Melissa Ferrick is an American singer-songwriter whose career exploded when, in 1991, she was a last minute replacement support act for a Morrissey tour. Since then she has released an impressive number of albums, and has even had one of her songs, ‘Drive’, named as a ‘lesbian anthem’ (and, trust me, that song is FILTHY).
We caught up to talk about Manray, a bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which closed in 2005 after nearly 20 years of business.
Follow Melissa on Instagram.Transcript
Melissa Ferrick 00:00
Yeah, she was like, you know, you’re gay, right? I was like, I’m not gay. This is a picture of my boyfriend gage. In my, I showed her a picture in my wallet. Not my purse.
K Anderson 00:15
Hello, I am K Anderson and you are listening to lost spaces, the podcast that mourns the death of queer nightlife. Every episode I talk to a different person about a venue from their past, the memories they created there, and the people that they used to know. Melissa Ferrick is an American singer songwriter, whose career exploded when in 1991, she was a last minute replacement support act for Marcy tour. Since then, she has released an impressive number of albums, and is even had one of her songs drive named as a lesbian anthem. And trust me, that song is filthy. We caught up to talk about Manray Bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which closed in 2005, after nearly 20 years of business.
Melissa Ferrick 01:40
One thing that’s really interesting is that there would there used to be only certain nights that were okay to be gay in certain clubs. I don’t know. Yeah, that experience. So I think that Man Ray was, and I could be well, you can check the history on this. But it was
K Anderson 01:56
it was a nightclub in central square, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Is your Wikipedia? Yeah, yeah. It’s on Wikipedia. Like that’s incredible.
Melissa Ferrick 02:03
Yeah. Yeah. Does it say was it Wednesday nights, I think it was Wednesday nights was queer night, or like, gay night. I used to go to golf gay night. It was amazing. That was the other thing was I feel like also, we used to have that kind of space, right? Where we would drill down even more to like, not just gay, but like, specifically what kind of gay rights? Like, what kind of gay what kind of gay fashion and what kind of gay music like it just would get more and more siloed. And so you would have these specific nights of the week. Especially even at gay venues where or gay bars where it would be like, Tuesday night, you know, his beard night and Wednesday night is date night. And Thursday night is golf night. And I love that about our culture. I love that love that. Oh, that’s what I loved it. loved it, because I felt invited at all of the spaces that like or maybe that’s just how kind of manic I am. I just be like, I’ll go. Just dress up and assume I was invited everywhere. That’s how gay I am. Everywhere. So
K Anderson 03:09
you’ve never been to one of those nights for the shirtless men who are sweaty and hairless and they’re like, What the fuck are you doing here? Oh, yes, I’ve been there. But whatever. I’m here to have a good time.
Melissa Ferrick 03:24
You’re not paying any attention to me anyway. They’re all trying to see themselves in the mirror. So who cares?
K Anderson 03:27
But you’re like, in the way you’re like, you know, in the eye, like, Oh, yeah, me eyeliner. Someone. Yeah, yeah.
Melissa Ferrick 03:36
Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Like white parties. And okay,
K Anderson 03:39
so so it wasn’t a queer specific club. It just had certain nights. And one of those nights was a gothic gay night. That’s very niche. Is there. Was there a big audience for that?
Melissa Ferrick 03:55
Well, it felt like there were 1000s of people there because I was 19. I’m sure that there were not a 1000s of people. There were probably, I mean, I don’t know maybe 100 people there. But this was you know, I mean, I was in college. I had a fake ID. I was just out of the closet. I was loving every second of it. I was like, really into Sinead O’Connor’s first album, and I was really into like the church. Church had a really big record out at that time and bands like Jean loves jazz Ebell and Siouxsie and the Banshees and Susie’s to and Roxy Music was always a good standby. That was always kind of a good slow dance. Lots of camera lights, lots of smoking cigarettes, lots of Yeah.
No camel, camel, camel.
K Anderson 04:49
to a club full of candles. It’s like fire hazard.
Melissa Ferrick 04:53
Yeah, so I loved it. I loved it. I would say that, but it wasn’t necessarily that there was a gos We’re seeing going on although there probably was, it was more just that. That’s what the kind of music that they would play on that particular night. And so we would go, basically the nights was were scheduled around the kind of music that it was.
K Anderson 05:16
So so you slathered on a bunch of black eyeliner. You’ve got your fake ID, and you went to the club. Do you remember like that first? That feeling of going to the door the first time?
