by EA Poorman
Photo by Ryan Hodges Photography
D Ferren has been making dusty, folksy music for a long time now. Starting back in 2002 with saint of life and the morning after cavalier, he made his name as one of the area’s premier songwriters. In 2013 he followed that up with the excellent For Glare & Gun, a more nuanced affair where there was more emphasis on mood, atmosphere, and less of saint of life’s bombastic guitar explosions.
On September 30th Ferren is releasing his newest opus, the upbeat and twangy Something Like Forever. It’s a hard rockin’ ode to hitting the road and finding who the hell you are, and a sort of nod to love, youth, and all the things that come with sitting under the Midwest stars and reminiscing about days gone by. Ferren has once again teamed up with Jason Davis of Off The Cuff Sound to bring his songs from his head and heart to the physical world. It’s another stellar collection of fine songcraft.
I caught up with D Ferren and we chatted about the new record and the process he went through to bring these songs to life.
EA Poorman: It’s been over four years since the release of ‘For Glare & Gun’. You’re now readying the release of your new record called ‘Something Like Forever’. What was that creative process like between those albums?
D Ferren: After For Glare & Gun, I waited until I had the songs for this album written before we started the recording process. I really just wanted to focus on how the record would sound. So once the songs were written, that’s when I called Jason Davis. Since these songs were more personal and introspective, I was conscious of not making a record that sounded depressing or downbeat. After my pre-production meeting with Jason, we decided to make an album that would sound like it may have been made in the 70’s or the 90’s, we set out to make “Damn The Torpedoes” meets “Black Love”.
EA Poorman: Were there any distinct differences between the creation of ‘For Glare & Gun’ and ‘Something Like Forever’? Has your songwriting process changed at all?
D Ferren: Not a whole lot. On For Glare & Gun, I would force myself to write instead of waiting for the inspiration. The songs for Something Like Forever came easily once I got the creative process rolling. I wrote around 17 songs and then edited it down to 10. This album has a central theme, so the challenge here was to deal with very emotional material and make the songs sound “energized”. With the exception of “I Lie A Little Bit”, the album has a very upbeat sound. It’s what I’m the most proud of with this record. You can’t really tell if the album came out in the 70’s, 90’s, or now. I’m definitely happy with the songs, but we accomplished our goals with this one. It’s the best record that Jason and I have made together.
EA Poorman: It’s been said that the best songs come from personal pain; be it dealing with death, broken hearts, drugs, or just good old existential malaise. Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy has stated that’s a bunch of crap, btw. I know your first two albums delved into the darker parts of life to cull inspiration, but you’ve seemed to have found a center in your life. When there’s no chaos to stoke the creative fires, where do you go for songwriting inspiration?
D Ferren: There’s always chaos. It’s everywhere. It’s what inspired Dylan to write topical songs before he turned that light on himself. There are times I wonder what I should write about, and sometimes it takes time. I know Jeff Tweedy said that he doesn’t buy into that whole “tortured artist” syndrome, and in a way I do agree with that. It can’t be an excuse for someone to be a poor human being. But listening to Jason Molina convinces me that some artists cant deal very well with their situation. Those Magnolia Electric Company records make me want to take a shower afterwords, almost like I shouldn’t have listened in on that conversation. But those records are just so damn beautiful, and you can’t fake something like that, no matter how talented of a songwriter you are. I remember Lucinda Williams was asked “now that your happy what will you use for inspiration?” she simply said “don’t worry I have enough s**t stored up”.
EA Poorman: Let’s talk about ‘Something Like Forever’. Was there a central theme you wanted to stick with on this record? ‘For Glare & Gun’ felt like it was sewn together with a similar narrative throughout, whereas ‘Forever’ to me feels and sounds like just a collection of great songs. Each tune is its own little world.
D Ferren: I’m glad that you feel that way. That’s what we were shooting for. Like I said, we had a set goal for what the album should sound like. Each tune is it’s own little world and that’s the way that Jason and I work the songs. One at a time. I was counting on the theme of the album to hold it together, but I did leave a song off of the record because it was very hard to sequence this album. I never understood why artists did this, but now I do. Some songs just don’t belong on albums. I have absolutely no intention of creating “my sound”. That works for certain artists, but most of the time the actual album is just a means to obtain live gigs. To have something to play. The album and what I say on it, is more important to me.
EA Poorman: The first single “Goodbye Rain” is a great way to introduce the album with. Sounds like a mix of Dylan, Mermaid Avenue-era Wilco, and even a touch of Social Distortion in the vocal delivery. How did you decide on this one as your lead single?
