“Everyone is going to have
his or her good or bad night.
If you have a bad show,
shake it off. Have courage,
and know every time
you get on stage you’re
making progress.”

“In times like these,
when the world is so crazy,
its nice to have artists
and musicians, people
like that, come together.”

“Now that I’ve got a band
again, I’m kind of going
back to my roots.
I think that’s what’s cool
about playing with the band
— people get to see the
harder side of my music.”

photographs by Gregory Wilkerson

Frankie Colt's Music Mission

by Cindy-jo Dietz

OPEN MIC AND JAMS may never be the same if full time musician, MC, fashion designer and dream catcher craftsperson, Frankie Colt has her way.

It was a Thursday night and another open jam at Howl Gallery & Tattoo, off Cleveland Avenue in Fort Myers. The crowd consisted of hungry musicians, comedians, poets and artists, each anticipating their turn at the microphone. We walked in, greeted by a dark room and a brightly lit stage. To the right was a small bar serving craft and local beer, among other beverages. Howl’s interior boasts the sort of style one might find in larger cities like St. Petersburg, thick with an air of the eclectic. One by one each act took the stage, as Frankie Colt, host and fellow musician, announced them. In between performances, Frankie threw in a joke and one or two of her own songs. The evening flowed by effortlessly. From comedians to musicians everyone gave it all they had. The highlight of the night was Margaux Royale’s flawless burlesque performance executed to music played by a live trio. The song was an old-time strip tease. Frankie tells me a new burlesque dancer appears each week and attracts quite the crowd. I can see why. Margaux’s performance was classy and sophisticated. Her outfit fit the music and gave a very solid circa 1950’s pinup feel.

There was a sizable crowd, ages ranging from twenty somethings all the way to over 65. There happened to be a really fun group of performances that night and the crowd was very supportive of one another. You could tell many audience members and performers were familiar with how Frankie runs her open jam. She gives everybody their equal time and she rallies support from audience like a ringleader. It seemed as though a lot of the musicians had played together before and were eager to try new combinations and jam.

There is a line from the Dhammapada that says “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.” This is Frankie Colt — overwhelmingly positive.

Frankie is what her friends like to call an ‘Encourager.’ She explains, “My friend Claire said this to me: ‘The best thing you can do is to be an encourager. You are an encourager.’ I thought that was the coolest way she could have put it. If we had more of that, that’s when you would see things build, when you would see the community flourish.”

Frankie wants to create an environment at her events where people are just nice to each other. An event where people give each other a chance on stage. She says “Everyone is going to have his or her good or bad night, make the most of it, give it all you got. If you have a bad show, shake it off. Have courage, and know every time you get on stage, you’re making progress. In times like these, when the world is so crazy its nice to have artists and musicians, people like that, come together. It really is.” With a growth in popularity for her open mic and jam nights, showcases and other events, Frankie seems overjoyed by what is manifesting before her eyes.

Aside from the Thursday nights at Howl, Frankie hosts two additional open mic events. You can catch her Tuesdays at Point Ybel Brewing Company in Fort Myers, from 7:30-10:30pm, and Wednesday nights at Whiskey Park in Naples, from 8-11pm. Frankie says each location is very unique, bringing in different age groups and styles of music. For each event she likes to feature one band, comic or artist. She says it gives the artist the opportunity to shine. Rather than just going to an open mic and playing a couple of songs, the featured musician gets to open and play for up to 30 minutes.

In addition to being an accomplished musician and MC, Frankie also makes clothing and crafts dream catchers, posting them for sale on her Facebook page. She recently got married to her husband Colin O’Brien in a dress she made herself. Her natural talent in creating bridal design may stem from her love of assembling tutus. She says that she is working on putting together an inventory of crafts and clothing, hoping to sell them once she is ready.

