Talk Thursday To Me – Melissa Ferrick

Today we talk with rock & roll singer-songwriter Melissa Ferrick about recording her new album, teaching at the Berklee School of Music, and being deemed “too distracting” by Morrissey.

Postcard Editor: Are you ready to bare your soul?

Melissa Ferrick: Yep

PE: So where are you right now? Are you still in New York working on the record?

MF: Just got back home.  Did two songs with Alex Wong in Williamsburg. We had Kaki King come over, and this guy Oli Rockberger on piano. Amazing guy.  The shit sounds amazing. It’s like…complete balls to the walls. Like you get on the train and it just goes faster. Which feels good for TWO songs, haha, not the whole record.  I have done the rest of it at a studio closer to home with this guy Tom Eaton, engineer, and I had Kevin Barry from Ray Lamontagne’s band come play guitar, and he is a KILLER lap steel player. His wife plays piano on a track too. I also have Ani (DiFranco) and Dar (Williams) waiting to hear tracks to sing on, so it’s going to be cool.  Sorry, I hate name dropping, I’m just really excited about everyone playing or singing on it.  Comes out in September.

PE: What’s the album going to be titled?

MF: I haven’t told anyone yet, so you get the inside scoop, Still Right Here. It works because its a song title, and it is telling because I signed a deal, but I don’t want my fans to think I have sold out. I don’t know how signing an indie deal is selling out, but its an amazing feeling to have the monetary pressure taken off of me. You can hear it in the performances, the freedom and energy is real. I just said energy pertaining to my music…yuck…hahaha.

PE: Let’s touch on that in a moment, but about the album – your last two were kind of departures for you – Goodbye Youth very stripped down, just you and your guitar – and then Enough About Me being an album of covers, what’s Still Right Here like as a whole?

MF: Totally BIG. I am most proud of the songwriting. I had a real writing break for like a year after making Goodbye Youth. Couldn’t write, so I just did the covers thing and it helped me not fall into a depression. Learning others songs, keeping myself working, creating, and that helped, even though the pressure of writing original material was evident to my friends and some fans. So when I started writing I was really hard on myself. In the end I had 15 songs, maybe 16, and worked on them hard, honed in on lyrics, worked hard on musical changes, MELODY!!!, big one for me. So I feel great about the song structure and melody…on like 90% of the record.

PE: I of course now want to know about the 10% where you phoned it in.

MF: Yeah, its funny because some people, like my mom and dad like the 10% song best…hahahah. For real. So who knows why we work so hard when the simple song is the one everyone likes the most.

PE: Do you feel like you picked up some tricks and ideas from reworking other people’s material for Enough About Me? And if so can you give examples?

MF: Umm..no it just didn’t let me get down on myself and it helped me, I guess stay, like…oiled. I don’t think it effected the WAY I write, but it DID help unlock the writing. Ya know its like the old saying is true, you gotta write to be ready to write.

Maybe I made that up…but its true. It IS a job and it IS a gift, so sometimes – most times – it is not easy and the songs are hard to come by. And then ones arrive and they are complete gifts, and I hope every time to get 10 of those and 6 job ones.

PE: So on Still Right Here, musically you said it’s big – which sounds exciting. What about lyrically? You’ve been in a long term happy relationship for a while now. As someone who often writes about the hardships of love, has that affected your writing subject wise?

MF: Haha…well…we’ve been seeing each other for three years, but lets not forget we have broken up three times in the process. She is amazing and really the nicest person I’ve ever met. I am complicated and weird and she has taken me back twice…so I gotta watch myself.

The songs have come lyrically from mostly the places inside myself of self-doubt, neglect, profound unreachable love…ya know, I exaggerate life and think it should look certain ways, which are completely blown out of proportion. So I write about mostly my battle with that. There is also a little bit of outside writing. One kind of stemmed form my great aunt, and Obama, weird combo. And one about is New Year’s Eve, that’s the 10% song.

PE: I think it’s great that she loves you enough to periodically break up with you to help keep your creative process fresh and fully stocked.

MF: That’s why we still have our own places. So when I get squirly she can leave me alone to my insanity…hahahh..

But wait, when I say BIG, I don’t think that’s right, its just not recorded in a home studio 16 track. Things sound GREAT and roomy but its just that I have the ability to do things I couldn’t before, like analog delay and shit, FUN stuff that creates more of a production. But its still Ferrick, ya know?

PE: So it’s not your Sgt. Pepper’s or Pet Sounds?

MF: I wish.