D Ferren: I almost didn’t record it for this album. It’s the only song on the album that doesn’t “emotionally” link to the theme. But it’s a road song about striking out on your own as a young man, so it best describes how the album should start. Throughout the record I have little snippets of lyrics that were lifted, with a slight edit, from albums that came out in the 70’s or 90’s. This was intentional as a way to subliminally link it to something that you’ve heard before. I love the way the bridge builds up to this classic Springsteen moment of just me and my guitar, then the band kicks back in. It was a pretty easy choice for a first single. I am very fortunate to have that song playing on WCYT 91.1 The Point. I cant say enough about what Andy Dunn is doing with that program over at Homestead High School. It’s the treasure of Fort Wayne.
EA Poorman: There’s a non-album track called “Everlonely Everly”. It’s a very meditative, dreamy track that you said was inspired by car rides with your dad. Can you talk about this song a little bit?
D Ferren: This is the song that got left off in the sequencing of the record. My dad had this love for 1950’s rock and roll, Link Wray and Chuck Berry type stuff. He doesn’t really talk that much, so when you rode in the car with him, the radio is all there is. I think this is how I gained that love of really listening to music. When I drive in my car I don’t want to talk. I just recorded a podcast with the guys at Worlds Longest Voicemail, and we talked about the idea of “road” albums. There are just some music that is great to throw on in your car. Strangely, when I was a kid, I didn’t think that early Rock-N-Roll was antiquated at all. I still think the 50’s link up with the 70’s as well as the 90’s.
EA Poorman: As with your previous record, you recorded ‘Something Like Forever’ with Jason Davis at Off The Cuff Sound. Davis is like the Jeff Lynne of the Fort Wayne music scene. How was the experience this time around?
D Ferren: It’s always fun to work at Off The Cuff, and Jason has made several records that have come out of Fort Wayne. I was one of the first artists to record an album with him, way back in 2000. He pretty much forced me to do it. I always say that he was my first fan, and honestly that’s saying alot. We both definitely needed that working relationship back then. It’s been interesting to see him grow and hear my own growth through the studio. I think every musician in Fort Wayne should at least record a song or an album there.
EA Poorman: Does Davis suggest instrumentation when working on your songs? Or do you have a pretty good idea of what you want to build the songs with going in?
D Ferren: Some of the songs I know exactly how they should sound and we record them that way. Goodbye Rain was one of them. That’s the way I heard the song all along, and it’s amazing to me that we achieved it. On occasion, we do butt heads about a decision or something that one of us wants to do. But usually a strong gut feeling is spot on. Its all about serving the song. On this album, I leaned on Jason to help me with the arrangements on a few of the songs. We would take a song like “Lost” which was just this acoustic folk song, and we would work it to the point that I couldn’t have imagined on my own. We came up with that middle section of noise and synthesizer sounds that split the song in two. It sounds like it’s going to fall apart, then we come right back in with the groove. I was honored to play Jason’s grandfather’s guitar on that one.
EA Poorman: When is the album officially out? Where can people pick the album up?
D Ferren: The album will be online on Friday September 30th, and you will be able to stream it on Spotify or purchase a download on Itunes or my bandcamp page which is dferren.bandcamp.com . You can pick up a copy of the CD at any of our shows this fall or at Neat, Neat, Neat Records in Fort Wayne on and after October 1st. We are performing an in-store that day so we’re looking forward to seeing some new faces.
EA Poorman: Any plans for an official release show?
D Ferren: The release show will be Saturday October 1st at 8:30pm at One Lucky Guitar(The B Side.) Here’s the link for tickets: https://www.facebook.com/events/626318494208404/.
EA Poorman: Before I let you go, any interesting stories about your time in the studio making Something Like Forever?
D Ferren: The night we laid down the rhythm tracks for “The Last Man In The Room”, Jason said to me “Isn’t this the chord progression from “Walk On The Wild Side”?” I hadn’t even noticed, but we laughed and talked about the Velvet Underground the rest of the night. The next morning I woke up and we heard about the passing of Lou Reed, so we added those “doo-ta-doos” at the end of the song that Sunday morning. The fact that we were already placing these 1970s Easter eggs in several of the songs, it just seemed like the natural thing to do.
Something Like Forever will be available digitally on September 30th thru iTunes or at dferren.bandcamp.com. Grab a physical copy on or after October 1st at Neat Neat Neat Records or at a D Ferren and the Sad Bastards show. And make sure to grab your tickets for the album release show on October 1st at 8:30pm at One Lucky Guitar. Buy tickets here: https://www.facebook.com/events/626318494208404/