Exclusive Q & A With Melissa Ferrick

GO’s Kathleen Warnock catches up with Ferrick about life on the road and her new album

Peripatetic singer-songwriter Melissa Ferrick is headed back to New York City the first week of June, this time in support of her latest album, “Goodbye Youth,” her lucky 13th album in a career that began in the last days of major labels (1993’s “Massive Blur”) and has grown and thrived in the brave new world of DIY, indie, and downloadable music. It’s been a long, strange trip, with no signs of ending, and Ferrick grabbed a few minutes between gigs in Provincetown (where she’s a fixture each Memorial Day Weekend) to chat with Kathleen Warnock.

Q: You’re currently on tour in support of “Goodbye Youth,” which is available as both a CD and download on iTunes. Counting your live albums, how many is this for you?

A: Ummmm….13.

How much of that catalog is available on iTunes? Do you print fewer CDs, or take fewer on the road with you? Presumably, you could keep a CD available online long after you’ve sold the last physical CD.
I think everything is available on iTunes [except her first Atlantic CD, “Massive Blur,” though the CD is still in print].  I press fewer physical copies now because downloads make it easier in some ways; however, I do press more “other” merchandise like T-shirts, buttons, patches, posters, etc.

You’ve been doing this for a while now, mostly on your own terms as an indie artist, currently with your own label (RightOn Records). In terms of this CD, do you feel like it really is time to say “Goodbye Youth”? What’s that mean to you? Do you feel like you have more of a handle on what you want to do and how to do it?
Well, maybe I have more of a handle on how to do stuff, though I still get crazy sometimes about what I want to do. But I feel closer to myself and my ability to make decisions.  I think “Goodbye Youth” was an appropriate title for this record…it resonated at the time of titling it.

You’re still very much a road warrior, sometimes performing a couple hundred days a year. Obviously, you still get satisfaction from it. What things do you still love about being on the road? And what things could you do without? What’s still on your “to do” list?
Hmm,..interesting. I am now flying on airplanes, so that has made touring much easier…getting over that fear was huge for me, and has really helped me physically be able to tour more places with less exhaustion, so that is awesome. And I am going to be teaching this fall at [her alma mater], Berklee College of Music and I am really looking forward to that! And now I’m starting to record an EP of cover songs and continuing to write original material for my next full release which is slated for early 2010.

Since you do spend so much time traveling, what kind of changes are you seeing throughout the country, particularly in these harder economic times? Are people still coming out to shows? How has this personally affected your touring? When gas prices spiked, did you have a hard time making ends meet?
I had to downsize my vehicle to a Highlander which gets better gas mileage but still fits all my gear. It’s a little less comfortable than the Suburban and I can’t sleep in it,  but it was necessary. As far as the shows go, I am VERY lucky that folks are still buying tickets to my gigs and I try to let them know how much I appreciate it and how much I understand that spending the money on a night out is a real choice now.

What music are you listening to at home and on the road? Are there favorites who are inspiring you? What about new acts?
Always Patty Griffin and Ani DiFranco.  I love Bright Eyes and Death Cab for Cutie, too. I am still a sucker for Coldplay and big acts like that, and my guilty pleasure is Jason Mraz.

I see you are headed to the Michigan Women’s Music Festival this year; a few years ago, you withdrew over their women-born-women only rule. And I see you are also working with Olivia; you had to withdraw from one of their cruises due to ill health, so now you’re back with them?
At Michigan, it was a choice [to withdraw] to look at the women-born-women only rule…I was at odds with it internally and needed to take some space and do some real soul searching before I felt I could be a part of it, and I did that and feel completely at peace going to, supporting, and performing at Michigan. Olivia has been amazing at getting me involved in their Club Med vacations, which I fly in for and stay at a resort. It’s way more my speed [than the cruises] and I had an incredible time in Ixtapa, Mexico with that whole crew. I will definitely do one again.

Fill us in on any other projects you have, music or otherwise, and anything we should know about in terms of promotions, ideas, and how the next album is coming along.

Look for the EP this fall, the next original full-length in early 2010. At least that’s the plan right now!

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