Graham Reid | | 4 min read
Singer-songwriter Frazey Ford from Canada is a rare one who first came to attention in the band she founded, The Be Good Tanyas who knocked out three impressive albums in the early 2000s.
They are still an occasional going concern but Ford has branched out as an impressive solo artist with two albums so far (starting with the impressive Obadiah) which range from contemporary Memphis-styled soul, back into blues and remian in touch with acoustic folk.
The good news for longtime fans is that she plays the Tuning Fork in Auckland on Tuesday Novemeber 21, her first time in the country. (And brings an exciting openng act, see below)
With a powerful, soulfilled voice and a back-catalogue of great songs she is one of those not-to-be-missed acts if you are in the vicinity. Her cover of Dylan's One MOre Cup of Coffee had clocked up more than two million listens on You Tube (here)
Time then for Frazey Ford to answer our Famous Elsewhere Songwriters' Questionnaire . . . and she has thoughtfully provided You Tube links to the songs she singles out
The first song which really affected you was . . .
My Dad once brought over a Bob Dylan album and asked me which song I loved when I was in the womb and it was 'Went to See The Gypsy’. My Mom sang Emmylou Harris all the time when I was really tiny but I think the first song that I really remember being into was probably anything off of the album 'The Harder They Come’ (Jimmy Cliff). I got really into it when I was about three. Every single song off that album I loved so much!
Your first (possibly embarrassing) role models in music were . . .
I was pretty into Juice Newton, Linda Rondstadt, Whitney Houston, Prince ... all that kinda Eighties pop Cyndi Lauper stuff. But Whitney Houston lead me back to soul music.
The one songwriter you will always listen to, even if they disappointed you previously, is?
I’d say there’s two songwriters I’d always listen to even if I can't get into the music at first would be Bon Iver and Frank Ocean. Both of their recent albums I didn't immediately like. I really loved Bon Iver’s third album and I think Frank Ocean is just brilliant; eventually they win me over.
As songwriters: Lennon-McCartney or Jagger-Richards; kd lang or Katy Perry; Madonna or Michael Jackson; Johnny Cash or Kris Kristofferson?
The three songs (yours, or by others) you would love everyone to hear because they are well crafted are . . .
There’s a song by Iron and Wine that I think is absolutely beautiful: Passing Afternoon from his awesome album Our Endless Numbered Days!
There’s so many incredible songs by Joni Mitchell, but there’s one in particular - Electricity off the album For The Roses and its absolutely brilliant.
I think that Crack Rock by Frank Ocean is also one of the greatest crafted songs.
But really ; there is so many to choose from!
Melody first? Words or phrase first? Simultaneous?
They always come together for me. I tend to get a riff that has words in it but they might not stay as the song evolves; but they might and then shape the whole thing. I don't tend to write lyrics without the melody and I don’t tend to write lyrics without melody, except later on the process if I'm trying to find another part. I feel the song kinda exists before it happens and so I’m just trying to find it.
The best book on music or musicians you have read is . . .
A book called ‘And Then I Wrote’ - its all quotes from songwriters on varying themes. I go to it often to get outside of my perspective on songwriting. There’s all kinds of brilliant snippets from pretty much all my favourite songwriters, especially the Seventies ones.
If you could co-write with anyone it would be . . .
I've been thinking a lot about cowriting lately and actually reaching out to musicians around that I’m interested in cowriting with. God if I could co-write with anybody, that is such a crazy question - so many people! I think I would love to co-write with D’Angelo or Frank Ocean. I would like to co-write with someone in the neo-soul genre. Then I would love to cowrite with Emmylou Harris or Iris De Mente . . . someone in that direction.
The last CD or vinyl album you bought was . . . (And your most recent downloads include . . .)
The last vinyl I bought was by a band called The Weather Station. I just went to see them live and she's a brilliant writer. She kinda reminds me of Joni Mitchell. The other person I’m really obsessed with right now is SZA. And she is the kind neo-soul-pop genre. I think she's a brilliant writer as well.
One song, royalties for life, never have to work again. The song by anyone, yourself included, which wouldn't embarrass you would be . . .
If there was one song of my own that I wouldn't be embarrassed of my own that went on and on, I think that would be a song India Ocean, probably.
One line (or couplet) from a song -- yours or someone else's -- which you think is just a stone cold winner is . . .
There are so many lines from so many songs that I think are amazing lines; but I’d say from my own lyrics, one of the lines I’m most proud of from the song, Done, the simple phrase; “ My joy takes nothing from you”. It took me a long time to arrive at that realisation and it seems to have resonated with a lot of people.
Songwriting: what's the ratio of inspiration/perspiration?
The ratio of inspiration to perspiration .. ha ha - is 20 - 80. 20 percent inspiration / 80 percent existential crisis / what the hell am I doing with my life … I think that is the only difference between being a working artist and doing it purely as a hobby. I think if you are a working artist you have to work hard at it.
Ever had a song come to you fully-formed like it dropped into your lap?
I've had a few songs come fully formed. I always consider it to be a miracle.
The song, Gospel Song, actually came on a tape I had forgotten about it. It had all kinds of verses. I only included about half of them. And written in a language that was old-timey and kinda Biblical. Similarly the song September Fields came as a download. I consider those songs as being kinda miracles. They do not happen to me very often but they are often some of may favourite pieces and I don't actually consider them mine when they are like that.
And finally, finish this couplet in any way you like: “Standing at the airport with an empty suitcase at my feet . . .” (You are NOT allowed to rhyme that with “meet” however)
“Wild skies in all directions circle round my own heartbeat…..”
I dunno.. kinda cheesy but alright.
Thank you - see you soon New Zealand!