Melissa Ferrick 05:29
Oh, yeah, yeah, I think it felt dangerous, because it was also in Central Square in Cambridge, which at that time was a bit of a dangerous area. And it was on like a one way street. And it was dark. I mean, not only were all of the clothes dark, and the music was dark, but the club itself was dark. It was one of those situations where, you know, you, you you’d very, you were very likely to end up making out with someone that you couldn’t see. And that was fine. That was almost expected. And that was part of why you were going there. You’re like obvious Yeah, like, yeah,
K Anderson 06:06
yeah. You don’t have to look at them than that. But even better. Yeah.
Melissa Ferrick 06:13
Yeah, I’m kind of leaning against the wall. You know, it was a brick, or a cement square, windowless building, as they as many of them are. And yeah, I remember being really excited. And and like living on the edge, you know, that was? That was something that really appealed to me. Yeah, I loved it.
K Anderson 06:42
And so did you go on your own?
Melissa Ferrick 06:45
No, I went with a very, I would go with just a very small group of people, maybe two or three other girls that I was friends with,
K Anderson 06:53
too. And so then what was your coming out journey like then to you? Were you out by the time that you started going?
Melissa Ferrick 07:00
Yeah, it was just, I mean, well, so I first came out when I was 16. And so I was going to men, right when I was 19. So I was 16. I had my first same sex encounter, like queer encounter, I’ll call it because I want to use the gender the sex thing. But my first queer encounter was in Boston that Berklee College of Music summer program, and I met a girl there that I liked a lot. And she told me that I was gay. Which was a shock to me. Shockingly. Oh, really? A little bit. Yeah. Yeah. She was like, you know, you’re gay. Right? I was like, I’m not gay. This is a picture of my boyfriend gage showed. In my, I showed her a picture in my wallet. Not my purse. So anyway, her name was Jamie. And we made up she sang me Janis Joplin songs, and it was awesome. No, 16. And, you know, I’m really lucky that I grew up in a family where I wasn’t, you know, my parents were really accepting. I mean, it was hard for them, but I was accepted. And so when I went to college that next year, I went to college when I was I ended up when I was 17. And then I turned 18, shortly after, and then I was going to the clubs. I mean, right away. I guess I might have been 18 when I was going to Man Ray, because that was my first year of college. So I was out, but I was I probably had like my first girl. Well, I did have my first girlfriend in high school, but maybe I was on my girlfriends. No, I don’t know.
K Anderson 08:36
Okay, just just breaking hearts. And I’ve tried and
Melissa Ferrick 08:38
I had a girlfriend and a boyfriend. So I was I was by, you know, I was I was calling myself bisexual for a little while there. And, and I loved Jeff, I had this boyfriend named Jeff, who I loved a lot. I read it to him years later in Chicago, but anyone
K Anderson 08:54
his fader is not no longer in your wallet.
Melissa Ferrick 08:57
No, it’s not. No, but I wouldn’t mind I would love to know what he’s doing. There’s a great, great, great team, a great person. Yeah. So yeah, that’s what it was like, you know,
K Anderson 09:06
and so you found other queer friends at college that you went to the club with?
Melissa Ferrick 09:14
Yeah, trying to think there was a woman named Betty that would come to the queer club with me and she was gay. And then this girl, Sarah, and I think I was dating Sarah. I don’t know. Was there any? Yeah, I think that we were all I think we were all identify as queer. But I do. Remember. So not only at this time. So we’re talking early 90s to mid let’s just call it early 90s to mid 90s, because that was the time period where I was going to those kinds of clubs, that so not only do we not have our own action, I mean, we had a couple of our own always gay places like club cafe which still exists, right and how embryos which still exists. But normally that wasn’t the norm. Normally, you had regular clubs straight, you know, straight clubs, straight owned and straight run clubs, usually owned by straight, straight white sis men who had the money and the power that would own a club. And then they would have certain nights that they would give to these, you know, historically marginalised communities. And one of those communities is the queer community. And so we would have our own night and then sooner or later that night would become so awesome that it would get locked in by the streets right after this. And so then they would come in, and be like, it would be a cool thing to be a cool, straight person. That was okay, that was cool enough to like, go at nights, right? And then it was like this, that gay night isn’t as fun anymore, so we’d have to start a new one at a new club. And then so I feel like that’s kind of how the gay Knights would bounce around, which would be when we would get infiltrated by, by by the by the others, the others. Like we used to be the others,
K Anderson 11:08
and so much harder to keep track of those things when there’s no kind of internet or anything like that. Like, how do you How did you know? I mean, obviously, you knew when it was passe. But how did you know what the next thing was?
Melissa Ferrick 11:22
Yeah, that’s a really good question. I don’t even know how I knew. How do we know where to go? Well, we would call each other like on the telly. Shocking.