Born and raised in Naples, I imagined Frankie had come from an upbringing most likely loaded with musical influences. It turns out it wasn't as encouraged as you would think. “No. I grew up in a household where it was like ‘Shut up!’ I had six brothers and sisters. I come from a big family.”

Frankie didn't actually start playing until she was 12, but fell in love fast. Her first guitar was a Yamaha, one her mother dabbled on in the 1960s, but the action (the distance between the strings and neck of the guitar) was high, making it hard to learn and play on. “My fingers felt like they were literally going to fall off. My sister actually got an electric guitar first. I used to steal it from her room and hide it in my closet — like she wasn't going to find it. She would always find it and kick my butt.” Eventually her grandfather suggested they buy her a guitar of her own. Although at the time she wasn't aware, she ended up with a Kurt Cobain Jaguar by Fender. Who knew Kurt Cobain would become one of Frankie’s major influences musically later in life?

Guitar is Frankie’s primary instrument, but she enjoys singing and playing the mandolin, keyboards, and other instruments, often performing in a number of different genres. “Transmutation, my EP, is very alternative,” she says. The music was written during a very dark part of her life. She adds, “It was cool to get on an electric again, but honestly, I love playing bluegrass or folk. I love singer-songwriter, acoustic style, coffee house kind of music and blues. I like it all. I think as an artist you shouldn't limit yourself. You gotta test the waters. I wouldn't like to do one specific thing. I kind of want to switch it up. Actually, I’m going to be working on some EDM.”

Frankie produced the five song (with bonus instrumental) EP CD, Transmutation. The project was recorded in Cape Coral at Kirkbride Recordings with Chris Whited as engineer. Frankie says you can really hear her 90s alternative and grunge influences in the music. The recording also showcases her electric guitar skills while playing with a full band. Musicians in on the project include Frankie’s new husband, bassist and singer Colin OBrien, and drummer Louie Calavera.

Transmutation took about six months to record. Frankie says she felt comfortable with Chris Whited recording. “I had gone into the studio very self-conscious about singing. A lot of musicians struggle with that, but it was nice to work with someone I felt understood me and could get the sound that I wanted. It was pretty cool how the emotion was captured.” She continues, “Now that I’ve got a band again, I’m kind of going back to my roots. I think that’s what’s cool about playing with the band — people get to see the harder side of my music. Plus I get to play electric.”

Rack’em, on 47th Terrace in Cape Coral, hosted the CD release of Transmutation. “We played with bands like F and Bloodwise,” she says. “It was pretty epic! It was the first time I had played with a full band in almost a year.” Aside from the current group of musicians Frankie works with on the CD, she can often be found performing solo or with a local duo/trio The Sweet Tease.

All musicians have their methods of coming up with lyrics. I asked Frankie what hers was. “I was actually talking to someone about this the other day,’ she explains. “When I used to write, I would write a song in about fifteen minutes or less, but now that I’m older I approach it as quickly as I can. I’ll write a guitar part or something first, get the emotion, then go from there, and write my lyrics. Music for me, is such an outlet. In the past, I would repress a lot if something was bothering me or something upset me.”

I asked Frankie if she had any important lessons she might be willing to share concerning working in a career in music. She laughed and urged new musicians to remember to take extra strings with them to gigs, sighting her earlier days playing bluegrass and breaking them herself. She also warns that if you are thinking of playing outside, remember to bring a tent. Wise words.

So, you would think like many young artists, her goal is to become famous. Right? I asked Frankie if she felt like that might be a possibility for her? “If it happens, great! If it doesn’t, its OK,’ she answers. “I think growing up and through my early 20s that’s what I wanted, but now I get to play music and be around people I love. I feel like I have already made it. You don't have to make thousands of dollars. I live in a cool house, with my dogs and my fenced-in yard, my husband and my kiddo. I'm just happy. I think that’s the goal, to just be happy.” •

You can find Frankie Colt’s latest CD, Transmutation online at CDBaby.com, Amazon.com, and iTunes.

May-June 2017