Singer-songwriter Francesca Panetta has her eye on a record deal after releasing her first professional EP earlier this month.
The 22-year-old Thornton resident has always had a passion for music and tells BarrieToday she started singing when she was quite young.
”I sang in the school choir and then started taking lessons with a local teacher when I was about 12,” she says.
Panetta also took part in musical theatre as a teenager and learned to play piano and guitar along the way.
“I’d been dabbling in songwriting, but in the last couple of years I’ve gotten back into songwriting for real and have been doing it non-stop ever since," she says.
This was the first time working in a recording studio for the St. Joan of Arc grad, as well as her first time working with a producer.
“What drove me to make the EP was I had a visit from a distant relative shortly before I decided to make the EP who asked me how things were going musically," she says. "He mentioned he had a contact at a record company in Nashville."
While Panetta was still writing her own music, at the time she hadn’t really done anything public with it yet. After the family friend reached out to his contacts, Panetta learned the record company execs were interested in seeing a portfolio, which is when she realized it was time to put something professional together.
“That’s what drove me to do something in the studio in the first place,” she says.
Panetta worked with producer Jeff Wardell of Your Production to create the six-song EP.
“He was very patient. We did a lot of it through COVID, so it was pretty difficult. We did a lot of remotely, talking over text. When it was a little safer, I went in to actually record... and then we got to talk a little bit more in person as to how we wanted it to sound.”
Panetta admits that recording an album during a pandemic was a difficult process. She recorded all the demos in a small studio set up in her bedroom — most of which were used in the final EP, titled When the Sunshine Rains.
While Panetta can’t quite put her finger on one specific reason she’s been drawn down this musical path, she says growing up in a music-loving family is likely a big part of it.
“(Music) has always been a part of my life. It’s very therapeutic and songwriting itself is a good way for me to get my anxieties out and focus on my mental health, too,” she says.
Although she grew up listening to a mix of musical genres, an album that has inspired her the most was Shania Twain’s Greatest Hits.
“I remember Party For Two was like my song. I always skipped to that track. My dad loved classic rock and my mom loves some of the crooners like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. So I grew up with two very retro-styled genres, and I think that actually had a huge impact on my sound, too,” she says. “Although I do like a lot of modern music, my own style is very almost 1980s… (or) at least it stems from that era.”
While she's hesitant to pigeonhole herself into any particular genre of music, Panetta says her sound tends to lean more toward “pop folk with a bit of a country flare."
“I want to continue to be creative with how I am exploring making new music, so I don’t really want to conform to one specific genre," she says.
Panetta hopes her music will now get the attention of record companies.
“I’ve been at the music thing my whole life. I struggled a lot when I was in high school as to if I wanted to give this music thing a full-blown shot. Going into the arts, you get a lot of people telling you it’s not practical and should have a back-up plan, but ultimately I decided I am young now and may as well try this,” she says.
“I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to try this out so I may as well. If 10 years down the line I am not getting anywhere then I will go to school and do music on the side, but for now, I really want to give this my all.”