K Anderson 11:33
How scary is that thought, by the way,
Melissa Ferrick 11:37
Remember, so many people’s phone numbers, I don’t even I mean, I literally have my partner’s phone number memorised. Now, when I have to fill out a thing where it’s like your part number. I’m like, What’s your phone number? What’s your birthday? I guess in a local, we had like, the Boston Phoenix here, which would be like The Village Voice would be the version of it in New York, right? Where they would list the clubs. So in New York, if you were going to go like the Paramount would have certain nights that were worked or, you know, directed toward the queer community and, and it would say, in the, in the paper, gay night, you know, or a men’s night or a women Ladies Night Out is always a big one. Yeah. Ladies, were like, Oh, this is what the guys are. This is.
K Anderson 12:24
Um, and and so before long, you started kind of playing out and building a name for yourself as a musician, which kind of takes you away from the queer scene, doesn’t it? It takes you into coffee shops and bars that are specifically for music.
Melissa Ferrick 12:41
Yeah, that. And I think I’m really glad that you bring that up. Because I think a lot of I’m not quite sure that a lot of people have actually really understood that. And I’ve had to explain that to people before when they’re like, Oh, so you play. You’ve spent your life playing and gay bars. And I’m like, No, what? Yeah, just yeah. I mean, it’s kind of like, you wouldn’t say that to a straight singer, songwriter. Oh, you spent your life playing and strike bars? Yeah, no, you’re right. I just started playing music venues, I started playing places where music happened and that and then that’s why it when we were conversing before we got to get together today. I do think that that panel that I don’t remember the panel that I was on, but I was on a panel. And there are many pant, I’ve been on many panels, knew it. And I love a panel. So don’t get me wrong. And one of the people that was on the panel is this, this gay man who had something to do with, you know, trending and branding and social media marketing specialist and really, really intelligent conversation around that. And he kind of just off the cuff said, which I found so touching, but I could tear up even just think about he said, but you created queer space wherever you went. And I was like, Oh, I was like, what I did say that a guy did that. And he was anybody he was because he was young. He’s probably a decade or maybe 15 years younger than me and knew of making new stuff. Obviously, not really my target market. But you know, he definitely was aware of the work that I had done and because of the work that he does in social media and branding and marketing, can see someone like me and say, Oh, this is what Melissa ferrick did. If I were to market this or brand this or tell this story, this is what I would say about this person as part of her story that during the time period of which was also you know, poignant which was, you know, right, you know, after Melissa Etheridge came out and was on a billboard in Times Square with Julie, Julie’s ciphers, which was her wife at the time. And you know, at the time that Ellen DeGeneres came out on TV, and Katie Lange was out, and elton john came out, and you know, we had this kind of rush in the 90s of very, very famous people coming out, but we also had Less very, very famous people playing in the bars, you know, I’m one of those people was me. And, and so, for me, I think that one of the things that is cool is that as we as I grew up in gay bars not being gay bars, but certain nights of bars being gay, it I wonder about whether or not I didn’t kind of, you know, I that is exactly what I did as I travel there. Everywhere I went, there was a little, you know, a little posse of gay people. Or, or queer and queer allies? Yeah, yeah, kind of bouncing along behind me making it, you know, a night for themselves. And what’s lovely about that, is that it, it’s less about me and more about each other, right, it’s less about. And I’ve always believed in that I’ve always believed that it’s less about the genre of music, as it is about the community that is collective that is collecting. So it always makes me happy when whenever I go to a venue or a space where I’m supporting a queer artist, I know there’s going to be other queer people there. So to me, it really doesn’t matter if it’s spoken word, if it’s punk if it’s, if it’s golf, if it’s singer, songwriter, I know that there’s going to be like minded people in a room with me. And so I feel safe in that kind of environment. So, yeah,
K Anderson 16:23
you’ve got like a different baseline with those people. Exactly. And then so in terms of your performing career, did you start out in open mics and things like that and work your way up?
Melissa Ferrick 16:34
Yeah, when I first started playing out, I started playing at a venue called to the bears place like TT, and then the bears. And that was right across the street from Man Ray. So that’s kind of cool. And, and I played their open mic. And then I got maybe a gaggle of 15 or 16 people that would come to every Tuesday night open mic to watch me play. And then the bartender gave me my own, you know, six, 6pm, door 730 onstage slot on a Wednesday night. And that’s how I built my fan base. So I did that. And then and then I would get a opening slot for a national act that didn’t have a opener that would come through every once in a while. I’m sure you know, the scene, it’s the same story from from all of us, right? Like, someone will come into town and their opener isn’t with them, or they don’t have one for that market. And so the club owner may like you or like your work, so they call you and they say hey, do you want to open for David bros? I got to open for David broza once I remember that because I really like his work and the story and I mean, I can remember lesson, you know, random one offs. And and then the random one off came that wasn’t a one off, which was, which was the Morrissey tour. And that’s, and that’s when everything changed. That was the killer that was kill Uncle 1991. And so that, that happened in Boston, the first show was July 3, and then the next day was the fourth of July. So that’s a holiday here in the States. And then the fifth, I got a phone call to that said, Moz had listened to my cassette and he wants to know if I could finish the tour. So I you know, so that was it. My whole life changed.
