Heading to town for two shows this Saturday at Viper Alley in Lincolnshire, I had the opportunity to chat with Rachelle Ferrell last week about the state of the music industry, the role of music in today's society, her forthcoming album Art and Soul and much more.
(Photo above by Donald Clarke)
Rachelle Ferrell is a true artist. The rare musician that continues to challenge herself and her audience, Ferrell is capable not only of playing violin and piano but of singing in a six octave range spanning genres like jazz, R&B, Gospel and pop, while in the process creating a unique identity and a sound entirely her own.
And as can frequently be the case in an industry that all too often prefers to narrow things down, pigeonhole or pander the flavor of the week, Ferrell has had a tough go of it at times amidst the major label landscape.
"Well I use that exact same word; 'pigeonhole.' It’s taken me years to figure out that I don’t know who I am but the fact is that the 'pigeonhole' thing is not for me. It has never been for me. And I’ve struggled in the industry as a result of it because I refuse to be pigeonholed." says Ferrell.
Rachelle started out with an interesting major label deal that saw her more traditional leaning jazz recordings released on the Blue Note label with her more pop leaning fare released by Capitol Records.
"They didn’t know what to do with me. The best that they could do was take a little teeny piece, like a little spoonful, and then mix that. They couldn't handle it any other way and as a result it really damaged me. But I’ll take the damage and still remain who I am in my autonomy and in my individuality."
Performing from a very young age, Ferrell first found fame as a recording artist in Japan. But it wasn't until 1992 that she released her first album in the U.S. I asked Rachelle what it was like to have come of age at the height of the major label system in America. "I was too young when I first got involved in the industry and didn’t understand it and kind of offered myself up. I was very naïve and took everything at face value and got torn apart. But now, I am even more fierce in who I am. More fiercely independent."
Independence is a subject that we touched on frequently during our conversation and it should come as no surprise that her most recent Capitol release in 2002 was entitled Individuality (Can I Be Me?).
But a funny thing has happened since 2002 as music distribution began it's move from the staid traditions of the major labels to the wild west of the internet. Seemingly overnight, labels (and I mean labels as in not only the former music distribution force but also the convenient stereotypes used by them) mattered less and talent mattered more.
It feels like quality in art and individuality amongst artists has again started to become paramount. Rachelle seems hopeful too. "We must hold out hope for it and hold a place for it that it will move forward through this transition of reinventing itself. Of letting go of the old, releasing everything that no longer serves it and seeing where the dust settles. Holding a space in ourselves because we’re the ones who not only are the purveyors of it, we are the lovers of music and artistry. And as such, we have incredible power. We never really realized it before."
In preparing for our chat, I read a 2004 interview that Rachelle gave where she talked about her feelings on music as a comforting force well equipped to help guide people through tough times. Fast forward eight years, and while the economic landscape in America hasn't exactly gotten better, arguably, music has. "Well, I think it’s still doing just that. Because that’s what [music] does. You know what’s good and what’s not good. You know what resonates with you. It’s the same thing that music has been doing since the beginning. Not just in ’04 but since the beginning, since we came into existence. It’s still doing that. It’s still going to do that." asserts Ferrell.
And so it's during this time of continued music industry upheaval that Rachelle Ferrell has begun work on a new album. "It’s called Art and Soul and it’s a collection of strong songs that stand on their own individually as well as collectively as a grouping. Sort of like my band. Sort of like humanity and each individual in it. I’m very pleased with it. I’m very excited about it. It’s music that has taught me a great deal about life. And it’s also the life from which I have learned. It’s infused in this music. People ask me, ‘What have you been doing for the last ten years or so?’ and the answer to that question is in this new CD."
Live At Viper Alley
275 Parkway Drive
Lincolnshire, IL 60069
Saturday, March 3, 2012
*** Two Shows ***
6PM (Doors open at 4PM)
9:30PM (Doors open at 8:30PM)
Restaurant Opens at 5PM
Several Different Ticket Options Available