Prolific Songtress Stops in Gotham

Melissa Ferrick in NYC May 2, then home to Massachusetts for summer

While Melissa Ferrick seems to be on an endless lap around America, the peripatetic singer/songwriter doesn’t see it all as one big tour, but rather a succession of smaller ones, and she’s looking forward to finishing off the current West-to-East swing, entering her final week at the Bowery Ballroom on Monday, May 2.

“I differentiate between the tours—I have to!” she said. “We’ve been on this tour with Garrison Starr for almost six weeks now. I’m with my cousin Sarah, who’s my tour manager, and Garrison tours with her buddy Jen, who’s her road manager. It’s a riot!”

Fans who read Ferrick’s online journals have been following the saga of Starr and Ferrick kidnapping each other’s toy pigs. Perhaps there will be a denouement at the Bowery Ballroom.

For the New York gig, Ferrick is trying to arrange for drummer Darren Hahn (formerly with Ani DiFranco) to join her onstage, along with a “special guest,” New York singer/songwriter Teddy Goldstein, who has often performed with Ferrick.

“I played with Darren for a week on the West Coast part of this tour, and I just love playing with him,” Ferrick said. “I am really hoping he can make it.”

And despite her unfortunate pignapping tendencies, Ferrick raves over opening act Starr.

“She’s unbelievable! If people haven’t seen her before, please come early to make sure they catch her,” Ferrick advised.

Ferrick’s current set list focuses on her most recent release “The Other Side,” (Right On Records) as well as her usual rummaging through her vast catalog––11 albums, including three live recordings.

“I also have a new song called ‘Stuck’ which I’ve been playing almost every show,” she added. “And I just started playing this new song called ‘Easy,’ which has kind of a Dave Matthews feel.”

Ferrick has begun to think about the next studio album, and has begun to write for it, but has a couple of projects she wants to finish before the next original CD.

She’s nearly finished her documentary, which chronicles her first ten years as a performer. In a nerve-wracking incident early in this tour, Ferrick lost an external hard drive with the edited version of the film on it.

“So after totally freaking out about it, Ferrick’s [manager and partner] Bryna Gootkind kindly reminded me that I have all the backup work at home,” Ferrick said. “I feel like I have about two weeks’ work left on that, then I’m going to send it off to be pressed [into a DVD].” When it’s finished, Ferrick plans to enter the film in festivals, and will be offering it to her fans.

“I hope people enjoy it,” she said. “It’s a full-length film, an hour and 20 minutes long. It starts in 1993, a week before my first record came out, with an interview shot by my girlfriend at the time. I had never plucked my eyebrows! I was very young and very bushy.”

Ferrick makes it quite clear this isn’t a concert film: “There isn’t a complete performance of one song in the entire movie. As a fan of documentaries of other musicians, I want to see all the background. Of the documentaries I like best, one is ‘Meeting People,’ about Radiohead on a European tour, and ‘I’m Trying to Break Your Heart,’ about Wilco.”

Ferrick’s film is scheduled to be out in July.

Ferrick will be working on the film and other projects in her home base of Massachusetts, where she’s moved the offices of her Right On Records label to Northampton. She has moved her traditional Provincetown gig this summer from Memorial Day weekend to early July.

Next up for Ferrick is not one, but two, cover albums: “For the Boys,” and “For the Girls.”

“The way ‘For the Boys’ started is I had this narcissistic desire to do a photo shoot in drag,” Ferrick said. “And I thought, maybe instead of it being narcissistic, I could do it for a reason. I’ll make a cover album of guys’ songs, like Ferron did a few years ago [“Inside Out”], and not change any of the shes to hes.”

Ferrick is choosing the songs for the project by decade, starting with the one she was born in, the ’70s.

“It’s so difficult to narrow down!” she said. “I was born in 1970, so I thought I’ll find out the top 20 or 40 albums from 1970 to 75, and try to remember which ones have memories for me as a kid. Songs like ‘Here Comes the Sun’ and ‘Sweet Melissa,’ which I was named after, the Allman brothers, Stevie Wonder… So we’ll do about four songs from each decade, heading into work by people like David Gray and Dave Matthews. Then I’ll do ‘For the Girls’ next year.” Ferrick says she’ll record “For the Boys” in June, and have it out in August or September, then during the fall start recording her next album of originals for release in Spring 2006.

Ferrick has also recently begun working with New York musician Natalia Zuckerman.

“She’s an extraordinarily talented jazz/slide/picker/guitar player, with a voice like Jill Sobule’s,” she explained. “I’m thinking we could take her out on the road, hang out, see what happens. Maybe I’ll help her distribute her CD, or make a record with her.”

One hopes, of course, Zuckerman won’t be party to any pignapping.

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