This week TFF had a chance to speak with a driving force in indie music known as Melissa Ferrick. The openly gay singer is in the process of releasing her 12th album unapologetically titled Melissa Ferrick which has been described as a 'coming home' for the artist.
Ferrick has been seen traveling the country and rocking out with musicians like Tegan and Sara, Dwight Yoakam and Bob Dylan. She also works part time Professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA which is pretty fab. Among other things Ferrick is an exceptional musician as well as an interesting woman. Enjoy our interview and find out more about Melissa by visiting her website below!
The Fab Femme: Give TFF readers a little insight into how you were introduced to the music business.
Melissa Ferrick: At 20 I was the last minute opener for Morrissey on his “Kill Uncle” World tour, from there I was invited to finish the tour with him throughout the eastern US and then onto the UK. After the tour I signed a seven-album deal with major label Atlantic Records. Needless to say, I only released two albums with Atlantic as I was dropped in 1995 after a major shake up in power at the label and the birth of AOL; which would alter prove to be the beginning of the end of major labels signing and nurturing singer songwriters.
TFF: When did you decide you wanted to be a singer? What inspired you?
MF: I started playing music at the age of 5 so, music has been in my life forever really, I knew it I wanted it to play a part in what I would do professionally probably by the time I was 14 or 15. It was right around this time that MTV first aired and I am certain that played a huge role in my desire to “be in a band”. What inspired me most was possibility, I was fortunate enough to be a teenager at a time when there were some really great women songwriter’s and rock and roller’s I had Joan Jett, Chrissy Hines. Blondie, Grace Jones, Laurie Anderson, Siouxsie and the Banshee’s. Sinead O’Connor, The Eurythmics, Throwing Muse’s…the list goes on…all of these women had a profound effect on my understanding that I could do this, that I could express myself through music honestly and in whatever way I wanted.
TFF: Tell us a little about your latest album titled “Melissa Ferrick” and the creative direction you went in during the creative process?
MF: This album was made on my own time, in my house and on my own. I wrote, preformed, produced, engineered, and mixed this album. This record was also partially funded by my fans and It was recouped before it was released by pre-orders. It was a deeply personal process and commitment to what I was hearing. I pushed myself stylistically and musically. I was listening to Jason Isbell and Bon Iver primarily during the months that lead up to the making of my record and I can hear that influence sonically. As for the lyric content, this effort was the most specific, most thought out process I have ever put myself through. It is my most responsible release to date.
TFF: That’s amazing and very inspiring! Do you have a favorite song on the album? If so why is it your favorite song?
MF: It’s tie between “Scenic View” and “Careful”. They both came quickly lyrically and then took a ton of re-writing. Both songs have wonderful B sections (or Bridge’s) both in lyric and in melody. I love the bridge in Scenic View because I was able to write about the “offender” in the song by granting them some understanding. In the line, “…People who don’t want to see our happiness, I suspect are deeply sad…”. This to me is a clear mark of writing form a new place. In “Careful” (the love song) I am satisfied with how much the song feels the way it reads, it has an almost tangible fragility in the vocals that I wasn’t trying to accomplish and this is why I love it so much.
TFF: What has your experience been like performing with other artist like Tegan and Sara, Weezer and Bob Dylan?
MF: These were three very different experiences. Tegan and Sara did two tours opening for me, the first one was actually their first U.S. Tour. They were and still are amazing. They are great writers, singers, performers, and people. They are activists and kind thoughtful people who are really in it for the long haul. Weezer I opened for in 1994 on the West Coast when Buddy Holly was a HUGE hit. I was so young (23 at the time) I remember the audience being predominantly young girls and feeling overwhelmed by the whole experience.
River was very kind to me; it was a short tour, just the West Coast, and that whole mid-90’s period of my life I don’t remember as well as the last 15 years. Bob Dylan, well…it was one show. He walked past me with his hoodie on and nodded. That was the extent of my interaction (if you can even call it that) with Bob Dylan. But, the audience was amazing, I made my parents really proud and I was just off the Morrissey tour before even moving out to L.A. so it had to have been 1992, and hey, he is Bob Dylan, and it was one show I didn’t expect to hang out and become bff’s with the guy….it was an awesome opportunity.
TFF: What are a few of your least and most favorite things about being on the road while performing?
MF: Least favorite things are; inconsistent diet and sleep hands down.
Favorite things about being on the road are; no one really knowing where I am, the ability to really live day by day in a way no other job let’s you get away with, the relief that can come with knowing your leaving tomorrow, the people I meet in each city who somehow all remind me where I am. In about every major city in the U.S. I can name a person who I see every year and in my head I can see either face, see the inside of the venue and dressing room, I know what kind of food they serve me there, and how the room sounds, where the closest great coffee is and what the best hotel is nearby to stay at. This kind of “roadmap in my head” has accumulated over the last almost 25 years of touring, and I love seeing a gig’s name on my itinerary and my first thought is “Oh yea I get to see Charlie and stay at the Harbor-side Inn” or whatever the case may be. This makes me so very happy because it means people have created a sense of home for me every place I go.
TFF: Last question. What makes you different than the other artist we hear in your genre? What makes you unique?
MF: What makes me different is what makes all of us different, I am an individual with my own unique take on life and how it feels running around out here. I think my vocal sound is distinguishable and that sets me apart from others, meaning I don’t sound just like anybody else. It’s always a compliment when someone tries to describe my music, my sound; they generally get a bit confused and unable to define it that makes me feel good. I knew I wasn’t like everybody else as a kid and I teach this to my students at Berklee, “if you think you’re different, you’re right, you are and thank god for that.”