The Artist Explains: Fran Smith - 'Contours' (Video)





Who: Singer, songwriter, musician, producer and activist Fran Smith  is based in Yorkshire, UK.

About The Track:  Fran Smith takes her listener on a sensory awakening, aesthetic journey in her delicately billowing offering, 'Contours', out now.

Fran Smith Explains:
"Contours is essentially about sex and trust - about how it's possible to be physically close with someone you love, but never really know what's going on beneath the surface. It's the idea that you can sleep with someone and know their body intimately without ever knowing what's on their mind or what it means to them - they're lying with you, but they might also be lying to you.

The lyrics and the video were inspired by one of my favourite artists - the late Yorkshire-born sculptor, Barbara Hepworth. Hepworth's curvy, abstract sculptures compare the human form with the shape of the land, and I read a quote by her that really sparked my imagination...

"All of my early memories are of forms and shapes and textures. Moving through and over the West Riding landscape with my father in his car, the hills were sculptures; the roads defined the form. Above all, there was the sensation of moving physically over the contours of fulnesses and concavities, through hollows and over peaks - feeling, touching, seeing, through mind and hand and eye. This sensation has never left me. I, the sculptor, am the landscape. I am the form and I am the hollow, the thrust and the contour."

I loved that concept - that a person could be a landscape... It reminded me of one of my favourite novels, 'The English Patient' by Michael Ondaatje, where the protagonist talks about our lives being a series of "bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves..." I had this mental image of two lovers, navigating, exploring and conquering each other like a foreign country, and that was our inspiration for the video.

From the moment that I finished writing 'Contours', I knew that I wanted to have dancers in the video, and to film them as if they were moving landscapes. Sam Vaherlehto and Sandrine Monin are world-class dancers who perform with the Phoenix Dance Theatre, and we actually had to put the video on hold and wait for them to finish a run of shows at the Royal Opera House before we could schedule the shoot! I was keen for their bodies to look as sculptural and as much like the lines and curves of a landscape as possible, so the director, Nick Singleton, suggested that we film them under a single spotlight, which picked out the contours of their bodies as they moved in and out of the shadows. Not only did the beauty of their skin and musculature look incredible on camera, but the dancers also completely loved and understood the concept and through their choreography they were able to convey the intimacy and tenderness of the lovers in the song.

The other half of the video was made at Flamborough North Landing, a tiny beach on the East Yorkshire coast. Nick and I had taken some test shots in other locations around Yorkshire, but we loved the drama and dynamism of the North Sea. After a very early start, we had the whole beach to ourselves, but time was of the essence as we had to get all the shots we needed before the tide came in. It was the sunniest day of February, but the temperatures were below zero, and Nick and I both had raw hands and windburned faces by the time we'd finished shooting! The idea was for me to look cold and isolated compared to the warmth and intensity of the dancers. It wasn't hard for me to look teary on camera as, thanks to combination of icy wind and glaring sunshine, my eyes were constantly watering! The whole day was so much fun, and Nick and I rewarded ourselves with fish and chips at the end of the day.

Making the video for 'Contours' is easily the most fun I've ever had collaborating with other artists and I'm really ambitious and excited to do more work that combines multiple art forms in the future."

Interview feature by Karla Harris


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