PE: Ok – so to your recent signing to a label. You’ve kind of done the whole spectrum – major label, self-released, and now an indie – why would you think that your fans would somehow see this latest move as a signal of you being anything but Ferrick?

MF: Hmm…I am probably just projecting. I think my fans just want the music and for me to be in a space where I feel comfortable and creative. My fans are awesome and there probably isn’t any rejection from them at all. Its more self-imposed I guess. I don’t feel like its a failure on my part, but of course there is a wee part of me that wished I had won the lottery and could have hired 6 people to work in an office that could put out my records…but alas that wasn’t the reality and Mpress was willing and thrilled to come to my musical aide.

So, crap…I am lucky. Its hard to get anyone to help you make a record, especially right now in the industry. So I am thankful for their interest and investment in my career.

PE: So you were recently teaching at Berklee right? How was that experience?

MF: Yeah, I am doing it again this summer. Its for their summer program and I teach the 5 week performing songwriter course. Its an audition/winner thing. My students win and there are 3 shows in the Cafe 939 club Berklee has.

Its amazing. I honestly think it saved my writing two summers ago, when I was having a really hard time writing. It FORCED me to write, because I was telling them to write. I LOVE it. I love the students, and the no bitterness thing. I love their attitudes. They LISTEN to old school stuff too and it gives me hope that someone under the age of 18 knows the record Fufillingness’s First Finale and Miles Davis. They ROCK, and they turn me onto things like Neutral Milk Hotel. So it helps me stay not bitter too.

And it gives me structure during the summer which is harder to find shows during. Its festival season and unless you get a big shed gig you kind of shuffle around all summer waiting for fall touring to start again, so its a good gig for me.

PE: Ok – so kind of an absurd question, you very famously got “discovered” when you were a last minute fill in to open for Morrissey, who was so taken with you that he then he took you out as the opener for the rest of that tour. Absurd question 1) do you still talk to the Moz? and 2) If not, what are three questions you would have for him?

MF: Haha….no we don’t talk. what’s weird is that I think his guitar player Alan had a huge crush on me and Moz found it distracting to Alan…so that’s weird. Lets rephrase…I KNOW he did, and maybe I did flirt with him a little….ha!…yes I did. I was 21 ya know, and like in England on tour…fuck ya I flirted!

So I guess its been so long since that happened, BUT when Moz put out that album that had the song about boxers on it I asked to open that tour as like a ten year tie in kind of thing, and the result was that I was Distracting to Alan!!!!!!!!!!!! Crazy right? I mean…I’m cute but really???

PE: Haha – so I guess the question I should have asked is “Do you still talk to Alan?”

MF: No, I havn’t talked to him since like 1994 or 1995. Its so weird.

PE: Well you know the Moz is very uncomfortable with sexual energy, so it was probably distracting to him.

MF: Maybe he just wanted Alan all to himself. But seriously I hold Morrissey in such high regard. He was so kind and generous to me. He is funny and charming and handsome and protective. I would work near him or with him again in a second. He is a brilliant writer and I think he and I just crossed paths. He taught me a few things, like how to treat an opening act, how to pay the people who work for you, how to put on a SHOW. So I owe him a lot for unknowingly teaching a wee singer-songwriter how to hold herself in a sometimes overwhelming big world.

PE: Ok, so you have some tour dates coming up. Will these be solo or full band, and will we get to hear some of the songs from Still Right Here on this tour?

MF: Solo until the fall, then MAYBE a run with a trio or quartet, but yes of course I’ll be playing the new songs at the upcoming shows. Working them out and trying them out on the people, see how they respond etc…

PE: …cursing when they love the 10% song….

MF: Ya totally. There’s nothing wrong with a simple fun sing along song…right???

That I’m gonna have to play for the rest of my life….omg…I just threw up a little.

PE: How bad is it? Is it like a Black Eyed Peas song?

MF: Hahah, no I wrote it after learning a Pogues song, the one about the NYPD choir.

PE: “Fairytale of New York,” which I was actually listening to right before we started this interview oddly enough.

MF: I did that song with Sessions Americana for an Xmas show, and the next week I wrote Northeast, that’s the name of it.  So its about New Years, and snow, and fire’s burning out…

PE: …and tasting your own throw up, so it really is like a Pogues song.

MF: Haha!  No, but it is like in a slow 4, or fast 6/8 feel.  So I went with the production of “fuck it,” big gang vocals in the chorus, simple kick/snare drum part. It sounds fun and loose and of course the chorus is dying for you to clink your pint glass and sing along….omg.