K Anderson 18:16
I was like, wow, I was let’s not focus on the Morrissey tour. Let’s focus on some of those kind of patchier. You know, one off kind of gigs. Obviously, the example that you gave before is when you’re headlining, and you’re bringing in an audience, that that makes that queer space when you’re at an open mic, where there’s 20 other people performing or you’re supporting someone who may have a predominantly heterosexual audience. Did you find that you were moderating your performance or your between song banter or anything like that?
Melissa Ferrick 18:57
No, I was I was I was I straightened it was I stratifying it
K Anderson 19:07
Yeah. Were you like yeah leaving leaving details out or sanity sanitising?
Melissa Ferrick 19:15
I don’t know. I might have you know, I think that that strikes me more. More so with how I would present myself physically. Then my banter. Although when I when I’m headlining my own show, I definitely have a different banter because I’m headlining, and so the assumption is that everyone who’s paid however much that costs pay that right they pay that to see you. And so you can kind of it’s your show, so I think that that’s one thing when I’m opening I definitely am scanning the room. I’m kind of vibing out you know who’s there with the what they think is funny what they don’t think is funny. But it’s interesting that you asked if I wonder if I was. Yeah, there have been times where I definitely would feel like I was more nervous that they are so funny to think of now like that they was I worried that they might think I was gay. I mean, this is like when I told my sister that Katie Lange was gay. I know that Jodie Foster was gay. And she was like, No, she’s not you think everyone’s gay? And I’m like, wow, if you were that Katie Lange was gay or something. You know? Like, of course, I’m queer. Like, you’d have to be, you’d have to be in the complete dark to see me feel my energy and not think it’s possible. She’s clear, like, Laura, you, you wouldn’t be like, That girl is straight, you would not think that, you know, um, so I don’t think I tried too hard ever to not but but sometimes I think there would be occasions where, like, I remember, maybe it was just more because I thought that looking a certain way would make me more famous. You know, if I wore like, the right if I wore Mac lipstick in 19, you know, Nike eight, that, you know, that was all the rage of the flat matte Mac lipstick? And, and so I did that. And I wore vinyl pants? And I would I would I would do things more to conform because I thought it was the industry wanted not necessarily to hide my queerness it was more to get to get a door like to make a song sound like it would work. Same kind of idea, right? Let’s Let’s write a single let’s write a song that will work. It’s like, what does that mean? You know,
K Anderson 21:38
let’s let’s Yeah, let’s produce it in a certain way. Let’s fit it in a certain box. But so like, Did you not even I mean, just reflecting on my own experiences. This is an interview with you, but I’m just gonna make it about me. Oh, yeah, no, good. Yeah, I mean, you know, I’m in the exact same boat in there. Like, no one would ever be in a bar watching me perform and be like, Oh, I wonder if he’s got a girlfriend. And so it’s not necessarily like, Oh, I’m going to try and trick people. But it’s that whole thing of like, Oh, I’m just going to not shove it down their throat. And I like I might just not play this particular song because it involves graphic details about my sex life, which means I have like two songs I can play. But like, it also means that you know, there’s like, I’m not going to I’m not gonna get that hostility, I suppose.
Melissa Ferrick 22:26
Yeah, but then that’s a great question is then are you really being truly yourself? And then when we think about that even further, I totally get this what you’re talking about is our am I then not giving people the opportunity to be fully themselves. I mean, Tom Waits brings all of himself everywhere he goes, right? So why not? Why not bring you know what I played? If I’ve not played drive in certain rooms, for sure, but only because there were like, young children present. That’s
K Anderson 23:05
the same time
Melissa Ferrick 23:07
except when you listen to that song. It’s actually not all that graphic but but what I said to someone once I finally came to the realisation I said, if there’s if there’s face paint involved, and the sun is still out, I won’t play it. But at the same time, yeah, I don’t know. I think it’s uh, I mean, who are we really trying to save face for?
