Lyves never set out to be famous. The alias of Francesca Bergami, it’s the songwriter’s emotive lyrical themes and alternative route into performing that set her apart from the rest. Born in Aylesbury to an Australian mother and an Italian father, before spending most of her younger years on the move, Francesca is fluent in Portuguese and Italian. Her interest in music can be credited to her parent’s vast record collection that she started sifting through from the age of four. “I was more attentive to them than anything in the house,” says Francesca. “My first musical memory was Dire Straits, then I remember a lot of Michael Jackson and soul singers like Aretha Franklin. I exhausted every single thing my parents had. I didn’t really realise how much I loved music back then.”
Francesca started penning songs at the age of ten, but music was something she kept close to her heart. Her early teens were soundtracked by the likes of Tupac and Seal, but as she got older her taste leant more towards the electronic end of the spectrum: Moby, Air, Boards of Canada and Enya. “Hip-hop, soul and ambient electronic music. That’s always been the thread for me,” says Francesca. “My mother used to play Enya and I always thought it was corny as a teenager but somehow it captured my attention and I think that really influenced the way I produce my music.”
Shying away from a career in music, fearing it was unattainable, Francesca went to Goldsmiths to study psychology before embarking on a career as a support worker for young people in care and later a mental health advocate where she worked at a psychiatric hospitals. It was at this point – eight years ago – that Francesca realised there was something missing in her life. Her secret needed to become a full-blown creative endeavour. Francesca got her hands on a keyboard and embarked on the task of learning to play, she advertised for a band on Gumtree and started to perform live to an audience for the first time since she was thirteen.
The world started to take notice when Francesca publicised her first release ‘Visions’, via Soundcloud two years ago, that paved the way for her upcoming EP titled ‘Like Water’ set to be released in January 2017.
Following a personal period of change and loss, Francesca upped and left her life in London to relocate to Ostra for five months, a tiny village in Italy in which her father and grandmother live. Setting up camp in her fathers attic where she both wrote and recorded her music, Francesca’s alienation from the world pushed her to her greatest height as a musician and her ability to turn times punctuated by darkness into music that radiates hope, strength and optimism, gave her sound the confidence it had been craving. “It was a really deep time,” says Francesca. “I wrote a lot of music up there, but it’s not a proper studio, it’s bedroom produced.” Using just a keyboard, a computer screen and a set of speakers to capture her sound – a vulnerable, yet positively uplifting accomplishment – Francesca stayed put until her EP was complete. The first track on the EP ‘Darkest Hour’, is testament to Francesca’s enduring quality and determination as an artist. Representative of a transformative period in Francesca’s life, the track itself is symbolic of resistance – never backing down, and never giving up.
“The whole EP is very personal, yet quite subconscious,” she explains. “I really trust the words that arrive when I’m sat there at my keyboard the first time round. Sometimes it’s things that I don’t even realise that I’m going through until I read back the lyrics. I’ve always felt emotions very strongly, but never known where to place them. When I started writing songs, it felt like I could breathe again. I don’t write with the expectation that someone will hear it, so I just pour everything out. It’s raw and honest.”
With a voice that can be both emotive and empowering at once, Francesca sings of loss, adaption, and survival. “That’s my aim, to be as honest and real as possible, then hopefully people will feel something from it,” says Francesca. “When I worked in mental health I had a lot of people really open up to me, really let it all out – there something really beautiful and courageous about that. I really hope to offer something to people who might be going through a difficult time. I don’t want it to be about me. I want the music to speak for itself and possibly give something. That’s what fuels my passion”