September 22, 2011 | by Juliette Ebner
Taking her time

Out singer/songwriter Melissa Ferrick is returning to the D.C. area for the first time in two years with her performance at the Birchmere (3701 Mt. Vernon Ave.) in Alexandria Saturday.

“It’s like my home turf there,” Ferrick says of the venue. “The Birchmere is a stand-out venue in the United States period. It’s gorgeous.”

Ferrick describes the concert as three parts plus an encore, starting the performance with half of her new album, going into a “solo section” with fan favorites like “Drive” and songs off of her first couple albums, then going into the rest of her new album.

This tour comes after the release of her newest album, “Still Right Here,” her first studio album in five years.

“I feel like it’s more cohesive … I spent a longer period of time really working on the songs,” says Ferrick, adding that between 2000 and 2008 she was releasing a record a year. “I think sometimes the quality of the songwriting suffers when you’re putting out that much material.”

Originally a major-label act, Melissa Ferrick says storied Atlantic Records encouraged her to come out on her first album but she wasn’t ready. (Photo by Laura Crosta; courtesy Mpress Records)

Ferrick was busy in the time between albums.

She wrote 20 to 23 songs and then signed a three-album deal with the record label, MPress Records, saying she didn’t want to go through the process alone again.

“It’s physically exhausting and emotionally exhausting and also financially exhausting,” says Ferrick about putting out an album on her own. “I don’t want to make it in my bedroom, I want to make a big record.”

She also spent some time teaching songwriting at Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts.

The title and opening track, “Still Right Here,” was inspired by a friend who walked away from a serious car accident.

The album includes a few guest artists. Guitarist Kaki King, who happened to live just around the corner from Ferrick, helped with “Headphones On” and Ani DiFranco lends her vocals on the ballad, “You Let Me Be.”

“A lot of people are reacting to ‘Weightless and Slow,’” says Ferrick. “I’ve been playing it live and getting a lot of comments on that song.”

The tour, which consists of Ria Mae and her best friend, Ferrick’s tour manager and Ferrick squeezed into her Subaru with all of their stuff, started more than a week before the album was released and will continue through November.

“I think the best part is … you get so out there on the road … you get ridiculously over tired and everything is really funny,” says Ferrick. “It’s kind of like that all the time on tour.”

After being in the music industry for nearly 20 years and with the release of the new album, Ferrick, who describes her music as a combination of Dave Matthews, Bruce Springsteen and Ani DiFranco, has produced 150 songs.

Ferrick hadn’t realized she hit that mark until she read it somewhere then checked with the guy who handles her publishing.

“I have a book at home … my mom made it for me, it has all the songs and lyrics and everything,” says Ferrick. “It puts a smile on my face. It’s a lot of songs.”

When Ferrick’s first album, “Massive Blur,” came out on Atlantic, the label wanted her to come out, to use it as publicity, but she wasn’t ready.

“I was 22 years old and I was not secure enough in my sexual orientation to really be out and public about it,” says Ferrick, adding it wasn’t until 1995 with the release of her second album, “Willing to Wait,” that Ferrick publically came out. “At that time, it was a big deal to come out, but at the same time, you get on the cover of Out magazine and the Advocate and gay people read those. They already know I’m gay.”

“I know it helps young … kids … because I meet them at every show,” says Ferrick. “I hear a story every day.”

DiFranco will be joining Ferrick for six performances in November.

“It always brings the fan out in me,” Ferrick says of watching DiFranco perform when they’re on tour together. “It’s so nice to have the opportunity to be able to play in front of her fans because they’re really smart and loyal people and appreciate a good song.”

A video for “Still Right Here,” featuring clips sent in from fans, is scheduled to be premiered on Huffington Post.

Tickets to her show at Birchmere are $25 and can be purchased online at ticketmaster.com.

Doors open at 5 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30. For more information on Ferrick, visit her official website melissaferrick.com.

 

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