During one of his first promotional gigs for the second season of NBC’s “The Voice,” Blake Shelton couldn’t stop talking about the effect that his charges, Dia Frampton and Xenia, had on him in season one. His job was to mentor a singer — it turned out to be Frampton — to the finals to compete against three others. But along the way he experienced an artistic reawakening. “Xenia and Dia rejuvenated me… maybe that’s why I got so attached to those two,” he said in October. “They made me feel alive again.”
Following a tour on which the two opened shows for the country singer, Shelton has continued working with Frampton, recording a track on her debut solo album and booking her as an opening act on a tour that begins in February just as “The Voice” returns. Traveling with Shelton will put Frampton on bigger stages than she has played with her sister in the act Meg & Dia and in front of country audiences she only saw after appearing on “The Voice.” This is a singer who, after winning a Myspace contest, had to duck flying objects while playing three separate Vans Warped tours.
Video: Dia Frampton Sings R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” on “The Voice”
“The country crowd is not so self-conscious, a little more family, more community,” Frampton says. “I’m excited to be in that world. Everybody in my band is so excited. All five of us will be backstage every night watching and learning.”
“Red,” Frampton’s debut, arrives Dec. 6 on Universal Republic. She says the album is far more upbeat than Meg & Dia’s three albums and four EPs, owing to her collaborations with other writers in Los Angeles, Nashville and London. Without her older sister to split writer duties — “We don’t work together; she writes her songs and I write mine” — Frampton found the experience different from what she expected.
“This record is very personal, almost uncomfortable,” the 24-year-old artist says after doing a promotional concert at the Hollywood office of Reveille Productions. “I felt very alone on this record. On our last [Meg & Dia] record, we were stuck in this little cabin sharing bedrooms, just the five of us. The guitar amps were in the living room.
“This time I didn’t have Meg to ask, ‘Do you think this is a good idea? Is this line stupid?’ I don’t trust other people as much. I had written about 40 songs and lost my perspective, so I called her and said, ‘I don’t have fresh ears. I want you to come out here and be a part of the record.'”
Meg traveled to Los Angeles and the sisters wrote eight songs together, their first-ever collaborations. One of them, “Hearts Out to Dry,” appears on the iTunes version of the album. “The others sucked,” Frampton says.
While collaborating with such songwriters and producers as Isabella Summers of Florence & the Machine, Tom Shapiro, Kid Cudi, Toby Gad, Mark Pontius of Foster the People and Eg White, Frampton was the lyricist “90%-100% of the time.” That also led to the extremely personal nature of the songs told directly from a first-person point of view.
Frampton performed two of those ripped-from-the-heart tunes, “Daniel” and “Trapeze,” at Reveille, which NBC.com filmed and will include in an online series to promote “The Voice” in February. “Daniel” was written about a boyfriend she broke up with just prior to “The Voice” and after Warner Bros. had dropped Meg & Dia; “Trapeze” followed a friend’s disclosure of a horrific childhood that he remarkably had kept hidden.
Video: Dia Frampton, “Daniel”
Regarding the song “Daniel,” Frampton says, “I didn’t even change the name. It’s really strange when you’re getting so emotional. While I was cutting the vocals, I was thinking about all the things we could have had. The vocal [on the album] is the very first demo. Toby Gad said there’s no emotion like the first one. When I wrote it, it had only been a week after we broke up. So we kept that raw vocal track.”