PE: I’ll notify Budweiser’s advertising dept. immediately.

MF: Hysterical…please lets go Guiness or Harp.

PE: Or Four Loko,

MF: Hahaha

PE: Ok – so let’s wrap up this interview – name three things (could be anything) that’s totally rocking your world currently.

MF: Hmmm. Ok. Baked beans with eggs in the morning. My chin up bar. The complete surrender to NOT shovel any more snow and just let the sun do its thing. Also, Angry Birds. Level 12-6 and it’s only my 2nd week playing!!

PE: Well, I’ve kept you from your bird flinging long enough.  Thanks so much for doing this interview.

MF: Yeah of course, it was fun.

Melissa Ferrick is rock & roll singer-songwriter from the greater Boston area.  Her new album “Still Right Here” comes out this September on MPress Records, and you can catch her on tour starting next week.  One of the most engaging performers we’ve ever seen live, we highly recommend you do.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Melissa Ferrick @ The Company House
2202 Gottingen Street, Halifax, NS B3K 3B4 (Canada) – Map
(902) 404-3050
Set: 7:30 PM
Doors: 7:00 PM
17+
Tickets: $15
Also Playing: Ria Mae opens
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Melissa Ferrick @ The Company House
2202 Gottingen Street, Halifax, NS B3K 3B4 (Canada) – Map
(902) 404-3050
Set: 7:30 PM
Doors: 7:00 PM
17+
Tickets: $15
Also Playing: Ria Mae opens
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Melissa Ferrick Supports Amelia Curran @ The Guild
115 Richmond Street, Charlottetown, PE C1A 1H7 (Canada) – Map
(902) 368-4413
Set: 7:00 PM
All Ages
Tickets: $20
Friday, March 11, 2011
Melissa Ferrick Supports Amelia Curran @ Wilmot United Church
473 King St., Fredericton, NB E3B1E5 (Canada) – Map
(506) 458-1066
Set: 7:00 PM
All Ages
Tickets: $20
Buy Now
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Melissa Ferrick Supports Amelia Curran @ Bourbon Quarter
114 Prince William St., Saint John, NB E2L 2B3 (Canada) – Map
(506)214-3618
Set: 7:00 PM
All Ages
Tickets: $15
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Melissa Ferrick @ Poor David’s Pub
1313 S Lamar St, Dallas, TX 75215 (United States) – Map
(214) 565-1295
Set: 8:00 PM
Doors: 7:30 PM
All Ages
Tickets: $15
Other Info: tickets available at www.frontgatetickets.com  

Friday, April 1, 2011
Melissa Ferrick @ Mexicali Live
1409 Queen Anne Blvd, Teaneck, NJ 07666 (United States) – Map
(214) 565-1295
Set: 8:00 PM
All Ages
Tickets: $15adv $20atd
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Melissa Ferrick @ Night Cat
5 Goldsborough Street, Easton, MD 21601 (United States) – Map
(443) 786-2750
Set: 7:00 PM
All Ages
Tickets: $20
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Linda Norris Auditorium
339 Central Ave, Albany, NY 12206 (United States) – Map
(518) 465-5233
Set: 8:00 PM
Doors: 7:00 PM
All Ages
Tickets: 23
Buy Now
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Melissa Ferrick @ Iron Horse Music Hall
20 Center St, Northampton, MA 01060 (United States) – Map
(413) 584-3177
Set: 7:00 PM
Doors: 5:00 PM
All Ages
Tickets: $20adv $25atd
Buy Now
Also Playing: Meg Hutchinson
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Melissa Ferrick @ One Longfellow Square
131 State St Su 201, Portland, ME 04101 (United States) – Map
(207) 761-1757
Set: 8:00 PM
All Ages
Tickets: $20adv $25atd
Buy Now
Also Playing: Meg Hutchinson
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Melissa Ferrick @ Higher Ground
1214 Williston Rd, Burlington, VT 05403 (United States) – Map
(802) 652-0777
Set: 7:00 PM
All Ages
Tickets: $15adv $17atd
Also Playing: Meg Hutchinson
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Melissa Ferrick plays Montana Pride!! @ Emerson Theater
111 South Grand Ave., Bozeman, MT 59715 (United States) – Map
Set: 12:00 PM
All Ages
Tickets: TBD
Friday, June 24, 2011
Melissa Ferrick @ Rubin Museum of Art-Naked Soul
159 W 17th St., New York, NY 10019 (United States) – Map
212-620-5000
Set: 7:00 PM
Doors: 6:30 PM
All Ages
Tickets: $25adv $30
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