West coast singer-songwriter’s unique style isn’t an accident
T he staunch Realist will tell you the notion that music has something inexpressible about it, a beauty that is not contained within its various parts, is terribly absurd. The Realist would continue, positing that music’s appeal is comprehensible through dissecting its various components. Music’s appeal, then, comes from sound’s interaction with certain parts of the brain, from its mathematical intrigues and from its cultural relevance.
The Realist has pointed out something important; the material existence of music. But such an understanding of music is limited and superficial.
If it were so easily summed up, then, as Frazey Ford puts it, “there’d be nothing to like about music.”
Ford is a shining example of music’s magnificent inner-spirit— she has a remarkable ability to pull out a glimmer of that ineffable nature and revel in its splendidness, which is infinitely lovelier than the dismal squeaks and squawks of many mainstream melodies we’re so often victim to.
On July 20, 2010, Frazey Ford released her debut solo album, Obadiah, to much acclaim. The project— which features the efforts of numerous people in Ford’s life including her mother, neighbor, landlord and former band-mate Trish Klein— infuses soul music with the folk-roots approach Miss Ford is well known for. Obadiah stems from Frazey Ford’s middle name, given to her by her older brothers in honour of a lost family cat of the same name.
As a child of unique and arts-minded parents, a musical mom and a poet dad, Frazey Ford started out with strong roots.
“My parents were hippies from the States,” says Ford. “My mom’s family were kind of like Cajuns. They had come down from Canada but lived along the Missouri for generations. She had this unique musical background. Everyone was French-Irish. They played a lot of country. They just mixed music. She sang all the time and played accordion or piano. My dad was from the South — a draft-dodger. He wrote lots of poetry. That environment, having a ton of music around all the time, that influence was my musical development.”
Ford grew up in the shadow of the Kootenay Mountains, whose spaciousness and beauty was a frequent joy. Running through the fruit orchards of Doukhobors, Ford says she has “gained a lot of sense and awareness of beauty through those times.”
Ford’s first musical performance occurred in Antigua, Guatemala, which Ford describes as a “troubled but incredibly soulful place.” From there, she ended up tree planting in the Kootenays, playing living-room music that she didn’t think would ever be recorded and living a gypsy lifestyle. With Samantha Parton, Trish Klein, and Jolie Holland, Ford founded the Be Good Tanyas who have been on hiatus since 2008.
Ford’s musically-minded family and her time with the Be Good Tanyas has intimately shaped the unique and ineffable soulful sound that can be heard on Obadiah.
“Everything that you do is a predecessor of the next thing you do,” says Ford. “[The Be Good Tanyas] spent a lot of time exploring harmony, soulfulness and honesty. We had a tight emotional connection to each other, the music and ourselves. The Be Good Tanyas was like a warm blanket of music.”
In defiance of The Realist, the holistic soul-seeking and soul-soothing Frazey Ford hopes to deliver us from the methodical, stale bleakness that comprises much contemporary sound.
“Music is something inexpressible. In your career, your lifetime, your engagement with your art, it’s a journey,” she says. “A spiritual journey, a trying to celebrate the beauty that you see or the sadness that you felt, the life that you’ve lived. To have the urge to express is something a lot of people are born with.”