Deckle edge

by Chris Flisher © 1995 /
(first published June 1995 Worcester Phoenix)

Few songwriters openly explore the anguish of self-discovery as intensely as Ferron. Reeling in tales of her personal experiences, she paints startlingly austere portraits of coming to terms by pushing boundaries, exploring alternatives, and facing the music. In short, she’s the epitome of a self-confessional singer-songwriter and few do it better. Yet, despite her intimations she survives as a strong focal point for fans and fellow artists alike who have remained fiercely loyal throughout the course of her 15-year plus career. Her warts-and-all approach appeals on many levels.

“I interpret all the good and the ugly,” says the 40-year old Canadian in a recent interview. “My songs really set me free and that’s what I want. They’re honest and as I get older and wiser I’ve found that I can get closer to the creative and emotional fire that comes from my songs and not get burned up by them.”

Ferron is touring to support, Driver, perhaps the most personal and commercial release of her career. The subsequent success of the album has spawned a licensing agreement with Earthbeat Records, a division of Warner Brothers. And now, unexpectedly poised to reach a much larger audience, Ferron appears bemused by the changing currents in her life.

“It’s funny how you can chase something all your life and then when you’re not looking it happens,” she offers, continuing, “I reached this point in my life where I thought, ‘OK, so I’ve got 3000 people who really love me. There is nothing wrong with that.’ So I started to work on Driver and all I wanted to do was to get together with people that I love; people that I’d have dinner with and just relax and just create. And so we did it and Driver came out of it and it was just beautiful.”

Hauntingly lucent and stark, Driver, is that rare work that transcends genres and categorization. Blatantly honest and lyrical, the songs flow into each other like a self-revealing song-cycle. From the luminous tones of the opening cut, “Breakpoint,” with its sinewy bass line and heart-beat drum, to the aching ode to her new daughter, “Maya,” Driver is a cohesive expression of a mature artist at her peak.

While the album’s overall tone is autobiographical, none of the songs approach her own coming of age more than “Girl On A Road.” Using pivotal events and revelations of her life, she unfolds her story with great depth and cutting-edge emotion. Despite the title and personal nature of the song, her words apply suitably to any person on a journey of self-discovery.

““Girl On A Road” was clearly hard work for me,” admits Ferron, haltingly. “It was just too tough for me, too emotionally powerful to get through without breaking down and crying in the studio. It was such a shot of tenderness and forgiveness all at once. I mean, in the course of one line, a few words, I explain and dismiss my whole relationship and dynamic with my parents,” she pauses. “I think of all the years of anger and rage and pain and grief and turmoil that I have carried with me and then to have it melt away in one line’s worth of words. I went from being empty to being full. It is a strong song for women, since they see it as a chance to get it right, but it is not uncommon for men to realize that you don’t have to stand in the world with both fists up.”

Raised in British Columbia, Ferron was the oldest of seven children. Her early life was consumed working and helping to support the family. At 15 she left home and sought music as a release for her bottled-up emotions. “I had no choice but to write,” she remembers. “I wish it was easier, but I really had no other alternative. When I was younger, if I didn’t write I would get physically ill, nauseous, and I can remember flinging my guitar into a lake. I just wanted a job like everyone else, but I realized that I write because of a desire to have something consistently real in my life.”

For years Ferron toured the coffeehouses and clubs of Canada and the Pacific Northwest, eventually working into the concert halls and large venues, all the time building a steady and loyal group of predominantly women followers. With six albums to her credit, Ferron created her own label (Cherrywood) and sold albums from the stage and through the mail. Constant touring and continual critical acclaim have brought her career to a new level. The new arrangement with Earthbeat will undoubtedly fuel that.

“To have a microphone and to be able to say what you want, well, there is a responsibility to speak the truth and I always have spoken from my own perspective. I am glad that it [music] has worked for so many people and certainly I don’t disown anything I’ve done or said, but it was never my intention to appeal to any set group,” she admits. “I came out of Canada with leftist political leanings so people picked up on that and I have a very loyal following because of it.”

“I am not a leader,” she concludes. “I am a writer. In that case my goal is to enter into the human heart and that comes from creating a place in my heart to gather all the love that I can and spread that out there somewhere.”

Chris Flisher

Deckle edge