K Anderson 23:32
I don’t know if it’s a face it’s maybe surviving the moment
Melissa Ferrick 23:36
Yeah, yeah, it’s not saving face You’re right. It’s it’s surviving. Yeah, that’s great. So like I opened for Weezer. Here’s a good example. Did the Weezer Buddy Holly tour. Okay, so I’m playing in front of predominantly young girls and boys right who are white, straight. And at that time, this was this was before I mean, Weezer was cool them but they’re way cooler now. But at this time, this was like that the height of their fame. And I remember I was playing with them at one of the shows at the Fillmore in San Francisco. And they used to give you an apple when you would get go to the venue. It was like a thing that they did. And during my opening slot to someone
K Anderson 24:17
chance to rush it. What the apple Yeah, just like a dirty apple.
Melissa Ferrick 24:24
Oh, no, that was this was way pre COVID nobody watched anything. They just we just
K Anderson 24:28
Yeah, okay. Alright, so sorry, sorry, I interrupted you. Someone threw an apple.
Melissa Ferrick 24:34
They threw an apple at me and it hit me. And it’s in the guitar and it like exploded up but then there was this moment of like, the whole audience is gonna turn against me. Or they’re gonna go with me like it was that moment. And this is just an example of like, you know, when I was on when I was doing that tour, I wasn’t out as like a gay I think maybe I had just come out actually as a guard. Cuz I had some articles and like out magazine and the advocate, which I always joke about, I’m like, how is if you come out and it’s only NBA press
K Anderson 25:09
tree falls in the woods? Yeah,
Melissa Ferrick 25:11
we already know. Yeah. Like, the way to get a pretty picture of yourself on the cover of something. Look, good lighting and makeup. And, uh, but so anyway, this is an example of like being in a predominant in front of a predominantly straight crowd and having them turn on you. And so someone did make the apple. And then there was this moment where I was like, oh, they’re all gonna end something happened. And then they the rest of them just started clapping and like egging me on to make it to keep going. And there was this like, kind of amazing moment where the, the person who threw the app ball at me ended up being the outcast, and not me. And that felt really awesome. and empowering. So, that bastard,
K Anderson 25:56
let’s track him down. To going back to that statement from before, when someone said that you made a space queer, by by bringing your performance by bringing yourself what elements do you think, helped create that?
Melissa Ferrick 26:13
I can I, when you asked me that question, I thought of two different approaches to answering the question. So I’ll just tell you those two. So the first the first one that I went to, which was that it starts from the person who’s willing to book you, right? So the fact that the schubas in Chicago, for instance, was willing to book me as a headlining act and have me and then play, play me for two shows a night and then two nights for two shows before shows that schubas and have so what enables that is not just me being willing to tour so there’s the my end of it, right? Like I’m willing to tour I’m willing to, you know, have a have have lived the traveling life of a circus member, you know, the way that we do if you’re if you’re a touring independent artists. But there’s also what you’re asking for from the community at large, right, so you need to find bars that are willing to book a queer act, and you need to find a fan base that’s willing to go to that bar. So I do know that that that’s actually something that I hadn’t thought about in a long time, which is there have been certain bars that certain fans have told me, that are like scary for them to go to like, they’re like, we don’t really go to this bar. They’re like, just so you know, this isn’t really like a, I wish I could think of a specific one. I hadn’t thought that we would talk about this. So I didn’t think this through before the interview. But um, but I think that that’s a good point to bring up, you know, and that’s the only kind of, you can only get that information, as you know, from being on the ground and being with your fans, right? By playing by playing our shows. When you have a indie career or a career playing music for people that you get to meet after the shows, and at least kind of start to recognise a couple of them per city, you’d be like, I’m pretty sure I know that guy, he always comes to my show or whatever. So to get that kind of trust with your fan base is also something really special, you know, that not every artists get so I do think it’s important to listen to that and
K Anderson 28:24
an outside. How did that work? Like in the 90s then? Sorry. In the olden days before the exam, how did that work? When like, you don’t have that direct line to your fans? Is it just talking after gigs?
Melissa Ferrick 28:41
Yeah, it was then but I mean, so this is we’re gonna fast forward now. Because after the MAS thing happened, and then I did Atlantic, and so I started really doing my own. My indie career really started in I want to say like 1999, the early aughts was really the big time for me. So at least we did have the internet and we had I had an, you know, a cell phone and pager but we didn’t have iTunes yet. to iTunes was 2005. I think so. As of 2005. We had iTunes and stuff like that. But so it was it was it was the internet. It was okay. We were Yeah. Because before that. I was talking to people after shows, and that is mostly how you devil what I’m talking about was more in my early aughts. Yeah, mid mid mid 2000s. Career time period. Yeah.
K Anderson 29:42
Yeah. And there is that magical thing when you are performing in a room and you make that connection and give permission for people to be themselves and bring themselves to the audience and engage them in a certain way, I’m making massive assumptions about you because you’re just so like, casual and like, yeah, I’m just so cool. This is just how I am. But like, Is there anything that you consciously do in order to create that space?
