Francine Honey Releases New Album To Be Continued… Canadian Country Songwriter Sings Tales of Hard Luck and Happy Endings
In Windsor, Ontario-based singer-songwriter Francine Honey’s world, standard sweetheart greetings take on a whole new meaning.
“How many people come home after a long day at work and say, ‘hey honey, I’m home!?” she asks. “With ‘Honey’ as a last name, this normal expression takes on a new meaning, so I started saying ‘hey, honey Honey, I’m home!’ That became the beginning of the chorus.”
The result is the decidedly sultry make-you-move single, “Honey” and its equally sexy come-hither video — both available now with her new album, To Be Continued… out today!
At first, she blushed every time she sang it, and candidly admits shooting the video was a step outside her comfort zone. “As a songwriter, I write to make people laugh, cry, or want to get busy,” she offers, however. “If I can encourage love, I’m all for that!”
The track was not initially destined for the release. “I was planning on sending it to some power couples in music,” she shares, “but my producer convinced me to put it on the album. I wanted to express desire for that special someone from both points of view, and thought this would be perfect as a duet.
“Nothing screams sexy like a man in a suit! Add to that, a man who can dance and you have a winning combination for a woman.”
A ‘man who can dance’ is an understatement when it comes to Honey’s on-screen paramour; Windsor, Ontario’s Richard Tonizzo currently ranks #18 in the world for the sport, and choreographed a custom routine, drawing on his two-time Canadian Ballroom Championship wins.
It wasn’t always a spin around the dance floor for Honey, she confides. Hard times shaped her path to happiness, something she doesn’t shy from in the new release.
“Some of these songs are about going through tough times and then getting to the other side,” Honey says of her third record To Be Continued… “I know I’ve certainly been through my share of struggles. But it’s important to have hope and know you’re not alone. If you’re going through something, someone else has gone through it too. And you have to remember: You don’t know what’s around the corner. Your ‘to be continued…’ might be beyond what you ever imagined.”
She speaks from experience. Some five years after her first album — a homemade Christmas present for friends and family — the divorced mother of two and former federal civil servant is living the dream. She has the love of her life, the career she long denied herself, and an album that showcases her most striking and stirring compositions. “I’m so happy,” she says. “I’m really proud of this record and how it all came together.”
Cut in Nashville with producer Neilson Hubbard (John Prine, Jason Isbell) and first-call players like guitarists Will Kimbrough and Kris Donegan, pianist Danny Mitchell, bassist Dean Marold and legendary fiddler Eamon McLoughlin, To Be Continued… takes Honey’s mix of Americana, country, rock, Canadiana and blues to the next level, capturing the sound she’s been chasing for years. “It’s hard to articulate what you hear in your head and get it to come to life through other musicians,” she says. But after getting Hubbard’s name from singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters, she knew she’d found her man. “I looked up the songs he produced and went, ‘That’s what I’ve been hearing!’
“Almost every song on this record is Take 1. Isn’t that amazing?” she marvels. “It really was magic. Basically, we just went through each song one by one. They listened to my demo and we talked about the feeling we wanted for the song and worked out things like guitar tones and how we were going to start and end. Then it was like, ‘All right, let’s run this through and see what we can come up with.’ And at the end of almost every take, I was like, ‘Wow. I don’t think we could do that any better.’ Every song was its own unique ride.”
“You know, road trips mean different things to different people,” Honey reflects, harkening back to the release’s premiere single, “Open Road” — available now. “For you and me, they’re an adventure. You just need a full tank of gas, a big cup of coffee, some great music, and the open road.
“But to a long-haul truck driver, it’s another story.
“I met a trucker once and we started talking about the road,” she continues. “I said, it must be hard being away from family. He admitted it was, but surprised me by saying his phone keeps them connected. He and his kids video-chat after school, during games and before bed. If they have a problem, they know they can call him anytime. So no matter where he is, he’s always there when they need him.
“That was a real eye-opener. After we spoke, I watched him get back in his truck with his dog. It reminded me of my old dog Smokey — he loved to howl, so I put him in the song too.”
“The dog in the video is actually my friend Anna’s dog, Jack. He got the gig after I visited her and found out sirens make him howl. During the shoot, Jack was a bit nervous at first. He had never been in a big 18-wheeler and we were on the 401 near Windsor, one of the busiest highways in Canada.
