Jun. 11—Olivia Frances' voice sounds like an old friend's. Whether you hear it through the other end of a call or through your headphones while head bobbing to her latest album, "Orchid," every word exudes a genuine warmth.
The Cincinnati-born, now Nashville-based singer-songwriter is making her Wyoming debut June 17-19 with three shows around Cheyenne, and the performances mark her official return to touring since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the music industry.
"It's just so, so special to be able to start performing again after the pandemic, and I'm so ready," she said, adding that songwriting is the main coping mechanism that got her through the last 15 months, especially after losing her day job.
"I was just on Zoom pretty much every day, and songwriting, to me, is like therapy, and it really helped me get into a different mindset," she said. "I'm someone who really likes to stay busy. And so, at the beginning, I was just trying to stay busy with music."
Lockdown brought on so many emotions that it felt only natural to pour them into her lyrics, Frances said, adding that the one upside of the quarantine was she had more time to fine-tune them and spend time hanging out with and learning about the people who feed her creativity.
"I'm inspired, so much of the time, by conversations with friends or family," she said. "And all the nurses and the doctors, all the folks working so hard during the pandemic, hearing those stories on the news was also so inspiring."
The rain clouds of 2020 started to part when Frances got a remote job to supplement her income, and the highlight of most of her weeks has been a Wednesday evening livestream on Facebook, which she dubbed "Midweek Magic." The 30-minute virtual shows, which she always does with a musician friend, have helped fill the "hole" in her heart, since in-person shows were canceled for so long.
That hole was further filled when Frances got a brief reminder of what performing in person is like during an outdoor show at Cedar Point amusement park. She was surprised the September 2020 gig in Sandusky, Ohio — which was booked before the pandemic — wasn't canceled, but she was grateful to go on and had a blast.
These Cheyenne shows will be her first since September, so she's a little nervous, but Frances said practicing in front of the mirror helps her feel more prepared, and overall, she's feeling much more excited than anxious.
"I just believe that life is all about human connection and love ... so to be able to connect and be present with one another in person is such a gift," she said. "Music is so powerful, and it really just transcends all boundaries, and so to be able to experience that all together will be such a blessing."
Frances said Wyomingites who are unfamiliar with her body of work should expect an evening of "sunshine story pop," with several folk undertones. Two of her biggest influences are Kacey Musgraves and Bon Iver, so if you're a fan of either, you're bound to enjoy yourself.
Frances will also be backed by a band for the first time since the start of the pandemic for these Laramie County shows, and that group will be made up of Cheyenne locals Josh Reese, utility instrumentalist; Cameron Perkins, percussionist; and Justin Schuetz, bass player. Her Saturday, June 19 show at Black Tooth Brewing Co. (520 W. 19th St.) will also feature Cheyenne musician Josh Gonzales.
Local vocalist Ty Warner of Change Agents met Frances through Nashville Songwriters Association International, and after several successful songwriting sessions, he felt the need to book her a Wyoming gig.
"As Hans Christian Andersen said, 'Where words fail, music speaks,'" Warner said. "It's about putting somebody out front that's a pro like anybody else that comes in, but we just do it from a different lens ... to help put her across the finish line."
Niki Kottmann is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle's features editor. She can be reached at email@example.com or 307-633-3135. Follow her on Twitter at @niki_mariee.