Interview with Melissa Ferrick


AE: When you started, it was a lot harder for women in the
music industry. How much has changed in the last decade or so?

I’m sure it existed, but I wasn’t very conscious
of any sexism going on. I was just so thrilled to be playing music and
not have a second job. I was really young, 19 or 20 when I got signed,
and you’re going through so much at that age anyway. I was so busy
making music that I didn’t have time to think about how I was being
treated or whether personal boundaries were being pushed. At least
that’s how it was for me … just pushing through.

Now I’m independent,
it really doesn’t effect me that much either. I guess it bugs me when
I hear guys say things like, “oh just another girl with a guitar.”
We’ve been hearing guys with guitars forever. As soon as they see a
girl strap on a guitar, they think Ani Difranco or the Indigo Girls. And they’re both great, I know them personally
and I know they don’t want that. That’s the last thing they want…for
anything like that to create a barrier. I’ve toured with Ani and she
is amazing, such a great person, always open-armed to me, but we’re
nothing alike.

AE: The only similarity I see is the passion you both
play with.

MF: Maybe that’s it. Maybe to men, it’s scary. I
think it was Barbara Streisand who said something like when a man is
passionate and aggressive he’s a good businessman and when a woman is,
she’s a bitch. You see that with Rosie O’Donnell. She had a really
successful talk show and then pure homophobia and sexism took over.
Then again with The View, no one wanted to hear someone speak
their truth. That someone was a woman and gay and they certainly don’t
want that.

Photo credit: Erica Beckman

AE: When did you come out?

To my family…I was 16. To the music industry, I
was 24…25, so 1995.

AE: Were there any repercussions?

I was on Atlantic Records at the time and they
wanted me to come out on my first record. It was right after k.d.
lang had come out, but before Melissa Etheridge. It was
a) something that was becoming “acceptable” and b) something that got
you a sh–tload of press. I was really scared to come out and wasn’t
really settled in my orientation or what I wanted to call it. I still
dated men at the time. I didn’t want a label back then and I still
don’t like them. So I didn’t do it then.

For my second album, they had
just opened a gay marketing division with Peter Galvin. So I decided
to come out publicly. I was immediately dubbed the other Melissa and I
haven’t been able to shake it since. I took it as a compliment, but
instead of it opening me up to a queer audience with one’s own
identity and one’s own sound … especially at that time…her fan base
is so intense and intent on her sound … there was a backlash. A lot of
women wouldn’t come hear me play and decided without listening that
they didn’t like me. It was weird. It still is sometimes. It’s like
people thought I was calling myself that. It was a writer who called
me the other Melissa.

AE:What are the best cities to play a show?

Chicago, San Francisco, NY. Actually, Chicago has
kinda been the backbone of my career. Ohio, as in Columbus, Cleveland,
Cincinnati, has always been a state I’ve done very well in. Nowadays
Tampa FL, Atlanta GA and DC are places I sell out shows regularly.

These days I stick to major cities for my sanity. I stopped doing
small towns because I got really sick…I was doing 200+ shows a year.
I was away from home 4 months at a time, constantly touring. I started
that in 2000 and stopped in 2006 so I was touring for six years like
that and it almost killed me. I can’t physically keep up with that
kind of schedule, I can’t spiritually keep up with it. So now I stick
to major cities and I don’t go out for more than 3 weeks at a time. But
now there’s no need to be out longer since I fly everywhere. I use to
drive everywhere. There was one year I drove 92,000 miles in a year.

AE: So what’s next?

MF: I’ve been working on a new album coming out this
fall, going on tour with Dar, the target="_blank"> Michigan Womyns Festival, some more festivals … and
then this fall I’ll be touring in support of my new album.

AE: Do you have a title for the new album?

MF: No, I don’t know what it’s called. It’s still a
work in progress. Just did a photo shoot with a great lesbian
photographer out of NY, Erica Beckman. She shot my friends Bitch and
Daniela for a calendar called Brooklyn Girls. She’s shot
Uh Huh Her. I actually met her at Gay Pride in Brooklyn, in a
bar. One of the new shots is up on my Myspace page. I’ll be adding new photos as we get
closer to the new release.

Read our 2006 interview with Ferrick

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