“After about 15 minutes, though, he hopped onto Trucker Phil’s lap. We played a siren on the phone and off he went. His howling was so much fun, we all joined in!”
To Be Continued also takes listeners on a journey. Courageously drawing from her own life, Honey’s songs run the gamut of emotion. “Snowflakes on My Eyelashes” channels the grief of loss; “Can’t Break Through to You” examines PTSD; and the moving “Marilyn” documents a harrowing health scare. “That’s a very tough subject and a very personal song,” she confesses. “The room goes quiet when I play it. But I’ll see someone wipe a tear from their eye, and know that song has touched someone.” It’s not alone: Stay was a semi-finalist in the Canada Songwriting Contest and “Mamas Take Bad Dreams Away” made the top five in the Canada South Songwriting Contest.
Equally laudable are cuts on the lighter side of the roster: Back to the upbeat driving ode “Open Road”, the sexy come-hither blues of Honey and the uplifting title cut that chronicles her romance with a friend who re-entered her life at just the right time. “I sure had to kiss my share of frogs,” she quips. “I thought I was just meant to be single and figured we would just be friends, and I was happy with that. Little did I know.”
Little did she know she’d ever be a professional songwriter. Although she’s made music since childhood — “I wrote my first song in 1976” — Honey never dreamed of making it a career. Instead, she studied math and computers, got married, had kids and worked as a project manager. Her life seemed perfect. Then a near-simultaneous breakup and job loss forced her to relocate, find a new career and raise a family alone. Music went on the back burner; she never stopped writing, but songs went unfinished — until her kids fixed that.
“When my 18-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son kept telling me to “Get a life, Mom!” they really were showing wisdom beyond their years. After spending time thinking about what my life would be after they left the nest, I realized I had stories to share, and there was still an opportunity for me to at least try and turn my musical hobby into my profession.” So she left her federal government job in 2013 to pursue music full-time under her maiden name Francine Leclair. The self-produced album An Ordinary Person came in 2008, followed in 2014 by Re-Drawn, produced by Lang Bliss in Nashville. The latter includes the song I Soldier On and its French partner Je Vis Sans Limites, which support the Soldier On fund in Canada. In 2015, she also re-recorded many of her early songs for the EP An Ordinary Woman (In Studio).
Along the way, the down-to-earth artist has displayed extraordinary dedication to her craft. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music Professional Singer-Songwriter Certificate Program. She regularly makes the nine-hour drive to songwriting workshops in Nashville, where she has been mentored by icons like Beth Nielsen Chapman (who contributes backup vocals to Honey’s Snowflakes On My Eyelashes), Mike Reid (I Can’t Make You Love Me), Mary Gauthier (Mercy Now), Verlon Thompson (Boats to Build), Gretchen Peters (Independence Day) and Jonatha Brooke (My Mother has 4 Noses). She is a member of the Songwriter’s Association of Canada, Nashville Songwriter’s Association International, Canadian Country Music Association and Americana Music Association. She co-ordinates the Leamington/Windsor Regional Writer’s Group, mentoring other songwriters. She has showcased at the Texas Songwriters Symposium three years in a row, the WinterFolk Blues and Roots Festival in Toronto, the Kingsville Folk Music Festival and the Folk Music Ontario conference. Her music and songwriting have taken her to the U.K., Switzerland and Italy.
Her journey is far from over. The next chapters in the bilingual singer’s memoir include an EP of francophone songs from the To Be Continued sessions; a set of French-Canadian classics sung by her family at the holidays; a Christmas album; and another disc with Neilson. Meanwhile, she is expanding her reach with online content, including videos for every song on To Be Continued… and intimate performances for fans. And she continues to co-write with other artists, aiming to have her music recorded by fellow performers and licensed for TV. “If I could get a song on Grey’s Anatomy, that would be cool,” she laughs. “But really, I just want to keep going, writing better songs. I’m finally a songwriter and I know I’ll do this the rest of my life.”
The story continues …
“Open Road”, “Honey” and To Be Continued… are available now.
We would like to thank Eric Alper for the artist profile and press release.