Melissa Ferrick’s life has always been an open book. Throughout her twenty-year career, which began on Atlantic Records, she has chronicled all the ups and downs of her life in her songwriting, and in the process came to represent a new wave of female alt-rock musicians in the mid-nineties. Her career received an early boost when while still virtually unknown, Morrissey personally invited her to tour as his opening act. Over the years, Ferrick went on to found her own record label and release a number of completely self-produced albums, on which she played each and every single instrument. During live performances, Ferrick would accompany herself on guitar experimenting from time to time with a range of accompaniments, including brass instruments and loop pedals.
For her newest record, The Truth Is Ferrick opened up her studio to include surprisingly, a full band, which will also join her on tour this year. This change offers fans an opportunity to see and hear her in a different light, although there will still be some solo sections in her live shows. “I don’t believe I can replicate the sound and the feeling on the album solo. I don’t want to do a disservice to the amount of work I put into the sound on this album.” Audiences will get to experience the pedal steel guitar and cello among other instruments. Ferrick says she finds the effort of the band to be the biggest compliment. “We’re all friends who respect each other and it’s great to put it all together.” The changes to the sound and visual aspects of the show have proven more powerful than she gave them credit for. “It opens up the audience’s attention to all kinds of things. There’s a beauty to the solo show, but I also don’t want to do this all by myself anymore.” It’s all about bringing more joy and less alone not only for the fans, but also for herself and the other musicians. The result is a very candid and emotionally raw album that takes the listener from the traumatic end of one relationship and the journey to find trust and allowing herself to be loved and engaging in love again.
The transformation is clearly evident on the new album and shows how an artist such as Ferrick can stay true to her voice and still evolve. While Ferrick’s music has always been very personal in nature, this time she opens herself up even further. The songs, which are sequenced chronologically, were written in a short period of time after a devastating breakup and end, climactically, with the beginning of a new relationship. “I’m not sure if I needed to be as broken as I was, but the ultimate resolution on album is the point of love, love, love,” says Ferrick. The song “Overboard” qualifies as the “angriest” track on the album, but as Ferrick puts it “there’s an incredible relinquishing of control in the bridge.” Overall, the album represents a change in atmosphere and it takes on a much more cinematic vibe. Ferrick notes, “The biggest misconception about me is that I’m a bitter, angry, lesbian folksinger who is really mad at the world, but that’s not who I am at all. At 42 years old, I’m in a place where I’ve become much more compassionate toward myself and the world around me. I think there are two angry songs on the record—two songs out of eleven—so it’s a step in a new direction for me.”
Another big change in Melissa Ferrick’s life is her recent appointment as an assistant professor in the Songwriting Division at Berklee College of Music, where twenty years ago she dropped out of to pursue her music career. “It’s good to be around more writers and being open to the process (of songwriting) more,” she says. Teaching songwriting also has her taking her own advice in paying more attention to sections and finding a sound she is happy with, not only from a production standpoint, but song structure as well. “I’m my own best editor, but it’s important to be humble as an artist to ask yourself: ‘How can I make this better, or do I need some help? The whole experience has definitely impacted my writing. I feel more well-rounded as a musician and more at ease in my life. The change in me is audible on this record. I believe the song structures and writing are better and that this is by far the most revealing, beautiful, honest and complete album I have made to date.”