Melissa Ferrick has a great deal to show for two decades in the music industry. There is the expansive body of work, mapped out over the sixteen albums that comprise her career to date, nearly all of which she distributed herself. There are the stories of the crisscrossed world and the things she has both gained and lost in her wake. There is the fervent fan-base that has grown with Ferrick, which has waited patiently for her latest opus for the preceding three years. Above all there is the sound, a voice burnished by breakdowns and breakthroughs, refined over the twenty years she has been doing this.
And now, there is Still Right Here, the sum of these hard-earned parts set to music, Ferrick's gorgeous purpose unspooling over the ten tracks that comprise the album. "This is the record I've wanted to make for a long time," explains Ferrick. "The sound of it the songwriting is definitely a step above where I was a few years ago."
The growth reflected on Still Right Here is a direct result of the emotional topography of Ferrick's life, shaped by the events of the past few years. After touring in support of 2008's critically acclaimed Goodbye Youth, Ferrick found herself back in her Massachusetts base, home for the longest time in nearly two decades. "After [that album] came out I think I just needed to stop and figure out what I needed to do." Shortly after returning home, Ferrick embarked on a professional and personal reckoning that would find her better off three years later, with the emotional travelogue of Still Right Here to show for it.
In the three years between albums, much changed in Ferrick's life. In addition to falling in and out of love with her partner, she made the difficult decision to end the business relationship she'd built with her best friend over the course of her career. At the same time, Ferrick decided to sign to MPress Records after years of self-distributing her albums, which at first proved a difficult to decision to make. Ultimately, however, Ferrick realized she would only gain from the decision. As Ferrick sorted through all these issues, she found her most consistent outlet absent: writing. It wasn't until she took a position teaching songwriting at Berklee College of Music that she began to set the contents of her life to music. After assigning the class the task of writing a song about something they didn't want to explore, one of Ferrick's students asked her where her song was. "I said that I didn't write one, and one of my students said, 'That's kind of hypocritical of you.' So I wrote the song 'Checking In."
Given the intensity with which Ferrick has been engaged in the emotional components of her life over the past several years, it was of chief importance that the record sound alive. "I really tried to sing my ass off," Ferrick says. "I wanted it to sound like it was all happening in the room at the same time." Indeed, there's a living, breathing quality to the songs comprising Still Right Here. "Seconds Like These" lurches into action, Ferrick's vocals are incandescent with gratitude, gliding over a chugging acoustic. "Headphones On" features help from guitar virtuoso Kaki King. "When I was in Williamsburg with [producer] Alex [Wong], I said I wanted something like what Kaki King does [for 'Headphones On']. He was like, 'You know what's so weird she lives around the corner.' I had my computer and saw she was online, so I asked her to come over and bring her guitar."
Album namesake "Still Right Here" serves as the record's mission statement, inspired by a friend who walked away from a terrible car accident. "That song is really important to me, because no matter how hard you try to run away from your stuff, it doesn't matter. It's always going to knock on the door for you to deal with." "Weightless And Slow" showcases two of Ferrick's strengths; the incredible guitar work that she's known for which perfectly complements her soulful vocals as she spins a tale of love and hope. Another of Ferrick's strengths lies in her ability to mine the contents of her life and set them to music "You Let Me Be" is lo-fi balladry at its best, going deep into the romantic territory of Ferrick's life with guest vocals from friend and tour mate Ani DiFranco.
The song also speaks to Ferrick's own career longevity, and the catalog, fans and songs that she has to show for it. "I'm glad I've gotten as far as I have. I'm glad I've survived the industry and its changes, that I can still make a living playing shows and making records. And whenever I start to think maybe I shouldn't do this, I try to remember that it's no accident that I've written 150 songs, and people are still coming to shows," says Ferrick. "I'll just keep doing this until I'm not doing it anymore."
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