Melissa Ferrick 30:17
Is there anything that I consciously do to create that space? No, but I can tell you that when I’m not in a good space, I, I can tell that I’m unable to create that, that I’m, you know, like, when you’re not having a good day, you know, when you’re whatever, when you’re just exhausted, or you’ve just had it, you just can’t do it. And, and that happens to everybody. It just so happens that in our jobs, people, it’s quite easy. You can’t take a mental health day, people are like, you know, you’re on stage on your mental health day. And people were like, why she’s so pissed off. And I’m like, cuz I don’t want to be here today. couldn’t call in sick as all I was just thinking about wasn’t thinking about it. It had to do with actually an assignment that students are doing this last week about participatory performance. And I was thinking about how awesome participatory performances are, right?
K Anderson 31:22
Where I think there’s nothing worse. It’s terrifying. You don’t like as an audience member, it’s terrifying.
Melissa Ferrick 31:29
Oh, sure. Yeah, I agree. I don’t want to be the person that the person that Cirque de la
K Anderson 31:33
chooses No, no.
Melissa Ferrick 31:36
But what but part of a kind of participatory performance can be when you are just in the audience singing along when they’re not asking you to come up on stage. But, but like, if that chorus at the end of the night, and you’re like, yeah, you know, and then everyone’s doing the swing and you’re way different. And there’s this moment of collab, right? You’re not in a theatre at Broadway on the ground in the dark in Hamilton, this happening in front of you. And you have nothing to do but just clap at the end of each section. And then that’s it. And, and I was thinking about how I think that when I’m able to create space, those moments of, of singing along at shows, you’ve had this, I would assume you have had this happen where people sing along to one of your songs. It’s, it’s kind of like, one of the most incredible things that can I mean, that have ever happened to me. It’s a very, very bizarre it’s a very, it’s an out of body experience. It’s very odd to have yourself song that you buy a bunch of mostly queers. You know, people who have known you, and a lot of ways feel like they know you, even though they know you through lyrics in songs that you’ve written, that are somewhat about you, but masks behind many other people’s relationships and also masks behind. Right.
K Anderson 33:06
Yeah, yeah. A good rhyme and a better version of the story, you know? So yeah, it’s interesting. Very interesting. I’m so I’m interested in this like, pissed off thing because I guess some artists, it’s easier to get up on stage and be like, Hey, everyone, I’m really pissed off today. I had a shit day. I’m gonna do some songs. Do you do net? Do you never feel like you’re able to do that with your audience?
Melissa Ferrick 33:36
Oh, I used to do it all the time. Okay, people used to come. Yeah, they used to come to my show. And there would be some people that would come to my show and try, they would try to get me pissed off because the vibe was that I would do a better show if I was mad. So I remember this one girl in particular, who I just one show. It was in Indianapolis, Indiana at a place called radio radio. And she was leaning against the stage. She was in the front row, but her back was to me and I was playing and she was on the phone. So I leaned over and I was like, hey, and I pretended that I thought this was a great idea. And I wanted to say hi to the person on the phone. So I took a phone. And I went like this. I put her phone on top of the drum kit and I left it there for the rest of the show was awesome. Yeah, I would yell at people for talking while I was playing. Oh, but
K Anderson 34:30
this wasn’t her tactic to get you to play better.
Melissa Ferrick 34:33
I don’t know why it made for quite the show. Everyone else is interested in like being on their best behaviour is now because they’re worried that like I’m actually there like on that, that that intensity, that feeling of like, Oh my god, what are they going to get really mad kind of hovers over the whole performance, right. So it kind of
K Anderson 34:53
has different types of participatory audiences.
Melissa Ferrick 34:58
It’s called a roomful of adult Children of alcoholics on the edge of freaking out. Yeah. Are you gonna be in today? Oh,
K Anderson 35:12
yeah, so fascinating. Like when you’re when you’re really angry and pissed off there and performing. In some ways you’re like, I just want to get this over with. So there’s like an intensity to the way you play because you’re just like, let’s just do this fucking oil. Do you feel like you played better when you’re angry? This Yeah, there’s something interesting about anger because it blocks out other things for me. So like, it will block out nerves because I’m just pissed off. So then I’m not nervous about playing and I don’t mess up and like, chords or whatever.
