Sounds Local: Kristen Ford returns to her roots this Sunday

  • Kristen Ford, who grew up in western Mass., returns for a special homecoming performance this Sunday at 3 p.m. at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield. CONTRIBUTED

  • Pamela Means will present an evening of “The Power of the Protest Song” at Hawks & Reed on Friday night at 7 p.m. Means is known for being a masterful guitarist and also for heading up many diverse musical projects over the years. PHOTO BY JULIAN PARKER-BURNS

Published: 12/7/2022 5:12:13 PM
Modified: 12/7/2022 5:11:52 PM

By SHERYL HUNTER

For the Recorder

It will be a homecoming show for Kristen Ford when she takes the stage at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center on Sunday, Dec. 11, at 3 p.m. The singer-songwriter, who currently lives in Nashville, has toured 48 states and ten countries, released five albums, and recently starred in her first movie. And it all started here in western Mass.

“My Dad worked at UMass, and until recently, my mom worked at Yankee Candle; she lives in Greenfield now. I went to PVPA. I’m old school western Mass.,” said Ford, who has lived in various western Mass towns, including Greenfield. “Western Mass is a really special place,” she said, “There’s a vibe to the innovation and generosity there that is really cool.”

Ford’s musical journey started in 2001 when she attended the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts charter public school (PVPA) in South Hadley, where she first picked up the guitar. That same year she was a student at the first rock n’ roll camp for girls held at the Institute for the Musical Arts (IMA) in Goshen. June Millington, the co-founder of IMA and a founding member of the pioneering all-female rock band Fanny, would become a mentor to Ford.

“Having a mentor like June in my life has been a game changer in terms of what is possible and having confidence in doing things,” said Ford of her experience at IMA where the students are taught everything from playing various instruments to sound engineering.

In 2008, Ford signed on to IMA’s record label, Many Doors Records, and Millington produced her first album, “Filthy Nasty.” Flash forward to the present and Millington co-produced Ford’s most recent album, “War in the Living Room.”

“It just felt like it would be a full circle. This is my fifth full-length album and I’m certainly not the artist that I was when I was 19 and making that first one. I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve developed a lot in my vision and artistry,” said Ford of having Millington as one of the album’s producers.

“It was cool to work with her again, she is kind of steeped in the older traditions like creating harmonies by having a group singing around a mic and not doing a lot of edits.”

Some of the album was recorded at IMA’s studio in Goshen and engineered by local musician/producer Dave Chalfant, and part of the album was recorded in Minneapolis with producer Brett Bullion (Lizzo, Now Now, Bon Iver) and Grammy award-winning mastering engineer Huntley Miller.

“Brett’s worked with all these indie and electronic and pop and R&B artists so to have him do a lot of the mixing and take June’s concepts but try and bring them into the 2022 current landscape, it was neat but kind of unorthodox to record an album in two different cities,” said Ford of the process.

The resulting album is a bold exercise in music making with an assortment of sounds and styles that range from the electro-pop of “Broke, Stoned and 23” to the indie rock vibe of ”Grey Sky Blue.” Especially powerful is the title track about a relationship gone wrong where Ford sings lines like “There’s a war in the living room/Like I was ten years old again/When I done all I can do/That’s when you sink your teeth in.”

There are so many layers to this album, the more you listen the more you will discover.

Since releasing the album, her first on vinyl, Ford has performed in 25 states and two Canadian providences. She’s played about 130 shows this year which is about where her touring schedule was in the days before COVID. When in Nashville, Ford works with a band, but out on the road she’s a one woman show.

“I use an RC-300 Looper, as well as a vocal looper and a bunch of different effects pedals for my guitar where I can make it sound like a synth or a bass or a lead guitar or a wah-wah and I use percussion and beat-boxing to create the drums,” Ford explained.

This equipment allows her to stand while performing which leads to a better connection with her audience.

“It makes me feel really creative and nimble to be up there by myself because I can make changes to the set list and can improv songs,” she said of her show. “Performing is so incredible and I was recently at a panel in Nashville where the Indigo Girls spoke and their advice was to focus on enjoying what you are doing.” It’s advice that Ford does her best to follow.

In addition to her music career, Ford stepped into acting recently. She appeared in her first movie role and wrote the credits song for the film, “Valentine Crush.” Other projects on tap include a new video, “Jackpot,” coming out any day now, and a short film called “Puppy Love,” that will be released soon. She also produced a video for her pop-style song, “Lisa Frank.”

Ford enjoys venturing into these other creative outlets and is especially excited about writing screen plays and scripts and creating soundtracks around those characters. As a biracial, queer artist she uses her music to share her political beliefs. For example, she wrote the song, “These Colors Don’t Run,” about the Uvalde shooting.

This past year has been a busy one for Ford, but she promises that next year will be even bigger. “I was a caterpillar and I’m in the chrysalis stage right now and about to pop out as a butterfly,” is the way she described her vision for 2023 and some exciting changes that are in the works, but not quite finalized.

Right now her goal is to finish up this year with a bang and that includes this show at Hawks & Reed.

“It’s November and it’s annoying how cold and dark it gets,” said Ford. “I want people to go get their Sunday brunch on and then head to Hawks & Reed, then they can go home and hibernate. But they are going to have to rock out a little bit first.”

Doors open at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance and $20 at the door. Ford will also perform at Whetstone Station in Brattleboro on Saturday, Dec. 10, at 7 p.m.

For more info, visit Kristenfordmusic.com.

Pamela Means brings protest music to Hawks & Reed

Local musician Pamela Means will present an evening of “The Power of the Protest Song” at Hawks & Reed on Friday night at 7 p.m. Means is known for being a masterful guitarist and also for heading up many diverse musical projects over the years. The protest song project is her latest and this show at Hawks & Reed is her last of its kind for 2022. The show will be a mix of original songs and covers spanning the history of American protest songs.

Means has a history of taking on various social issues in her songs and with her band. Her band, The Reparations, released the EP “Live at Northfire” in 2020 that addressed many of her concerns including Trump’s impeachment.

In this show she explore the origin and lineage of protest songs and the role they have played in terms of racial and social justice. Expect to hear material by the likes of Nina Simone and others.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Advance tickets are $10 and $15 at the door.

For more info, visit Pamelameans.com.

Tickets for Hawks & Reed shows can be purchased at hawksandreed.com or by calling 413-774-0150.


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