Throughout Melissa Ferrick’s twenty-year career as a singer-songwriter, she has seen a lot of changes.
“In ’95 I put an album out called ‘Willing to Wait’ and I feel like such a completely different person”, she says with a laugh. “I was 25 then and I’m 42 now, so I hope I’ve changed!”
Change, it turns out, seems be a big theme in her life right now, professionally and personally. Of course, she hasn’t changed completely.
“If you go back in my catalogue to my older albums, I still hear myself in all of it… there’s always a sense of urgency and a sense of desire to be free from whatever is bothering me on the records… albums are snapshots of my life.”
The current snapshot from her album “The Truth Is” follows Ferrick’s journey from extreme heartbreak at the collapse of one relationship into the hope and excitement of another.
Of course, her relationships and sexuality has always played a major role in the material for her albums, something that got her branded early as “the lesbian folk singer”, a title that she may have fought at first, but that has now lead her into a new position: that of a role model for the community.
“I’ve always looked up to what I consider to be the really famous queers like KD Lang, the Indigo Girls, Melissa Ethridge, and Ellen – I’ve always looked up to them as my spokeswomen, and they are role models, and they’re awesome”, she says of her newfound position. “I have enough experience with fans coming up to me after shows, giving me letters, thanking me for being me. It feels really humbling. If what I’m doing to help myself is reverberating and helping others, that’s the coolest thing ever.”
Musically her latest record, “The Truth Is”, is a departure from her past work, in part because, for the first time she wasn’t playing every instrument. A historic “do it yourself” musician, Ferrick generally would write the music, play almost all the instruments, and produce the album. This time around she was happy to bring others into the mix and work collaboratively to play the music.
“I trusted my production instincts and my writing, and I hired the right players to come into the studio and help me get those things out of my head and onto the tape.”
Recording, and now touring, with a band isn’t the only new community Ferrick has found recently. For a woman who made a career by touring almost non-stop from the age of 25, Ferrick has suddenly found herself with a teaching position at her alma mater, Berkley University that has kept in one place.
“Those years of creating friendships and community at home and having an ‘L Word’ night and whatever, that was never a part of my life, ever”, she explains, going on to describe her new life where you see the same people day after day. “It’s a brave new world for me, allowing people to see me. That’s terrifying.”
And while sometimes the sense of home is enough to make her want to take a full time position and plant some roots, other times she finds herself tossing around the idea of driving across the country for a 200-show tour with her band.
While she won’t be doing a 200-show tour anytime soon – “that would put me in the hospital” – she is finding a balance between her new life as an instructor at a university with a growing community and living as a touring musician.
“I don’t think I need to give up one thing completely to have the other.”
Melissa Ferrick performs at the WISE Hall (1882 Adanac Street) on Friday, July 19, 2013. Doors at 8pm, show at 9pm. Tickets are available at Little Sisters (1238 Davie Street), Highlife Records (1317 Commercial Drive), or at the door.
Andrea is a theatre-maker, yoga instructor, writer and ally to the LGBTQ community in Vancouver. She spends her days as the Communications Manager for Pacific Theatre, and is Co-Artistic Producer for Xua Xua Productions, a founding member of Les Petites Taquines Dance Theatre, and the marketing chair for the Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards Society. She writes a weekly column for VancouverisAwesome.com and freelances as a yoga instructor and choreographer. When she has some down time she enjoys some green tea and quality time with her cat, Miss Gertie Marie.