Melissa Ferrick 35:47
Interesting. Well, is a much more focused emotion, isn’t it? And half happiness, happiness and joy are much more wide. Yeah, yeah. And anger here is much more pointed right? Or concentration or passion. And so I think I have my all of my research that I’m into is in this idea of creativity and emotion and psychopathology. I’m very like deeply involved in that work. And I find what you’re talking about very the emotions that drive that can drive performances or that that whole conversation is extremely interesting to me. Sadness to is another one that’s extremely wide and hard to control. Right? I don’t know. sadness. It can be
K Anderson 36:32
Melissa Ferrick 36:34
I don’t know. pretty wide I don’t know maybe both maybe grief can be both
K Anderson 36:41
Yeah, I mean, grief that is there’s no focus with grief is there it’s just
Melissa Ferrick 36:47
I haven’t experienced I haven’t experienced very much actual grief in my life over losing anyone or anything but I can really relate to your I can really relate to the performing angry. I and I mean, and I like I think directed anger is a really good thing sometimes you know, and so for me I think in similarly to you anger is a kind of passion or to have a passionate anger like an angst hmm and I like working from that space of intensity. So do you want me to get my my phone out and start talking to in turn my back to you right now? No, cuz I’m having so much like channel Yeah, but I want to I want to write I want to write a song with you about about this. I want to co write something with you about I mean, I was I was I love the idea. I would love to hear other people we should start like a like a thread or something or a blog or something. Yeah. And is it anger or is it passion? Ah, do you know what we could do? We could have like a songwriting circle where we just all insult each other for like half an hour and then go away and write songs and then workshop our anger anger driven songs. Anger inspired songs. Yeah, that’s a great idea.
K Anderson 38:13
I’m gonna prove it wrong fuck her. I’m gonna write the best
Melissa Ferrick 38:17
friends in parentheses kill me right crying is allowed. It’s okay if your feelings really get hurt. That was like a safe word of a safe word like orange when you’re actually really hurting my feelings because it doesn’t take much
K Anderson 38:35
That’s great just need to channel the right yep. So if we circle back to Man Ray and the young woman who went there and made out with people that she didn’t ever actually see because it was in the dark and it pressed up against a wall if you were to run into her now what would you say?
What I said
Melissa Ferrick 39:10
as much as I want to reply with you know something I want to a part of me wants to say something to you like to myself like remember this you know or take note kind of a thing be a little more present and but I want to make sure that when i when i but i do remember it and I am so I don’t necessarily think I would say that because I think I did do a good job at remembering it. You know, because I’m remembering it and I can really recall was so lovely the way you asked me what it felt like when I first walked in there. I really appreciated that question because it helped me to really think of The sight and the smells and the sounds and the feel of it. And I hadn’t thought about that in a long time. But it’s also really nice to know that I can recall those things. And so I think what I might say is to try to enjoy myself. I think I, I have a hard time having fun. And in my, in my, in my now bonus, I’m trying more to sound silly, but I’m trying more to have fun, you know, like, even I go for a walk, I’ll try to, like, it sounds so silly. But I do try to like, look up through the trees and look at the sky and notice the moon and think, are you enjoying yourself, you know, like, think about your body in this air in on this planet in this kind of really making, making, acknowledging my visibility, acknowledging my existence to myself, because I spent so long and I’m just the kind of person who spent so who would live has lived a life so as like a moving target is if I were chasing after something that was never never catchable, you know, it’s always the next gig. It’s the next gig when I get there. You know? Yeah, yeah. Very hard to beat.
K Anderson 41:31
And as Yeah, I mean, when you said about struggling to have fun, or to embrace fun things that resonated for me. And I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently, in that when you when you’re a creative person, and there is this, this kind of, there’s no, there’s no end to the work is there. It’s like, Oh, I can always write another song, or I can always do this, and I can always do this. And so there’s this kind of feeling of guilt sometimes for me, And anyway, that I’m like squandering moments because I’m not being productive. And that means that come at everything with this, like, okay, but what’s going to come out of this? Like, so a lot of time with friendships, that happens for me, it’s like, well, oh, we should have a project together. We should do this together, we should do this together, rather than like, well, let’s just hang out and have fun. Because I always want things to be to have an outcome. There’s like an urgency. Yeah, yeah.
Melissa Ferrick 42:39
Interesting. Yeah. And also, then I’m hearing a little bit of the idea to which I have fallen into this before to this kind of mindset where, I mean, I just did it to you, like, we should write a song, but you know, where it’s like, it’s always the next thing,
K Anderson 42:55
rather than what was it? You didn’t mean that? No, I do.
