Frankie McCoy has been living among the Dutch for too long. Her office is freezing and when I put my down jacket back on an hour into the interview she says, “Oh dear, I forgot to turn on the heat!” She forgot to turn on the heat. And didn’t even notice.
Then again, the warmth of Frankie’s personality and the electricity of her presence had been enough to make me forget the cold for the better part of an hour too. It was mainly when my fingers could no longer grip the pen effectively enough to actually make recognizable loops and swirls that I began to wonder what exactly was going on.
Frankie was born in Germany to American parents. Her father was in the military and when her parents divorced, she stayed in Germany with her mother, who worked for the US government. “My mom was on the road a lot so I was often alone and basically raised myself,” she says. “But it was a charmed life; as a child I loved going to school and I loved the arts.” Frankie may have spent a lot of time fending for herself, but this also came with its perks, “At the start of the summer, my mom would give me 500 dollars, which at the time was the equivalent of about 2,000 German marks, and tell me to spend it wisely. I was about 14 or 15 at the time and that was a whole lot of money,” she says happily.
Despite the fact that Frankie seemed to have a relatively free rein, there were still plenty of rules for her to disrespect – with all due consequences. “I remember one day when I was 16; I was grounded. But Rod Stewart was coming to town and I really wanted to go! So, I spent the night at my friend’s house and we went to the concert together. Once there, Rod Stewart pulled me onstage – ‘cause I was the loudest thing there, he said – and we sang I Am Sailing together. The next day, I was on the front page of the local newspaper,” she pauses a moment. “Then I was really grounded,” she concludes with a loud guffaw.
“I believe in living life to the fullest,” Frankie tells, “I dream up what I want for myself and for other people, then I make up goals and I check them off. I don’t want to be stuck in the mud; if I’ve thought of something, I can do it. I always strive to take things to the next level and I apply that to everything in life. The other day, I was talking to a woman. I asked her what her aspirations were and she answered: ‘Well, I’m in my 50s, I’m in that part of my life where I’ve pretty much done everything I needed to do.’ And I thought; ‘That part of my life?’ ‘I’ve done everything I needed to do?’ That’s it? I just can’t imagine being at a point in my life where I think ‘I’m done’. There is always something more to achieve, somewhere new to go, something else to discover. If you have nothing left to achieve, then where’s the spice in life? I have to keep moving forward, or else I’m not a happy person.”
When she was 8, Frankie already knew that she wanted to be in the arts. In school, she used to write short stories, which got her quite a lot of press in Germany and in the US. “And I thought that that was going to be it; I was going to be a writer.” Then she started to write songs; “Everyone in my family played an instrument, except for me. I sang.” At age 12, she went into professional theater and got a professional theater education, while still in school. “We played in Heidelberg and Mannheim and later in Berlin. The first show that I got noticed in was Mack the Knife; I was the only child in the production and the first African-American ever to play in this show, so that was quite a big splash I made there!” she laughs. “I worked hard, harder than most, because I felt I had to prove myself. I also traveled through Europe in the ensemble of Porgy & Bess. We went Prague, Vienna, Italy, France… and I performed in several other shows – such as Hair – between the ages of 12 and 21.”
Then a series of events led Frankie to change directions – from theater to the music industry. “I did a contest for Sony and won a record deal with them and went on to have lots of ‘musical adventures’ and endeavors with all kinds of record companies – Edel Music, BMI, Universal – before having my first real touch of fame with Sash! under the artist name La Trec.” It was a new adventure and the start of a new life.
Frankie started traveling around Europe with Sash!, and found that most of her flights left from Schiphol Airport. So she decided to settle in the Netherlands. “I chose The Hague; it was green and seemed like a great place to raise a kid.” By that time she had a daughter, Zoe (and now she has two more boys, Izzy and Xuly). “I like Holland, because the people are innovative and relaxed,” she explains and then hesitates and laughs, “though ‘relaxed’ seems a loaded thing to say. They are, compared to most central Europeans – let’s put it that way. They have an intriguing business side that I like a lot: they don’t try to trip you up at every bend in life. They are open to letting you show want you can do; if you want to apply yourself, you get a chance. If you want to do something, you get to prove that you can do it. Only… don’t stand outside the box too much. Don’t shine too much. You can have greatness and be on top of the game, but there will always be someone to keep you in a straight line with everyone else. They like everyone to be the same. And that is a pet peeve of mine: people shouldn’t be afraid to speak up, to stand up for who they are all in the name of not making waves. Which is why I created my own work, so I wouldn’t have to deal with this.”
Frankie’s own work goes by the name of UD bam, or Urban Daughter Bad Ass Music. “I opened seven years ago with projects such as Haagse Talenten, scouting talents between the ages of 16-21 and offering them a nine-month mini-course in music. To give them a healthy view of what the music business is all about. They learned about singing in a studio environment vs. singing on stage, arranging songs, and how to promote themselves and break into the business.” An education Frankie herself never got, but of which she says; “Had I had this kind of hands-on experience, instead of just text-book, I would have been on my professional way much sooner.” After the course, the young talents got to perform at five different festivals, such as Park Pop, Summertime Festival and others. “We did this for three years and some of them have gone on to write film music, gaming music and one of them is writing songs for Jennifer Lopez.”
UD bam now has a new concept called Vocal Acrobats, says Frankie, “Aimed at young educators, (semi) professional singers and public speakers. We teach them how to use their voice, entertain, project, and how to capture their audience and keep them captured. We teach them to be fluent and to shine. We also go on Master Class Tours through Holland, visiting music schools and high schools to support their music program and take it to the next level.” One thing that Frankie also had to learn – and a lesson she now shares with her students – is how to be authentically yourself and put yourself out there. In order to do this, you need to know yourself, she says. “I was quite shy myself,” she explains. Which, incidentally, is very hard to imagine as she sits across from me, full of life and with a sparkle in her eyes. “When traveling across Europe with Sash! I would take out my contact lenses before going on stage so that I wouldn’t see anything. But then I realized; if I can’t see them, how can I expect them to see me? ‘Cause I was just hiding!”
Frankie writes songs and has a few on archive at Universal. How does that work? “Well, say an artist wants to record a song. Then they ask him what type of song he wants and refer him to a songwriter. This happened to me for instance when an up-and-coming singer in Switzerland took one of my songs. It’s a wonderful way to work and a great compliment.” Does Frankie have a favorite song? She thinks it over and says, “Yes; Stay. I remember being in a stadium in front of 35,000 people, who were all singing it along. It was so overwhelming I almost choked up. And then you read the comments on YouTube, with people saying how this song meant so much to them, or how this song represents a certain period in their life… The thought that you can touch people’s lives this way! When I realize this, I am engulfed with gratitude.”
For more information on Frankie’s work and her Master Classes, visit www.udbam.com.