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Melissa Ferrick is never getting married.
“It’s not for me,” she says with a gentle laugh. Still, she’s exceedingly proud of her home state, Massachusetts, the only place in the union where gays and lesbians can legally get married.
“I can’t even believe it,” she says. “It’s great that it’s finally happening.”
Ferrick has just released The Other Side, her eighth full-length album, on which the rock-tinged folk singer was a one-woman production machine, taking on the writing, performing, engineering and mixing by herself. She released it on her own three-year-old label, Right On Records.
Just like Ani DiFranco, you might note. Ferrick, in fact, is in the same sound squad as DiFranco — along with the Indigo Girls and Patty Griffin — and she readily cops to the comparison, pointing out that she is happier, and less political in her lyrics.
“I always tell strangers I’m a cross between Dave Matthews and Ani DiFranco,” she says. “Because the Ani thing gives them the chick with a guitar that doesn’t play like Jewel, and Dave Matthews gives them that I’m happy and I move around a lot and smile.”
She doesn’t smile, however, at being called “the other Melissa.”
“I don’t feel I’m anything like her. The only things similar to me and Melissa Etheridge are that we both like to kiss girls, we both play guitar and we both have the same first name.”
“The other Melissa” tag came straight out of Etheridge’s mouth, when the two met their one and only time eight years ago. Ferrick proceeded to tell of the encounter to an Advocate reporter, who used it as the headline for a Ferrick profile. “And then I was fucked,” Ferrick says.
Ferrick may not have the mainstream name recognition and platinum record sales of Etheridge but she does have a large, loyal fan base, known as “Ferrickheads.” They appreciate the Berklee College of Music alumnus’ unpredictable music with its complex chord progressions and song structures, and deep reverence for melody. Ferrick exerts impressive control over a powerful voice and plays stand-up-and-take-notice acoustic guitar riffs, but she’s not too tough to get melancholy. She writes lyrics that probe the purpose of life and love. That is, when she’s not talking about happiness and sex.
In fact, she’s created a body of lyrics diverse enough to inspire an Internet quiz: “Which Melissa Ferrick Song Are You?” Among the seven questions, one asks about favorite things to do, ranging from “mope about and ponder the meaning of life,” to “go dancing/clubbing or work out” to “pick up some hotties.”
Has Ferrick herself taken the quiz? “No,” she responds, “I haven’t.” Still, the thought of it gives her a good laugh. “Oh I think it’s awesome. Who wouldn’t want a fucking Internet game about them?”
Over the course of her twelve-year-career, the 34-year-old Ferrick has stirred up some controversy in the women’s music community. She won’t play at any women’s music festivals — including the grand dame, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival — that turn away men and others who may not identify and appear as women.
“I have a really hard time with exclusive things,” she says. “My sexuality is not my identity. I’m not just who I fuck, you know? And I’m also not exclusively with women, so I don’t put any limitations on myself.
“My soul doesn’t have a gender and neither does whomever I fall in love with,” she continues. “I haven’t been with a guy since I was twenty-six, but I certainly don’t exclude men from the possibility in my life. I can’t. There are too many men that are in my life that I adore and love and feel close to and feel passionate about in all sorts of ways.”
She’s looking forward to performing at Capital Pride. “[Pride festivals] are, like, my favorite things to do,” she says. “Because they’re so live, there’s so much energy around. I love the craziness of it, the stress of the volunteers: ‘Oh my god, there are a hundred thousand people at gay pride in Washington and I’m in charge, and I have to get Melissa Ferrick on stage right now!’ I just love that kind of excitement. And when people get really excited around me it makes me really happy.”
It will be her first-ever performance at a D.C. Pride event, despite being an out queer folk rocker for nearly a decade. “It just feels really meaningful,” she says. “It will be nice to be in the Capital and represent Massachusetts.”
Melissa Ferrick is scheduled to perform Sunday, June 13, at approximately 5:07 p.m. at the Capital Pride Street Festival Mainstage located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 3rd Street NW. Schedule is subject to change. For more information visit www.capitalpride.org. For more information about Melissa Ferrick, visit www.melissaferrick.com.