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April 01, 1994 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 1994-04-01

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The Michigan Daily - Friday, pril 1, 1994 - 9

Despite hurdles, Ferrick lives out fantasy

By TOM ERLEWINE
Considering the media's expansive recent cov-
erage of female singer-songwriters, it's no won-
der that some talented artists have gotten lost in
the shuffle. Because female musicians are still
treated as an anomaly, many artists aren't given
the exposure they deserve and Melissa Ferrick is
one of those artists. Her debut album, "Massive
Blur," was released in August to considerable
critical acclaim but almost no sales. Fortunately,
Ferrick is still on the road, playing in coffee
houses across the country.
Because of her coffee house tour, it's easy to
assume Ferrick is a folkie, which is inaccurate.
"I've already been pigeon-holed as a folk singer,"
she explained. "I think that it's very interesting
that a band like the Smashing Pumpkins are con-
sidered alternative and they play with cellos and
acoustic guitars and I have a four-piece rock band
and I'm considered a folk act. I just think of
myself as a singer-songwriter that has a band, just
like anyone else. I consider myself a struggling
artist, you know? Just 'cause you're on a major
label doesn't mean that you have a nice car and a
big house:"
For most artists, the road to a major-record
label is rough. Ferrick, through a series of bizarre
coincidences, received a blessing from Morrissey
and was catapulted to the level of major industry
buzz. "I wasn't nervous until the show at Madison
Square Garden," Ferrick said, "that really flipped
me out. Having a roadie say, 'You must be ner-
vous - you're the youngest unsigned act ever to
play Madison Square Garden.' I was like, 'I'll just
try to pretend I'm just sitting in the living room

with my friends.' And he goes, 'Well, you have
15,000 friends tonight.' I got really nervous then
and that was also when I realized that Morrissey
was also the lead singer of the Smiths. I was a huge
Smiths fan and I didn't let myself consciously
understand that when I was on tour with him,
because it was so important to just keep my head
about me."
Through her exposure on the Morrissey tour,
Ferrick gained a record contract. "When I played
the Garden, you could sink a ship with the amount
of industry that was in there," she explained. "But
the great thing was, I left for the U.K. immediately
so when I got back any record label that still
remembered who I was and still wanted to talk to
me, I was interested in talking with."
With its powerful folk-tinged rock, "Massive
Blur" fulfills the promise of her early perfor-
mances. Despite the fact that the album has not
sold more than 5,000 copies in the States, Ferrick
has received a massive amount of press; much of
it was generated from her frank comments on the
music industry. Although she doesn't regret any-
thing she's said, some of her remarks have come
back to haunt her, especially a quotation from her
press biography - "Sometimes I play guitar like
I have a dick." "It was a joke," she explained, "and
it turns into this whole quote about not being
judged as a woman and all this bullshit."
The quotation and others like it give writers an
easy way out - instead of focusing on her
songwriting, they concentrate on her sex. "You
know the day the press stops writing 'female
singer-songwriter Melissa Ferrick' is the day some-
thing has really happened," she said, "because it's

obvious that I'm a woman and they don't write
'male singer-songwriter Michael Stipe.' It's
opened some doors for me, being a woman, be-
cause there's less of us in the industry. But it also
closes doors because you've got situations where
radio stations that will only play two girls an hour
and they're saying things to you like, 'It's not that
we don't like the track, it's that we're already
playing two females. Maybe when we come off
the Victoria Williams track we can add your
record.' I mean, that's discrimination."
It was that sort of discrimination that gave
birth to Ferrick's most notorious number, "The
Juliana Hatfield Song." "It was a dig at the label
and it's not a dig at Juliana," she clarified, "and
she knows that. I actually sent it to her to ask her
if it was OK if we put it out and she laughed
hysterically about it. And I know that she's being
misquoted in 'Spin' and I'm being misquoted
everywhere or half-quoted."
Still, Ferrick is surviving very well in the
rough music industry. "I still own all my songs,
which is another thing I'm quite proud of," she
said. "I haven't signed a publishing deal. I'm
holding on for as long as I can and living off my
per diems, which is great. It's just like it's always
been, but the only difference is that I'm in a
position where probably a million 18-year-olds
wish they could be which is I actually have a
record on a CD, it's in some stores and I'm sitting
in a very large office right now with platinum'
records all around me. This is the fantasy, right?"
MELISSA7FERR1CK will be at the Espresso
Royale on State Street at 8 p.m. tonight.
Naturally, it's free, so get there early.

Isn't Melissa Ferrick cool? Of course, anyone named Melissa must be cool.

Little Sister's lead has a

By BRIAN GNATT
-When a band's musical influences
range from Aretha Franklin, Elton
John and Bonnie Raitt to Tool, it is
difficult to imagine what the end prod-
uct will employ. Regardless, when
yqu listen to Little Sister's debut EP
"Free Love & Nickel Beer," a smid-
gen of almost every style of music can
be.etected (butTool is still a stretch).
'i.think people are
going to get a bigger
and better idea of
where we're coming
from.'
-Patrice Pike,
vocalist, Little Sister
"When I was growing up, my par-
ents were musicians and listened to a
lot of Motown stuff, Stevie Wonder,
Led Zeppelin, early Elton John, the
Beatles and just all that stuff," lead
vocalist Patrice Pike said.
I got into somejazz in high school,
because I went to a performing arts
school with Darrell Phillips, our bass
player, but as I got a little older I just
stuck to my roots more or less. The
band is like Aretha Franklin, Led
Zeppelin, Elton John and Carlos
Santana all having a car crash, and
everybody waking up in the '94s."
The foursome's debut sounds like
an explosion between genres, and is
well justified. The diversity of the
album, and also in live performances
keeps the band's brand of hippie funk
rock fresh and exciting.
Recorded live at Club Da Da in
Little Sister's native Dallas, Texas,
"Free Love & Nickel Beer" shows the
group's talent, funk and spunk that
could only be captured live.
}'The live show is our most impor-

tant part. That's why we recorded a
live album. It's the best way to repre-
sent the band, the best way to get our
point across. There's a lot of jam
tunes on it - extended kind of songs
that people normally wouldn't do on
an album unless they were old cats
that have been around for a long time
and can get away with it," Pike said.
The 5' 2", 23-year-old Pike may
be small, but her rich vocals and espe-
cially bluesy wailing are anything but
tiny. "People at shows come up and
ask me how old I am, and there's
always bets going on in the bar. They
think I'm like 16," Pike said. "People
think 'Oh, Little Sister - that's the
band with the really small girl.' People
always talk about how can I have such
a big voice and be so small."
Songs like "Drift Away" sizzle
Texas-style with hardy funk and blues,
lyrically, musically and especially

big voice
vocally. Others like "Everybody Got
Da Funk" a.k.a. "The Marijuana
Song" demonstrate the improvisa-
tional and jamming talent of the band
and highlight Pike, Darrell Phillips,
lead guitarist Wayne Sutton and drum-
mer Sean Phillips.
Little Sister's first studio album is
due out early next year. "The band is
real excited about doing the next al-
bum because it is going to give us the
opportunity to take on new and differ-
ent styles and songs - some more
mellow tunes that we can't really pull
off all the time in a bar because it's so
loud with beer clanking and people
talking," Pike said.
"In the future I think people are
going to get a bigger and better idea of
where we're coming from."

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