It's about - well, the main lyric is running to my gravestone quick, which is kind of, like, a live fast, die young reference. But I'm actually down for living fast and dying very old. That's my goal - but trying to live life to the absolute fullest and take on adventure and do things you've never done before. So in a lot of ways, this was the perfect song to sing hanging off a cliff.

SIMON: You anticipate my question. Did it take on new or fresh or even amplified meaning when you sing it hanging off a cliff?

FRANCES: It was definitely making me giggle when I was performing it up there. I was just like, girl, what you doing? What are you doing up here? It was really fun.


FRANCES: (Singing) Cause ashes, ashes, we all fall down. Truth is all my heroes are living underground. But what's the point of me running so fast? Got the dirt between my toes, and I want it to last.

SIMON: You've described yourself as a sonic collager.


SIMON: Which means?

FRANCES: Taking a bunch of different influences and meshing them together, because I started out as a folksy singer-songwriter on the acoustic guitar. And then when I realized that I could pull in little bits of just sounds that I found intriguing, that's kind of how I started building my music and my electronic world.


FRANCES: (Singing) I'm alive. See look at me, I'm breathing. Feeling high. Come join me on my ceiling.

I'm not really drawn to a particular genre. I love all types of music. I more make my decisions based on experimenting and then just selecting the little pieces that stoke me out.


FRANCES: (Singing) Let me know, is it working? Tell me, can you see straight? Tell me, can you see straight? Tell me, can you, tell me can you?

I think of myself as, like, the Marie Kondo of, like, music production. You know, you hear something, and if it sparks joy, then I keep it. So in that way, I'm just, like, a little magpie, just collecting little gems for my nest of a song. I just love this synthesis of natural and organic and synthesized. And so that's kind of like what music is to me and what, like, life is to me.


FRANCES: (Singing) Pick me up. Let's get out of the concrete.

SIMON: Tell me about the song "Direct Sunlight."

FRANCES: "Direct Sunlight" is my next song that I'm going to release on August 12, which I'm very excited about. And this is a song that I wrote - I went through kind of, like, a rock-climbing bender last year, and I just couldn't go home because every time I went home, I was sad. And I just wanted to be on a mountain. And so I was thinking a lot about just, like, adventure and road-tripping and the excitement of being in a new place and not knowing anyone and having to just figure it out. So this song, "Direct Sunlight," is about that.


FRANCES: (Singing) Hey, with the sunlight in my pocket. You found the key, and you unlocked it.

Writing it coincided with me moving into my own apartment for the first time. So I had all this freedom, and I also was growing a garden. I was, like, a plant mom for the first time and trying to figure out how much sunlight my plants needed. And I think in figuring out how much sunlight my plants needed, I was also trying to figure out how much sunlight I needed. And I realized I'm definitely a direct sunlight kind of girl with sunscreen, I will say - big on sunscreen, but also big on direct sunlight.


FRANCES: (Singing) Water slips down my back. I'm a cold place (ph).

SIMON: Lillian Frances, Tiny Desk standout. And you can see the video of her song "Gravestone Feel" on our website, And you can find her music on Spotify or on Instagram at @lillianfrances. Thanks so much for being with us. Good climbing to you.

FRANCES: Thanks so much, Scott.


FRANCES: (Singing) You had the makings of a good time.

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