It’s a dream she has long since fulfilled. Not only has she earned hits on the Christian charts—”I’m Letting Go,” “Free To Be Me,” “It’s Your Life” and “Beautiful Beautiful”—but her music has also been featured on TV shows including Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, The Biggest Loser, So You Think You Can Dance, Jon & Kate Plus 8, The Hills and Running in Heels; on promos for the movie Julie & Julia and on the AOL Music home page, among many other outlets.
Her first album My Paper Heart was the biggest seller for a debut Christian artist in nearly a decade and the longest-running No. 1 for a female artist in Billboard Christian Album Chart history. It earned Francesca a raft of Dove Award nominations—she picked up the Female Vocalist of the Year and Short Form Video awards in April 2010—as well as a Grammy nomination en route to selling nearly half a million copies and nearly one million downloads.
Francesca’s music draws on the variety of styles that have influenced her, from jazz and rock to gospel and R&B, all held together by her soulful pop-tinged sensibilities and that rich, beautifully nuanced voice. Born in New York City and raised in Florida, Francesca grew up in a musical family and knew at an early age “I was going to spend my life performing.” She was drawn to musical theater, took ballet and dreamed of becoming an actress.
As a teenager, she got involved in a local youth group and “started writing songs that kids in church would want to sing,” she says. At 15, she became a member of the Orlando-based all-girl mainstream pop group Bella. When the group disbanded, she picked up the guitar and focused on Christian music. After two independent releases, she began talking to a Nashville label when friends in Group 1 Crew played her demo to execs at their label, Fervent, which signed her.
Nowhere was her stated goal of reaching non-Christians more in evidence than with the song “It’s Your Life.”
“I was on tour with Mercy Me, signing autographs after the show,” she says. “A girl came up with nothing to sign. She just shook my hand and told me she’d heard ‘It’s Your Life’ on the finale of Jon & Kate Plus 8. She said, ‘I really liked the song and so I went and found your record. It helped me to come to know Christ.’ She said, ‘Thank you’ and squeezed my hand and walked away. I stood there with my mouth hanging open. You hear that in this industry, but that was when I said, ‘See! It’s more than just a cool song on a TV show or in a commercial. My dream is that people who would never turn on a Christian radio station would maybe hear a song and like it and find the album and make a turn to God. That happened at least once and I love that.”