To begin with: Andy Ferro’s Dad. The man remembers the the first time Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” aired on Australian radio. But more importantly, he crammed his son’s young ears with as much jazz and blues as they could contain. Meanwhile, Ferro spent his childhood ping-ponging back and forth between the the UK and Nashville, where he’s planted his flag since the tender age of 10.
Today, Ferro’s hometown is teeming with artists drawing from the communal psych-folk pot, but Ferro’s austere creations err on the side of minimalism, which is why his forthcoming LP Muirhead might be the exact sort of winningly raggle taggle rarity your ears have been craving.
Inspired by White Fence’s Tim Presley and drawing insight from the likes of The Kinks, Capain Beefheart, Bob Dylan and 70’s Krautrock darlings Can, Ferro also cites his friend group, lady, and mentors as a primary source of artistic stimulation. These auspices can be warmly felt throughout his new lo-fi solo project, much like his off-kilter upbringing.
Crowning Ferro as AudioFemme’s February Artist of the Month, Joanie Wolkoff of Wolkoff, formerly of Her Habits, and Artist of the Month herself, Wolkoff shared a conversation with Ferro over his music, growing up, and what’s shaking these days in Ferro’s neck of the woods.
Joanie Wolkoff: How’s life in Nashville?
Andy Ferro: It’s growing really quickly now. There are a lot of good opportunities, but we’re dealing with traffic, which is a new thing. It’s an inspiring place to be, with lots of people doing great stuff. I don’t know what it’d be like to make music in a place where I wasn’t connected to my community. There’s a lot of… not competition, but I’d say that the bar is set high. It definitely makes you try harder. And I prefer the smaller hang; the typical Saturday night is about finding somebody’s house to have dinner at.
No all-night ragers or underground raves?
Oh, they happen. I’m just not there when they do.
What would you say is happening instrumentally on Muirhead?
It’s a medium that could certainly account for your minimalism here.
Yeah, I just worked until I felt I’d done my part and then I took it to Mitch who put it on a computer and did a few things here and there; what he added brought a lot to the album [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Ferro’s voice cracks]… excuse my voice, I lost it two days ago and it’s only just coming back now.
The first time I ever lost my voice I was really excited because I thought it made me sound like a character I idolized on GI Joe, so when I got to school and spoke up in class I remember thinking, “Finally! I sound interesting!”
I know what you mean. I’d been sort of excited about losing my voice, like “Maybe when the release show comes around, I’ll have this gruff voice!” but I tried to sing some of my songs last night and it wasn’t working.
It makes you sound like you’ve been through a lot! Seasoned!
Are all the the tracks on the LP tied into a theme or are they just moments in time for you?
It’s a story but not intentionally encoded that way. For example, the song “Crystal Tongue” is about being with my dad in Tennessee two Christmases ago. I woke up in the morning to the sound of his voice saying, “Merry Crystal Bum!” So I wrote this little poem in a card for my girlfriend about a child with a crystal bum. Anyway, later on I turned it into a song.
We also say “bum” in Canada, where I grew up. In America, people say “butt.” Anyway, if you close your eyes and look at a visual version of Muirhead, what do you see?
I can tell you easily. Since the beginning it’s been green. It feels like standing on a creaky, rickety boat dock thats rocking back and forth a little and it’s dusk. You can’t see the horizon across the water.
Tell me about your recording setup with the four track.
Most of it was at my girlfriend’s apartment. I hit this two-week window of time where she and her roommate were gone for the first part of the day and I didn’t have to go to work til mid-afternoon , so I would just sit there working on songs. My girlfriend lives on a main road, which is why you can hear cars and birds and stuff on the tracks. I’d already demo’d a few songs on Garage Band with iPhone headphones plugged into my computer.
Garage Band is a good, sturdy little donkey that’ll take you over the mountain. Some people get snobby about what “digital audio workstation” you use, but Garage Band’s so user friendly, and a great gateway drug into music production.
Absolutely, Garage Band is approachable. So then, I bought a four track from my friend David Stein, who sold it to me when I mentioned that I was looking to buy one. He said if I gave him a ride home, he’d sell it to me for $150.
Oh, man. I didn’t have any problems with it at all, besides not knowing how to use it and erasing bits of songs that I didn’t want to erase for the first little while. But now I feel comfortable with it. It opened the door.
How does your girlfriend help to shape your music?
Friends and family and the people I see every day are the primary source of influence on my music, aside from stuff I listen to. I want to articulate my girlfriend’s role in a good way: I’ve been playing with a band of best friends for a long time but this album was a first go at showing the public what I can make on my own. I don’t want this to sound like [Ferro uses a sappy voiceover drawl here], “Without love, I wouldn’t have written these songs.” But it certainly plays a role, this relationship, having someone so genuinely supportive and honest. It’s encouraging. For me, it’s a really sweet validation.
Give me three adjectives for this album.
Stark. In terms of instrumentation, anyway. And rich. Or… sorta thick in a way? The analog approach made it… textural.
It has teeth?
There you go.
How does the omnipotent beast that is the Nashville’s music industry affect your life as an artist?
It provides opportunities, but it’s up to me to take the right ones. This year I just want to make lots of music and share it with lots of people. I’m not gonna worry about quote-unquote success. That can stifle your creativity if you focus on it too much. At around fourteen, at which point I didn’t have an inkling that I’d end up playing in bands at all, I met my friend Mitch. He’s played in bands for almost as long as I’ve been alive, and that’s when I figured out about jamming. Later, I started going to college and my band Ranch Coast formed one semester into my studies. I didn’t want to do both. But I still try to learn every day.
What do you think you might’ve studied if you hadn’t pursued being in a band full time?
Philosophy. Or writing.
By osmosis of making and being around music, I’m pretty sure you do both of those things all the time!
I hope so.
Well, none of your songs are about going to the club and finding out who’s wearing the best thong. Then again, that’s its own philosophy.
You’re right. That’s the next record.
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