It’s hard to pick which part of out singer-songwriter Melissa Ferrick’s live shows rocks more: her mastery of the guitar and heart-wrenching lyrics about love or the witty stories she shares that turn her performances into a stand-up comedy showcase. The singer/songwriter has just released her 16th album, Enough About Me, which marks a pause from recording new, original material and instead includes covers of tracks from the likes of Radiohead and the Postal Service.
AfterEllen.com caught up with Ferrick ahead of a recent gig at L.A.’s Hotel Cafe to talk recording other people’s songs, the evolution of “Drive” and the re-emergence of Lilith Fair.
AfterEllen.com: What inspired Enough About Me and recording an album of all covers?
Melissa Ferrick: My initial idea was to do a double record and have one of them be for the boys and the other for the girls and cover all guy songs and all girl songs. Then it fizzled away and I started writing original stuff again. In November, I didn’t have enough material to make an originals record yet for lack of heartbreak or heart falling. I’ve just had a pretty steady year of nothingness. Which is a great thing. So I just haven’t been writing much.
AE: Your “Creep” cover is especially good. You and Brandi Carlile both are covering that.When I saw Brandi a couple of weeks ago in New Hampshire, it was right before Valentine’s Day, and she said she was doing a covers thing. I forgot to ask her if “Creep” was on XOBC. Did she release “Creep” on that?
AE: No, she covered Bryan Adams’ “Heaven.”
MF: That’s hysterical.
AE: Have you really gotten to the point where you’re tired of writing about yourself?
MF: I taught last summer at Berklee College of Music so I was teaching and not touring as much. I was flying in and out and doing two or three shows a month. I did start dating someone and it was really effortless. There’s just been no insanity. So I have six or seven original songs right now and it usually comes in large bouts. Sometimes I’ll write six or seven songs in a couple weeks then work them out live and the good ones stick and the bad ones fall apart. I didn’t want to bulls–t write three songs to make it 10.
AE: Every time you perform “Drive” live it’s different. How much do you know what you’ll say before you go on?
MF: Not a whole lot. Recently I went off on this whole thing about my cat being under the covers while I’m using the vibrator. That whole bit at the end where the cat is licking my ankles and you have to kick the cat off the bed. I saw this woman after the show and she said, “I’m so glad you did the cat thing again because the last two times that I saw you, you didn’t do the cat thing.” Now I feel like how a stand-up comedian must feel: It’s never the exact same thing. People will go to the same show just to hear the same joke. I don’t want to let people down, but at the same time it’s never old hat for me. I don’t ever feel like I just pull it out of my a-s. If I’m not feeling it, I’m not going to do it. If I’m not up there having fun and the vibe isn’t right in the room, it doesn’t come across right and it’s not funny.
AE: That song is just such a lesbian classic.
MF: Thanks. I was having dinner before a show once and there were these two cute lesbians sitting next to me and I could tell they were on their first date. … At the end of the meal, I stood up and told them to have a nice meal and asked what they were doing and told them I was playing a show and invited them to come out. They asked what the name of my band was and I told them I was a songwriter and said my name is Melissa Ferrick and one of them was snapping her finger and couldn’t remember where she’d heard the name before. I finally said, “You probably had sex to that song ‘Drive.’ ” And she said, “That’s it!” [Laughs] It was so great to call myself out on that. I put them on the guest list and they came. I love little moments like that, they’re funny.
AE: Any plans for Lilith Fair?
MF: I have not been offered any shows and I don’t think I’m going to be offered any shows but you never know. I’ve been submitted for it, but it’s up to them.
AE: That just seems wrong.
MF: I think everyone should email them and tell them that it seems wrong! It’s funny, so many of my friends are playing — Tegan and Sara, Brandi, the Indigo Girls — so I almost feel like calling them and asking them, “Could I play tambourine in your band?” [Laughs] They are going for a different vibe with the show, they’re going for a wider market with more world music and stuff like that. They do have all the steadies that were there before and I’m happy about that.
AE: I’ve always been impressed with how frequently you tour and how consistent you are in releasing new albums. How do you do it?
MF: It has been that way for like 12 years, since 1998 when “Everything I Need” came out. And in 2000 when I opened my own label, that’s when I became a road warrior. I feel like very new year that comes around I feel like I need to put something new out. I feel like in this era of music people want new music every time they see you play. There was this woman in Santa Barbara (recently) and she’s holding the new record and asking, “So are you going to put a new record out in the fall and come on tour again?” and I was like, that’s in five months! I didn’t say that to her, but I was like, “Totally!”
AE: And that’s probably going to be true.
MF: Maybe, yes! I mean, I have all of April off so maybe! I do have an originals record in me. It’s just a matter of doing it.