Sounds Local: Carrie Ferguson
It’s quite common for a musician to hold a CD release show to celebrate the arrival of a new recording. But singer-songwriter Carrie Ferguson of Northampton will tweak the custom when she holds a release show at The Montague Bookmill on Friday, June 21, at 8 p.m. for a new single.
The song is called “On the Way to Ashfield” and it’s a bouncy upbeat tune that finds folk-pop musician Ferguson singing about taking a joy ride to Ashfield and making a stop at Elmer’s. The song features backing horns, some violin and a chorus so catchy that it will have listeners singing along in their own cars.
The tune will appear on Ferguson’s upcoming CD “The List of Whales,” which is slated for a late fall release. The Bookmill show will also mark the debut of her new video, “Girls Like Me,” a song that supports marriage equality and celebrates diversity.
I recently sat down with Carrie at a local coffee shop to talk about songwriting, her upcoming album and the joy of eating pancakes at Elmer’s.
SH: Why are you only releasing a single at this point in time?
CF: I did a big Indiegogo campaign and a lot of people contributed to it. The plan was to release the album this spring, but we ended up pushing it back until November. We wanted to give people a taste of the new album and particularly to give something to those people who contributed to the campaign.
SH: “On the Road to Ashfield” is a perfect summer song.
CF: Yeah, the thing about that song is that it was a dream. A couple of summers ago, I was having insomnia and I was waking up with a lot with music in my head. One morning I woke up with this song. It was crazy — in 10 minutes it went from sleeping with this thing in my head to having a mini recording of it.
SH: So where does Ashfield come in?
CF: Well, in the dream there was the melody and the riff, but the dream itself was about my friend Carrie, who isn’t a musician, but she was playing a mandolin and we were in a VW van literally driving to Ashfield. So there were not words but a narrative. In the dream, we went to Elmer’s store and we had pancakes. The funny thing is I had never been to Elmer’s, but after this dream I did go and we had pancakes and I loved them.
SH: What can you tell us about the rest of the album?
CF: The album is called “The List of Whales” and it’s pretty eclectic. There is a bunch of upbeat stuff on it and there are also several ballads.
SH: Where did that title come from?
CF: “The List of Whales” is sort of a love song to the world. My partner works with children and one night she was talking to me about how they had made a list of whales. It’s hard to explain, but it kind of struck me as a way of connecting your love of another person to your larger love of the world and how that can be a little painful, because you can lose something that you love. And to me the whale is really a beloved creature. I grew up in northern California, watching them swim back and forth.
SH: Will you be playing material off the upcoming album at Bookmill show?
CF: We won’t play everything, but we will play “The List of Whales,” which is actually a new song. I’m excited because this show will have some of the musicians from the record. We won’t have the cello and the horns, but we will have Zoe Darrow on the fiddle, Jim Henry on guitar, Garrett Sawyer on bass and J.J. O’Connell on drums. June & the Bee will open. I have been doing a lot of shows with them and I love their energy.
SH: You recently filmed a video for “Girls Like Me,” a song that appeared on your first album “Riding on the Back of the Wind.”
CF: When Garrett Sawyer, (producer of “The List of Whales,”) found out he was like “Why aren’t we doing a video for the record we are working on now?” But the thing is that DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) and Prop 8 in California are in the Supreme Court now and “Girls Like Me” is saying, “Why would you be homophobic? We are having a good time.” We got, like, 40 people in a studio in Florence and recorded them learning a dance and lip-synching the song. My parents are even in it holding a sign that says “we love our daughter.”
SH: You have been doing this for quite a while now?
CF: Yeah, I have been plugging away at this. I have been writing and playing all my life, but I started officially in 1990. But it wasn’t until I put my first record out a couple of years ago that I got really serious about it — whatever that means. It’s just not going away. I think if you don’t admit that you are doing it, then you do it behind your own back.
SH: Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
CF: Yeah, but I am embarrassed to admit it (laughs). I played soccer. I was probably 10 or younger and there was this poem on the bathroom wall: “The night was dark/ The moon was green/ Around the corner came the turd machine/Shots were fired and screams were heard/As a man got killed by a flying turd.” I put it to music and wrote like four other verses and came out and sang the whole thing. I even remember the melody (laughs).
SH: It must have been a hit with the other kids.
CF: Yeah, it was very catchy. But I was always writing. I wrote songs, but it didn’t occur to me that I was writing songs. I didn’t really identify as a songwriter until I was in my 20s and by that point I had written a lot of songs. It wasn’t until other people said, “Oh, you’re a songwriter.”
The Montague Bookmill, is located at 440 Greenfield Road. Tickets are $7 and available at the door the night of the show. Seating is first-come, first-served. Arrive early for couches, armchairs and to browse the books. For more information, call 413-367-9206. Carrie Ferguson will also appear at the Deja Brew in Wendell on July 7 and also at the Uppper Valley Music Festival in Turners Falls on Saturday, July 27.
Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org