Melissa Ferrick Interview

Photo By Maria Pauline ©

Right ON Melissa Ferrick
An Interview with Boston-native singer/songwriter, Melissa Ferrick

by Aly Mase 5/01 ©

When one listens to Melissa Ferrick, two words come to mind. Holy Shit. Holy has a kind of symbolic meaning, as Melissa Ferrick has recently transformed herself from girl with guitar, to Goddess with drive. That drive being the initiative to boot her old record label, What Are Records?, tour relentlessly, open her own record label, Right On Records (www.rightonrecords.com), and produce two records in five months.
Reeling off the success of her recent release Valentine Heartache, Ferrick (as her cult following of fans most adamantly call her) has been on a non-stop highway through vulnerability, fame, triumphs, loses, and relationships. A live Melissa Ferrick show turns into an entire atmosphere of emotion, electricity, and passion, and those who listen are taken on a journey that’s destination is only that of pure emancipation of spirits.
With a truck-full of friends that she calls family, Melissa takes a stop somewhere in the middle of the United States to speak with The Boston Girl Guide. Here is our conversation:

BGG: What are you hopes of accomplishment with your new album Valentine Heartache?

MF: I guess to definitely make records, and produce them on my own. I like owning my own label. But I have to find the right amount of people to work with. We’re new at this and just figuring things out one at a time.

BGG: In a recent interview, you said you were looking for a Publicist for your label, Right on Records. How has that search been going? Without a publicist, what is the plan to promote the new record?

MF: We are promoting the album on our own right now. It’s not the easiest thing right now because of all the touring we do [laughs]. And we have had lots of phone calls from publicists who were interested. It’s just a matter of finding the right people. I want to be very certain.

BGG: Being on the road, is it difficult to get close to those other than the people you are touring with?

MF: [Laughing] Oh yeah, definitely. Brian [Winton, her drummer], Jen [Perry, her tour manager] and I live together, and work together. We’re together all the time, and are each other’s best friends and families. It is difficult to have any kind of relationship, friendship or other when you’re on the road for 10 months out of the year. Our friend Des, here in Boston, is very understanding. It’s hard for people to be understanding. We just kind of call who we know when we’re home. It’s definitely very difficult.

BGG: I noticed you speak a lot lately about your victorious battle over alcoholism, more so than you have in the past- is that something you've been able to confront more openly lately, and then why?

MF: I don’t think I talk about it anymore than I have in the past. Most people know, from a one on one basis, and they know I don’t drink anymore. I have always been open about it, especially if I am on a panel discussion, it is always brought up, and I have been honest and open about it. When people have questions about it, I answer them.

BGG: If someone says something negative about you or your work, how does that impact you as an artist and as a person?

MF: It depends on what the person says. I try not to let negative things affect who I am as a person, but I also can’t say that I am not hurt by them. It’s hard not to be hurt. I try to be very involved with what is going on. If someone says something negative, I would like to know why. I mostly hear negative things second hand. If someone who knows me very well, hears something strange or irregular said about me, I am always told and confronted about it.

BGG: You said something at your CD release party at the Paradise in Boston that offended a few of your fans. Wearing a white ribbed tank top, you referred to it as a ‘Wife Beater’. There was a large discussion about this on the internet, and many people were offended. How do you deal with fans being highly analytical about what you say and how you act onstage, such as this incident?

MF: Well, with that specific comment I heard that people had problems with from the internet. That is what they [the tank tops] are generally referred to as. At the same time, people were hurt and offended. I really am glad I had the response from the fans that I had to that comment. I wasn’t thinking when I said it. Sometimes I don’t always change, but, I think we were in the truck, with Brian and Jen, and I said to them “Guys, they’re right, I probably shouldn’t call it that.” And that was all that was said. I always take responsibility for what is valid about me, and if I think it’s something that needs to change, I will think about it more next time.

BGG: Do you think it’s hard for fans to make a distinction between Melissa onstage and Melissa offstage?

MF: I don’t really know. At this point, Jen [her tour manager] used to come to see me at shows years ago. We met after one show, and we hung out with her and her friend Sarah. And then Jen and I became good friends, and I am still friends with Sarah and her girlfriend. [Laughs] There are certain people I know from them coming to shows for years and years, like these two women Barb and Deb. I always remember certain people, and certain faces. But, the newer and younger crowd, they only know me as a persona on stage. I think I reflect a lot of that on the new album, that persona. I think there is a distance and a clash between the newer and older fans. I used to be able to hang out and play pool after shows and not get bothered. Well not really bothered, really. I would sometimes sign things for people, but it was always funny and sweet. There is definitely less and less of that now. I was at Lock Haven University, and Princeton recently, and they were such small crowds. The Princeton gig was in a house, there were not even 100 people there. Everyone sat on the floor, the dressing room was upstairs, and Brian and I walked through the crowd to get through to the stage. It was great. They called out songs. It was nice to feel that I got back into the smaller crowds. Next week we’re playing a festival, and smaller shows are rewarding. I always remember my fans, and that connection we have. I look to people who’ve done this before me to get help in keeping that connection. The internet helps so much. I can interact with fans, answer their questions and their emails. We run our own website, www.rightonrecords.com , and the journal is wonderful. I feel like I keep in touch with my fans through the journal, and I can be unedited and say what I want.

BGG: Your presence online is widely known. Do you often get bombarded with messages from fans when online?

MF: No, I block the messages sometimes when I have no time to talk. I have one name that I do work on, and another name that I don’t block messages on. When we work on the site, we normally block people. When Jen is updating the tour dates and the website, we normally don’t make ourselves available to talk. It’s pretty individual. If we’re in the middle of something, and there’s phones ringing, and paper everywhere, it’s hard to talk. But if we’re not very busy, we make ourselves available.

Final Thoughts from Melissa:

I just hope people like the new record. Available everywhere now. But if people go to www.CDBaby.com, more money goes to the artist. They are great.

For more information, tour dates, and merchandise for Melissa Ferrick visit her website at www.melissaferrick.com , or www.rightonrecords.com