Melissa Ferrick 43:01
But like, you’re right, like that, that this this moment in and of itself is, is to be present for it is important. But I so I think having fun, I think what I would say to the girl at man, right? You know, is like maybe you don’t take yourself so seriously is one thing, like relax a little bit like, but I also don’t want to take away how awesome my urgency is, you know, I mean, it’s only because I’m you seem to be really similar person to me, and that way that most of the people I’ve met who have self propelled careers, you know, at all sorts of different levels of whatever, you know, stardom or fame or success means they’re, they’re really self driven, high, highly productive, highly creative people who are the most interesting people to me. And, and they are rarely satisfied. And if there is a moment of satisfaction, it doesn’t usually last for very long. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to listen to any of my music, except for whatever I’m working on right now. And what I’m working on right now is the best thing I’ve ever done and wait till you hear it. You know, that’s kind of my mindset. And then I’ll put something out. And I will listen to it by myself in my car really loudly for maybe three months. And then I will never listen to it. I mean, it’s it’s it’s painful to listen to my own work, so I think
K Anderson 44:38
Yeah, isn’t it so interesting? Aren’t you that way too, though? Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And like, like when you get the first mix, or the first master of have a track, you put him on your like fire and then you go out and you go for a walk and you listen to it and you’re like, ah, I am this shit. And then like three months Is it listen to it? You’re like, What? What? Why did I like what’s? What’s the inflection there? Why did I say that? Like, why did it? I never What? Can I get it deleted off Spotify?
Melissa Ferrick 45:14
That’s amazing. I never got as far as thinking if I could get delete. Sure I can’t. But I definitely am like, why did I not hear that the way that I sang that word is just, it’s just horrifying. Like I am mad that I didn’t hear and then be on piste that no one had the balls to tell me that I sounded like an idiot. I’m like, Why is no one that I’m working with able to say to me, Melissa, this focal doesn’t sound like what you said, you don’t mean, it’s just so but that’s good, because it means we’re not done. I think that, you know, artists who think that something, there’s there there should not be I mean, they’re everything’s a snapshot, right? So you just keep putting stuff out? And that’s okay. You shouldn’t think, you know, do we really even, I don’t even know that I would want to be satisfied because then there would be nothing left, there would be nothing else to do. So
K Anderson 46:08
is this you justifying it to yourself? No. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the word record, and how I never really associated it with it being a record of a moment in time, or at the moment of capturing something. And I always put too much pressure on it maybe being like needing to be timeless or needing to be something else. And rather than just being like, well, this is where I was, this is this is like my thought process, you know, which is which is expressed in the lyrics, but also in the choice of arrangement, and also in the filter that I might have put over my vocals and all these types of things and and just be okay with that.
Melissa Ferrick 47:01
Yeah, it’s like if you think of it as a snapshot, then you know that you wouldn’t judge the photograph of you when you were 12. What, but you’d put you would know that it was itself beautiful, like the bicycle right that you had or whatever, you loved that bike or whatever. Now you’re like, Oh, God, I can’t believe I love that bike so much or whatever. It’s kind of the same thing. But no, a certain amount of time has gone by now since my first two records that were on. Those are the ones I made on Atlantic and I and I’ve listened to some of the tracks off those ones more recently. And what I have found is this incredible distance from that person. No. And I have this like it’s almost like a motherly or a parental reaction to the performances of just like oh my god, you. You do swear you sweet, dear thing, you know what I mean? I’m just like, oh, wow, this is Oh, great. It’s so great. How? How serious about it all I was and?
K Anderson 48:14
And is this specifically about the performance or about the lyrics? And the song itself?
Melissa Ferrick 48:20
Yes. It’s not about the production because the production just is what it is. It was, you know, it was Toad, the wet sprocket meets Toni childs and that you’re not going to get away from that. So, ya know, it’s about the lyric, both the lyric and the performance, how I would sing how I sang my inflections. And, yeah, and the lyrics. So just extremely interested in self. But that’s not unusual for young writing. And it’s not unusual for me. I mean,
K Anderson 48:53
it’s not a lot of writers, writers, writers, writers, you know, and so it’s supposed to be it’s supposed to be universal. Yeah. Yeah. So I don’t know. I I’m starting to appreciate the early early work. Oh, no. Did you ever go to man right? Well, if you did, I want to hear all about it. Find me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, with the username K Anderson music. Let me know what you got up to. And also make sure that you take a listen to Melissa’s back catalogue and follow her on Instagram. Her username is funnily enough, Melissa ferrick. La spaces is not only a podcast, but a concept record as well. I’ve been writing songs about queer venues and the people who used to live their lives there and we’ll be releasing songs over the coming year. You can hear the first single which is called well groomed boys and is also playing underneath my talking right now. On all good streaming platforms. If you like this episode, I would really appreciate if you subscribed, left a review on Apple podcasts or just told someone who you think might be interested in giving it a little listen to. I am K Anderson and you have been listening to lossless spaces.