THE IMPORTANCE OF LETTING GO
Frazey Ford made her name as a member of folk group The Be Good Tanyas but now she’s approaching her third album as a solo artist. Ahead of her November Australian tour she talked with Chris Familton about songwriting, life outside music and her new single covering D’Angelo.
On her 2014 album Indian Ocean, Frazey Ford found herself mining a deep seam of soul music. You could still hear her folk heritage buried in the DNA of the songs but now they were ornamented with the restrained and lush sound of players from Al Green’s band. It was certainly a landmark album in her musical career and stepping stone towards her next record. Prior to that, Ford needed some downtime to centre herself before once again becoming immersed in songwriting.
“That album kept me pretty busy for two and a half years and so it’s been 10 months since I’ve been home and starting to write again,” says Ford. “I like to jump into other forms of creativity to reset my brain. Making and designing clothes, painting, pottery are things I like to do, until I get a strong urge to start writing songs again which I did a few months ago. When you spend a lot of time on planes and in other countries it’s nice to come back to yourself and have a quiet time before you feel the stirring to do things again.”
“We saw D’Angelo a couple of times on tour and he blew our minds. We played Black Messiah before we went on stage a lot too.” A love for the R&B artist led Ford and her band to record a new single, a cover of one of his older songs When We Get By. “There’s something about how much you can groove something that is slow. I started to have this vision of taking a D’Angelo song and changing the vibe inside out. It’s a strange treatment with a different vibe, another thing compared to Indian Ocean,” she opines.
Although soul music is something she has evolved into, it did take some adjusting in terms of the way she wrote. “I really have a love for soul music but a lot of the time I come at my writing from a folk tradition. There’s a natural curiosity about the line between folk writing and soul production,” explains Ford. “Approaching the idea of doing a full soul record actually gave me writers block for a while because the concept got in the way of just writing the next thing. I had to let go of the idea of what the album was going to be. It taught me that it’s important to be intuitive and that the thing has its own life and it’s going to go in the direction it’s going to go.”
Ford comes across as very level-headed and practical yet she still firmly believes in the magic and mystery of songwriting – respecting the muse and not forcing the creative process. “It’s never really a thought-out process for me. I’m drawn to certain sounds but I respect the story that I’m trying to tell. I write a lot of stuff and the things resonate most strongly with me and with the band – those are the things I give the most attention to. The energy of that will define what it is and who will play on it. The next album will be a different vibe and I’m just starting to have an inkling of where it might go.”