Countless singers dream of winning the endorsement of a major celebrity.
“If you can’t do this, get out of the business, you know what I mean?” an enthusiastic Letterman told his audience March 31 after The Suffers wrapped up an energetic performance of their song “Gwan” on CBS’s “Late Show with David Letterman.”
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched that clip,” said Franklin, who’s still reeling from the experience. “I felt so lucky to be part of television history like that.”
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The three-day festival, which kicks off Friday afternoon and runs through Sunday evening, features performances by the likes of New Orleans rock combo Cowboy Mouth and California-centric jam rockers Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers — as well as camping, outdoor activities and beer and wine tasting. Proceeds benefit Woods Humane Society and the Infinite Music Foundation.
According to Franklin, the Suffers’ multi-faceted sound, which combines elements of classic soul, rock and a wealth of other genres, reflects the 10 band members’ Gulf Coast roots.
“Houston is actually one of the most culturally diverse cities in the United States, and our band reflects that,” she said, noting that the group, established in 2011, has black, white and Latino members.
The Suffers’ musical influences range from “soul to jazz to opera to salsa,” Franklin said. “You have all these different sounds contributing to one blending, and it ends up being this beautiful concoction.”
Franklin grew up singing gospel music before transitioning into punk and ska. She started performing professionally as a teenager.
“At age 17, I got my hands on a fake ID and I started going to clubs where I could see bands I had (only) heard of in the paper,” she recalled. “I would get my band on the bill by convincing club owners I was much older than I was. … Eventually I was able to fit in and get my chops up.”
After sustaining a serious ankle injury, Franklin left the music industry at age 23 “to go get a real job,” she said, working for a Houston investment broker.
“I was ready to get married and start my family life,” recalled the singer, who has a bachelor’s degree in business management from Texas South University.
Then she got a call from bassist Adam Castaneda and keyboardist Pat Kelly, who were recruiting members for their new band. Franklin agreed to lend her powerful vocals to the group, and the rest is history.
Franklin remains the only female member of The Suffers, which includes guitarists Kevin Bernier and Alex Zamora, saxophonist Cory Wilson, trumpeter Jon Durbin, trombonist Michael Razo, percussionist Jose Luna and drummer Nick Zamora (drums).
“At the end of the day, I feel like I’m surrounded by nine brothers,” Franklin said, noting that personal beefs don’t last long on the Suffers’ tour bus. “There’s a very high level of respect and also admiration in the band. It doesn’t feel like any other project I’ve been involved in before.”
That spirit of diplomacy extends to the recording studio, she added.
“When it comes to the record, one person will have a barebones idea and everybody else will gradually add their contributions,” explained Franklin, who contributes melodies and lyrics. “It becomes a community song. It’s really nice to have nine people tell you ‘Yeah, that sounds awesome,’ (when) you know they really mean it.”
The Suffers’ latest release is the four-song EP “Make Some Room,” which was released in January. A full-length version of the album is due out no later than October.
“These four songs we thought were a great representation of our range (as) a band,” Franklin said. “The songwriting is very simple, but at the same time very honest and raw.”
According to Franklin, the title track, “Make Some Room,” was inspired by her efforts to encourage her band mates to help out their significant others.
“(The song) is about making time for the people in your life you might not always think to make time for,” she explained. “People just want some attention and a ‘thank you’ for everything they’ve been doing (for you).”
The Suffers, Franklin added, couldn’t be more grateful for the support they’ve been given. She cited the Letterman gig as a major coup for a band that remains unsigned to a record label.
“There are so many bands out there that think reaching that level is impossible,” she said, especially without a label’s support. “We were in the right place at the right time with a lot of people backing us.”
As an independent band, “We are provided with a lot of freedom right now,” Franklin said. “We work the way we want to. We release what we want to release. We sound how we want to sound.”
Seven Sisters Craft Beer and Music Fest
3:30 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 10:15 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Sunday
El Chorro Regional Park and Campground, Highway 1, north of San Luis Obispo
$80 to $115 festival passes, $28 to $65 daily passes
(888) 825-5484 or www.sevensistersfest.com